The Terem of M. S. Sazonov in Astashovo; 1910s
The Astashovo estate is unusual because it was not built by nobles, but by a former serf peasant, and combines the architecture of an exquisite country dacha with construction solutions and layouts that were typical for a peasant hut. The estate is located in the Chukhlomsky district, which “was considered to be the most remote district in Kostroma province” according to well-known philosopher and writer Alexander Zinoviev, who was born there. However, the district was also the most prosperous. Before the revolution, there were several estates that were equally as rich as Astashovo. All of them belonged to peasants and were located in their native villages. Where did the peasants get their money from? How and why did such luxury arise in such a remote place? What do we know about the culture that brought about the estate?
Between Village and City
In the 19th century, Chukhlomsky district was inhabited by seasonal peasant workers (otkhodniki). The otkhodniki were peasants who would leave their native settlements or villages for seasonal work (otkhod). The soil in Kostroma province is non-chernozem and barren, and this province was one of the top sources of seasonal workers in Russia. Makaryevsky district was known for its wandering felt boot makers (zhgoni). Men from Vetluzhsky rafted timber in Nizhny Novgorod. Residents of Molvitino were wandering artists who travelled around the Russian North and earned a living by painting. It was workers from Galich, Soligalich, and Chukhloma who “built St. Petersburg”, and this is not an exaggeration.
Markian Markov (later, Martyan Sazonov) is born
Martyan marries Anna Andreeva
The entire family moves to the capital
Death of his wife, Anna
In 1942, in the village of Astashovo, the first-born child of state peasants Sozont Markov and Yekaterina Avdiyeva was born. He was given the name Markian at baptism. His mother gave birth to him, like all peasant women, in a winter cow shed. When he was just three days old, the newborn was handed over to the midwife to take him three versts away to the parish Church of the Deposition of the Robe in Ozerki, the place where a monastery had once stood half a century ago. Surrounded by primeval forests on three sides, this now abandoned place where the newly christened Markian was born was called Pustinya. The midwife cut off a few hairs from the baby’s head, rolled them into a little ball with candle wax, and threw the ball into the baptismal font. The ball floated—this foretold a long life.
In the Folk Style
After the wedding, the newlyweds, as can be assumed, went to St. Petersburg, but soon returned back. Perhaps Elizaveta Dobrovolskaya did not like the capital, or it was difficult for her to live with the Sazonov family. All Martyan’s children were older than her except for the youngest daughter, Lyuba, who was the same age. Well, whatever the reason, Sazonov and Dobrovolskaya decided to settle down in their birthplaces—in their own homes in Chukhloma and in Astashovo. But his father’s old hut did not provide status or suit Martyan’s urban habits. A new home was needed.
Martyan marries Elizaveta Dobrovolskaya (his second marriage)
Construction of the Sazonovs’ dacha – the Terem
Sazonov is elected as a desiatsky
Sazonov builds a parish school
The Sazonovs lived in two houses. In addition to the Terem, Martyan owned a one-story mansion in Chukhloma – house 203 on Nikolskaya Street (present-day Lenin Street 30). In his home village of Astashovo he was elected for a position of desiatsky – a civil villager responsible for resolving minor disputes, order maintenance and similar duties too trivial for the police from the town to intervene. It required his presence in the village, and therefore, the Sazonovs were seldom in the capital, if at all, and they even sold their St. Petersburg home in 1907.
Nikolskaya Street is one of the district town’s central streets. The Sazonovs were neighbours with mayor Iyudin, the merchant Goloushin family, and with another successful contractor, Ivan Ivanovich Polyashov (Polyash). Martyan and Polyash were both friends and rivals.
On August 1, 1914, a manifesto about the beginning of war with Germany was read out from the elegant forged iron balcony of the Chukhloma district council building to a crowd of townspeople waving national flags (the balcony has survived to this day). Due to the absence of lamp posts, the townspeople climbed onto drainpipes in a patriotic rage. The beginning of the Great, or Second Patriotic War, as the upcoming First World War was then called, had little effect on Martyan Sazonov. In the last years before the war, he was often sick, gained weight, had poor vision, and suffered from chest pains. He no longer made journeys from Chukhloma to the Terem, and lived in his house on Nikolskaya Street with his wife and their son Ivan, who suffered from consumption.
Death of Ivan (Martyan’s son)
Death of Martyan Sazonov
Terem was confiscated from his widow
Various institutions set up offices in the Terem
Terem abandoned due to its critical condition
Decline of Pustinya
After confiscation, the Terem at Astashovo was sealed and remained without an owner for over 20 years. We do not know the reasons for this; it’s one of the little mysteries that needs to be solved. The other wealthy houses we are familiar with were used for housing, schools, administrative purposes, or as utility rooms. During the time when the Terem was empty, life in Pustinya had not changed for the better. The revolution decimated private customers and undermined the economy of seasonal work. Former builders returned from Petrograd, invested their savings in agricultural equipment, and started farming.
The Terem’s restoration, which took place from 2010 until 2018, is not able to restore life to Pustinya and return the residents who have left. That was not the goal of the restoration. The task of our project is to preserve heritage. The century that has passed since the revolution was a difficult ordeal for all architectural monuments, but it was a true disaster for wooden architecture. In the 20th and early 21st centuries, Russia lost most of its urban wooden buildings and an overwhelming number of wooden estates. Examples of the Russian dacha style or Art Nouveau are becoming rare. In the whole country, there are not even hundreds, but rather mere dozens of such outstanding architectural objects as the Terem. Of the surviving architectural objects, many have underwent Soviet repairs or unscrupulous restorations and have lost the integrity of their interiors or their external appearance.
Restoration of the Terem begins
Museum and hotel are open