Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Architecture: Heritage, Traditions and Innovations (AHTI 2022)

Urban Development of Kostroma in the Late 19th – Early 20th Century
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Thanks to the mighty navigable river, the Volga region has long occupied a special place in the economy and urban planning of Russia. It served as a powerful trade link between the grain south and the wooded north of the European part of the country. In addition, the river is fertile flood meadows and fisheries, timber rafting and rapid transport links, and finally, water necessary for many industrial productions. The enormous length of the Volga, crossing several climatic zones, has determined the general patterns and characteristic features of the development of Russian cities located on its shores [1]. The Volga region is usually divided into three parts – Upper, Middle and Lower. Kostroma is a large provincial city and industrial center of the Upper Volga. In the post–reform period (late 19th – early 20th century), at the time of the rapid development of capitalism in Russia, Kostroma embodied the urban planning specifics of many Volga cities of that time, when the accelerating pace of their urban renewal was combined with the preservation of local architectural traditions.

Originally founded on the right bank of the Volga, Kostroma from the 13th century began to be built on the high left bank of the river, stretching by the beginning of the century already 4 versts along it and 3 versts deep. In 1781, the general plan of the city was highly approved, according to which the reconstruction of the old layout began. The drawing of the new plan was a fan of streets that radiated from the central square located near the riverbank. Nine radial streets of the city started from it.

The first need to return to the revision of this master plan arose in 1851 after the devastating fire of 1848, but no fundamental changes were made; the principle of the fan arrangement of streets was preserved [2]. In 1851, a monument to the hero-peasant Ivan Susanin, who saved the young tsar Mikhail Fedorovich in 1613 from the death that threatened him during the war with the Polish-Lithuanian invaders, was unveiled on the central square. This event marked the special significance of Kostroma for the reigning dynasty. Next to the central square, where important city services were located – a fire station with a fire tower, a guardhouse and public offices built during the classicism period – was the Cathedral Square, the spiritual center of the city. From these squares to the bank of the Volga there were numerous stone and wooden buildings of shopping malls (flour, fish, gingerbread, tobacco, oil) and barns, the main core of which also belonged to the construction of the classicism era of the late 18th – first third of the 19th century. Along the Volga embankment in 1852–1853 by the architect P. Fursov was laid out terraced three-stage Park “Muravlevka” [3].

Further changes to the general plan of the city mainly concerned small fragments of development. For example, a change in part of the plan of Kostroma in connection with the construction of the gallery in Rybny Ryad in 1876–1877, with the construction of the Resurrection Parish school in 1900 and with the construction of Borovkov Pond Square with two school buildings in 1911, etc. Significant reconstruction of the master plan was not required after the fire of 1887. Although it was not as ruinous as in 1848, it destroyed more than a dozen houses in the city [4] – entire districts burned down – which caused the need to issue state benefits to the victims.

However, since the beginning of the 1900s, there was a tendency to more serious changes in the planning structure. So in 1902 the Kostroma City Duma decided to include some suburban settlements in the city [5], but the decision ran into administrative and legislative obstacles. First, it was necessary to have the consent of the slobozhans to join, and secondly, in this case, the city cemetery was closer to the city than the 1892 Charter of the Medical Police allowed. In other words, the actual growth of the city during that period was not always documented, since the city administration did not have the right to include territories outside the city limits in the structure of the master plan. It is curious that in Kostroma the houses along the embankments had different orientations: in some places they face the river with vegetable gardens and in some the main facades [6].

At the end of the 19th century, most of the buildings in the central Volga part of the city were made of stone, the streets were paved with cobblestones and equipped with kerosene lighting. Despite the interest of the city authorities in the exact execution of the plan for the location of stone buildings in the city, which dictates their mandatory construction in the center and along the main streets, the traditions of wooden architecture, very powerful in Kostroma, influenced the preservation of a significant percentage of wooden buildings in the city. The residents' commitment to wooden houses was determined not only by the cheapness of such housing and the ease of its repair, but also by the fact that the main occupation of many residents of the city remained agriculture and cattle breeding. Many peasants still lived in Kostroma and to the northeast of the city there were extensive urban pasture lands and hayfields. Their area was 3.5 times larger than the territory of urban development. In 1866, the residents of Kostroma were allowed by a special order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to build wooden houses even in some quarters intended for stone buildings [7]. This “liberalism” of the authorities, sometimes fraught with fires, together with the local tradition, did not allow the carpentry skill, which Kostroma was famous for since ancient times, to be interrupted.

Since 1870, the city has already had a water supply system, at the beginning of the 20th century, telephone communication, electric lighting, and a tram route was opened [8].


If by the middle of the 19th century the center of Kostroma was already built up with magnificent stone and wooden buildings in the classicism style, on the city outskirts they continued to build traditional peasant huts, the so-called northern type. They preserved many of the techniques of carving and decoration that had lived in the people for centuries. This continuity of tradition led to the peculiar flourishing of Kostroma house carving in the second half of the 19th century [9], which successfully complemented the buildings in the “Russian style”. An example of this kind is the building of the hospital of the Kostroma League against Tuberculosis, built in the form of a fairy tale hut, covered with rich sawn carvings. At the same time, both in stone and wooden architecture, in its three-dimensional structure and decor, the traditions of the classicism era were preserved, which turned out to be very strong and tenacious in Kostroma.

Tradition, one of the characteristic features of Kostroma architecture of the second half of the 19th – early 20th century, affected not only the decor and type of wooden housing, but also the planning and spatial structures of the entire building as a whole. Confirmation of this is the fact that the development even in the center does not exceed 3 stories, and preserve orientation on the type of home, developed since the 18th century, i.e. during the period of classicism, as in the main volume settings, and decor. Since the restoration of the city after the devastating fire of 1848 fell on the period of late classicism, the buildings of this time, together with the already mentioned bright classicist ensembles of the city center, created a special flavor of Kostroma, and, in many respects, determined the stylistic priorities of the period under consideration. The scale of the construction of the classicist era also led to a significant development of the neoclassical style of the 1910s. Late classicism to the monumental buildings of the District court with its magnificent portico of Corinthian style, grammar schools and a branch of the State Bank increased maternity F. Chizhov and most of the pavilions Kostroma anniversary exhibition of 1913 dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, in the style of Neoclassicism.

The jubilee exhibition of 1913 was a vast monumental complex, the central part of which was like an empire ensemble. Its main axis ran along the axis of symmetry of a wide, majestic staircase that led to the main Zemstvo pavilion, which resembled a rich house of the 18th – early 19th century. It was located on a solemn high plinth and had three risalites decorated with porticos. On either side of the wide promenade esplanade were covered galleries with Doric-style porticos and Greek acroteria on the roof.

The existence of the Russian style in Kostroma was determined not only by the historical heritage of Kostroma, but also by the mythologization of its role in the life of the state, because from here came the founder of the reigning house of Romanov: Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. The city carefully maintained its figurative specificity as the patriarchal father house of the Russian tsar, so a variety of structures were built in the national style. The Red Cross Hospital, for example, was a two-story structure with the coat of arms of Kostroma in the center of the main risalite under a “kokoshnik” with a patterned valance and platbands with weights characteristic of ancient Russian architecture of the 17th century. A variant of the Russian style, focused on the temple stone pattern of Moscow and Yaroslavl of the 17th century, demonstrated the building of the Spiritual Men's School with an eclectic dome and a church dome over the school church. A picturesque railway station was built in the Russian style.

A notable building in the national style was the Romanov Museum [10], the opening of which was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the reigning dynasty in 1913. The building resembled a “teremok” with hipped towers at the corners, an expressive massive covered porch and diamond rust walls of the first floor, stylized in the 17th century. The orientation of most buildings to the style of this period in Kostroma had a special symbolic meaning: it emphasized the important period in the life of the city, when the first Romanov was elected to the throne.

Neoclassicism and Russian style did not exhaust the stylistic palette of the city of the second half of the 19th century, here you can find buildings in various modifications of eclecticism, but their role in the development of the city was less. Let us mention the Tretyakov House, which is oriented towards German eclecticism, the brick Folk House (with expressive “Gothic” pointed windows), the City Theater, the Water Tower in the so-called “brick style”, etc.

Urban landscaping and the natural banks of the Volga and Kostroma, which served as a pedestal for the Kostroma development, played a significant role in shaping the image of Kostroma in the second half of the 19th – early 20th century. From the river there was a full panorama of the city, a beautiful silhouette of which was created by numerous temples. The city center was marked by the golden-domed powerful volume of the ancient Assumption Cathedral. Along the shore was laid Volzhsky Boulevard with a domed gazebo-rotunda, a traditional sign of many embankments of the Volga cities. Below, along the shoreline, there were numerous floating docks with galleries, similar to steamboats. They were connected to the shore by a narrow gangplank. The “Bychkova” pier served as a ferry crossing, the role of which greatly increased after the construction of the Yaroslavl-Kostroma and Vologda-Vyatka roads, the station of which was built on the right bank of the Volga a verst from the river.

The natural banks of the Volga and the Kostroma River had no artificial lining and preserved their natural tiers during this period: sandbanks and a high bank with a steep slope. Kostroma remained a very green city, combining the greenery of the manor gardens with the greenery of the boulevard and the City Garden.


The main industry in Kostroma was the processing of vegetable fibers: in the production of flax the province was 2nd in the country and in cotton 5th. It is no coincidence that most of the most famous Russian textile manufacturers came from the Kostroma province. The largest enterprises of the industry were located in Kostroma. The partnership of the Great Kostroma Manufactory (founded in 1866 by Moscow merchants V. Konshin, P. and S. Tretyakov, etc.) was at the end of the century the largest in the world (42,000 spindles). The company had warehouses and traded all over the country, in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kharkiv, Warsaw, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, etc. Its high-quality products received medals at the Nizhny Novgorod Fair and World Exhibitions in Paris (1900) and Turin (1911).

Another giant of the local industry, the Partnership of the Kostroma Linen Manufactory of the Zotov brothers (founded in 1859), in its volume (21,000 spindles) exceeded all the flax mills in Italy in total. The partnership of manufactories of the Gorbunov brothers possessed 13,000 spindles. These industrial colossi had the most technically advanced equipment in Russia. For example, the Big Kostroma Manufactory had the most mechanical linen looms. Of the other major industries in Kostroma, the bell-making plant should be named S. Zabenkin, mill semolina and five sawmills in the city of Kostroma and its surroundings.

Most of the industrial structures located on the banks of the Kostroma River were built in brick, so from its opposite bank there was a panorama of dense 2-3-story industrial buildings with high factory chimneys of the largest factories, warehouses of goods, barns, cheap housing for workers.

The development of industry, and in particular flax spinning, led to the growth and development of the city in the second half of the 19th – early 20th century and the growth of the population of Kostroma. For example, the largest factories – the Zotov brothers and the New Flax-Spinning Manufactory which annually produced goods worth about 4 million rubles – employed 5,000 workers. In the city only from 1901 to 1912, the number of workers increased by almost 30%, which by the 1910s led to a 3-fold increase in the number of urban residents. In 1860, 21,000 people lived in Kostroma, in 1913 already 60,000. Even greater population growth was hindered by frequent cholera epidemics that spread from the Lower Volga region.

Quite significant was the urban trade, largely associated with the regime of the Volga navigation. In Kostroma, there were two fairs a year: the Fedorovskaya and the Ninth (at Easter), held almost on the banks of the Volga near the Gostiny Dvor. The objects of trade were timber, grain, flax, leather and colonial goods, fish, linen and paper products, tableware, iron, saddlery, gold, silver and Muscovite products. The main trade was concentrated in the city shopping malls, but in the second half of the 19th century in Kostroma there was also a special shopping street – Rusina Street – full of small shops and shops.

During the period under review, the construction of educational and educational institutions was actively developing in Kostroma. In the city there were 18 city men's and women's schools, as well as schools at the factory of the Zotov brothers and the Association of the New Flax-Spinning Manufactory, five private schools. Among the educational institutions, the Kostroma Classical Gymnasium, the Real School, the Romanov Noble Boarding School, the Kostroma Industrial School named after F. Chizhov, a Trade school, a paramedic school, and two men's gymnasiums attracted attention [11]. The list of secular educational institutions was solidly supported by institutions attached to ecclesiastical departments: a theological school [12], a theological seminary, a women's diocesan school, and parochial schools. There was a music school by V. Morina and several educational orphanages: the Mariinsky (for girls), the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (for boys), the N. Klyrikov Orphanage, the Olginsky Orphanage at the House of Hard Work, a Craft orphanage with an elementary school for juvenile delinquents.

The number of educational institutions eloquently testified to the development of the city as a cultural center of the province. Indeed, Kostroma had three newspapers, theater and the people's house, acting national library named after A. Ostrovsky, many voluntary associations – professional interests: Society of devotees of natural science, Kostroma physicians, Society of beekeeping, Department Imperial horticultural society, the Society of music lovers, Society, education, Provincial scientific archival Commission. Thanks to the efforts of the local merchants and intellectuals, a historical museum was opened for the Romanov Anniversary in 1913.

Unlike cultural and educational institutions, the construction of churches in Kostroma was insignificant. There were already 30 churches in the city. In the center there were two women's monasteries – the Epiphany and the Holy Cross – and one male – Ipatievsky – the residence of the administration of the Kostroma diocese. New buildings were erected only on the occasion of memorable events: in 1881–1884, a chapel in memory of Emperor Alexander II appeared on Susaninskaya Square; in the late 1880s, a chapel at the Kostroma station of the Moscow-Yaroslavl Railway; at the end of the century, near the Epiphany Monastery, the Smolensk chapel was built in the “Byzantine” style; in 1903, it was decided to build a new church.

As in most Volga cities, the population of Kostroma was multinational. Many Catholics, Protestants, schismatics, Jews and Muslims lived in the city, so during the period under review, several non-Orthodox churches appeared here: the church on Ivanovskaya Street, the Lutheran church on Bogoyavlenskaya Street, as well as a schismatic prayer house, a synagogue and a mosque. However, all these buildings, unlike the Kostroma Orthodox churches, were wooden and small, so they only slightly changed the urban landscape.


The urban development of Kostroma in the second half of the 19th – early 20th century clearly shows the specifics of the architectural and planning formation of the historical city, which became a major industrial center. By the end of the 19th century, the historical city of Kostroma, striking patriarchal multi-domed silhouette of churches and monasteries, quickly and successfully developed due to the wide transit of flour and forest materials by river and railway, and large flax spinning and linen production. In terms of the amount of industrial production, the Kostroma province before the First World War ranked eighth in Russia, and fifth in terms of the number of workers [13]. Significant progress has been made in the field of urban engineering improvement and transport.

Simultaneously with the preservation of the traditions of local architecture, the city developed in line with the general stylistic architectural development of Russia. Kostroma merchants, in many ways, determined the renewal and appearance of the building, contributed not only to the development of the construction of hospitals, orphanages, disabled homes, etc., but also made a significant contribution to the education and culture of the city. All this together allows us to consider the formation of Kostroma in the late 19th – early 20th century as a very significant and fruitful stage, which allowed the city to become one of the important cultural and industrial centers of the Russian North.


The reported study was funded by the Government Program of the Russian Federation “Development of Science and Technology” (2021–2023) within the Program of Fundamental Research of the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation and Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction Sciences, research project 1.2.2.


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Cite This Article

AU  - Maria Nashchokina
PY  - 2023
DA  - 2023/01/10
TI  - Urban Development of Kostroma in the Late 19th – Early 20th Century
BT  - Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Architecture: Heritage, Traditions and Innovations (AHTI 2022)
PB  - Athena Publishing
SP  - 127
EP  - 132
SN  - 2949-8937
UR  -
DO  -
ID  - Nashchokina2023
ER  -