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Russian wooden house Izba construction

Construction The word “Izba” (and its synonyms “ызба”,”истьба”, “изъба”, “истобка”, “истопка”) was mentioned in the Russian chronicles from the most ancient times. There exists the obvious connection of this term with the verbs “topit’ ” and “istopit’ ” (“to heat”). In fact, it always refers to a heated building (unlike, for example, to cage). In addition, all three East Slavic nations – Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian – retained the term “istopka” for heated building, whether it’s a pantry for winter storage vegetables (Belarus, Pskov, North Ukraine) or residential hut tiny size (Novogorod, Vologda regions), but always with the furnace.

Building a house for the farmer was a landmark event. At the same time, it was important for him not only to solve a purely practical task – to provide shelter for themselves and their families, but also to organize a living space, so it was filled with good things of life, warmth, love, peace. Such housing can be built, according to the peasants, only following the traditions of their ancestors, deviations from the covenants of the fathers would be minimal.

When building a new home, the emphasis was the choice of location: the place must be dry, high light – and at the same time take into account the of his ritual value: it should be happy. Happy considered habitable space, that was tested by time, a place where human life was held in full prosperity. Not succesful for building was a place where people were buried before, and where before there was a road or a bath.

Specific requirements were applied to building materials. Russian preferred to build the house from chopped pine, spruce and larch. These trees with long straight trunks were placed in a good frame, tightly adhering to each other to well-keep interior heat and prevent decay. However, the choice of trees in a forest was regulated by set of rules, the violation of which could lead to the transformation of the house built for people to the house against the people, which brings misfortune. Thus, the Izba could not be built from “sacred” trees – they can bring into the house of death. The ban extended to all the old trees. In the belief that those should die in the forest with their own death. It was impossible to use dry trees that were considered dead, – from them at home will be “tabes”. A great misfortune would happen if the building gets “furious” tree, a tree that grew at a crossroads on the site of a former or forest roads. Such a tree can ruin the house and kill the house owners.

The construction of the house accompanied by a set of rituals. Start of construction noted by rite of sacrifice a chicken, a sheep. It was held during the first laying of house’s “wreath”. Under the first timber rim, pillow box, “matica” were laid the money, wool, wheat – symbols of wealth and family warmth, incense – a symbol of sanctity of home. Completion was noted by rich treat for all builders.

The Slavs “unwrapped” building from the body of animal being sacrificed to the gods. According to the ancients, without such an animal, wooden logs could not be combined as an ordered structure. A “victim of Building” passed its shape to the home, helping to create something intelligently organized from the primeval chaos… “Ideally”, a victim of building must be a man. But human sacrifice was used only in rare and truly exceptional circumstances – for example, during the  building of the fortress for protection from enemies, which influenced to life or death of the whole tribe. In the usual construction was used animals, most often a horse or bull.

Archaeologists excavated and studied in detail more than one thousand Slavic dwellings: at the base of some of them found the skull of these particular animals. Very often were found horse skull. So the “skate” on the roofs of the Russian houses was not just for “beauty.” In the old days to the back of the skate was also attached the tail, after that the hut is quite resembled a horse. Actually the house was presented the “body”, the four corners – four “legs”. The researchers write that instead of a wooden “horse” this once-fortified equine skull before. Also found the skull buried under the huts and the X century, and even after the five centuries after his baptism – in the XIV-XV centuries. For half a millennium they were placed in less deep hole. Typically, this pit is located under the saint (red) around the corner – just under the icons! – or under the threshold, so that the evil was unable to enter the house.

Another favorite sacrificial animal in the house was rooster (chicken). Suffice it to recall “cocks” as an ornament of roofs, as well as the pervasive belief that evil must disappear when the cry of a rooster. Was placed at the base of the hut the bull’s skull. There was common ineradicable the ancient belief that the house is built “against someone’s head” . For this reason, people tried to leave any unfinished edge of the roof for cheating fate.

1 – Желоб (trench)
2 – Охлупень (ohlupen’)
3 – Стамик (stamik)
4 – Слега (slega)
5 – Огниво (flint)
6 – Князевая слега (knyazev slega, “CNES”)
7 – Повальная слега (rampant slega)
8 – Самец (male)
9 – Повал (felling)
10 – Причелина (prichelina)
11 – Курица (chicken)
12 – Пропуск (pass)
13 – Бык (bull)
14 – Гнет (oppressi


General view of the houseThe house of our ancestor depended on where they lived and the tribe they belonged. Indeed, even today, after visiting the villages in the north and the south of European Russia, it is impossible not to notice the difference in the type of housing: in the north it is – a wooden izba, in the south – hata-daub.In the north, with its wet climate and an abundance of first class wood, semi-underground house turned into a house much faster than buildings in south. Despite the fact that the tradition of housing in the northern Slavic tribes (Krivichy and Ilmen Slavs) can not be traced as far back in time as their southern neighbors, the scientists rightly believe that the log houses existed there in II millennium before era, long before these sites were included in the sphere of influence of the early Slavs. At the end of the I millennium BC there already developed a strong type of carcass log homes, while in the south for a long time dominated the huts.

For example, this is “average” residential house IX-XI centuries from the city Ladoga (Staraya Ladoga is now on the Volkhov River.) Usually it was square in plan (ie, when viewed from above) with a side of the building is sometimes 4-5 m. Sometimes the carcass was created on the spot of the future house, and sometimes it first assembled on the side – in the forest, and then disassembled, transported to the site and piled up already in final version. Scientists say about the signes on the wood -“numbers” in the order drawn on a log, starting from the bottom. The builders took care of that, to prevent any confusion during transport: a log house demanded a careful fitting of wooden barrels.

To fit logs snugly together,  one of them had a longitudinal groove, and combined with the convex side of another log. Ancient craftsmen made ​​hole in the bottom log, and placed logs turned out to be up by the northern part of living tree. On this side the annual layers are thicker and smaller. A groove between the logs caulked with moss bog with the property of killing bacteria, sometimes with clay addition.The custom to sew frame with boards for Russia historically is relatively new. It was first captured in the miniatures of the manuscript of the XVI century.

The floor of the hut was made of earth sometimes, but more often – a wooden, elevated above the ground on the beams, joists, installed by the lower end. In this case the floor had a small hole to the cellar, underground.

Wealthy people usually built their houses in two housing, often with a superstructure on top, which gave the three-story house from the outside view.

The izba often had an attached sort of hall with about 2 meters of width. Sometimes, however, the hall was considerably enlarged, and arranged it to a barn for livestock.  In other case such halls were storage for the property, had a function of workshop in a time of bad weather, and at summer it could allow guests to sleep there. Such housing archaeologists call “two-chamber,” meaning that it has two rooms.

According to written sources, since the X century spread unheated extension to cottages – cage. Cage served as a summer bedroom, pantry year-round and in winter – a kind of “refrigerator”.

Common roof of Russian houses were wooden, plank, or made of wooden shingles. In the XVI and XVII centuries it was customary to cover the roof top of a birch bark to prevent the damp, and this gave it colored diversity, and sometimes on the roof of the ground and put the sod in the protection from fire. The pitched roof has two gables on the side with the other two sides. Sometimes all the parts of the house (basement, attic and middle tier) were under the same slope, but most of the attic, and others, and the average floor had its own special roof. Rich homes had intricate roof forms. On the edge of the roof ridges bordered slotted, scars or railing with carved borders.

If the half-huts without windows were littered by the ground to the roof level, the windows in the Ladoga huts already existed. However, they were still very far from modern windows with casements, air vents and clear glass. Window glass has appeared in Russia in the X-XI centuries, and even later, it was very expensive and used mostly in princely palaces and churches. In simple huts was used the so-called “volokovie” (from the “drag” in the sense of push-shoot) little windows for the passage of smoke.

Two adjacent logs cutted to its middle, with inserted into the hole rectangular frame with a wooden gate, which was moving horizontally. In such window you can look out – but only just. They were so-called – “prosvetsi” … As necessary, they were covered by the skin, all these holes in the huts of poor people were small, to preserve the heat, and when they closed, a house had almost dark at the day. In wealthier homes the windows were made small and large, the first called the red, the second ones had oblong and narrow shape.

Like the huts of the South, ancient houses of Northern Slavic tribes remained in use for many centuries. Already at that old time the people’s talent has developed a type of dwelling, which was useful for practical life, until recently did not give people a reason to depart from the usual, convenient and hallowed tradition.


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