Dating back to
ancient Russian cities such as Kiev and Novgorod, Russia’s early
architectural designs incorporated Slavic traditions and Byzantine
culture. Alongside ordinary wooden structures, palaces for the
ruling princes, churches and city fortifications made of brick or
stone were built. The influence of Byzantine designs of churches
shaped as cubes with domes rested on the four walls can be seen in
the cathedrals and churches built in Kiev and Novgorod in the
centuries. These buildings were covered with numerous cupolas and
their interiors decorated with frescoes and mosaics.
In the 15th
century Moscow took the lead among other architectural schools as
the capital of the centralizing state. At the end of that century
the Moscow Kremlin was encircled with walls and towers made of brick
while the churches within it were made of stone. Stone structures
were extensively built in other Russian cities: fortresses
(“Kremlins”) were erected in the cities of
Nizhniy Novgorod, Tula, Kolomna, Smolensk and others.
However, wood remained the predominant building material.
In the 18th
century the development of Russian architecture was in many respects
associated with the construction of St. Petersburg — the city
founded by Peter I in 1703 which became the new capital of Russia in
1712. In the process of its construction a unique style began to
to as the St. Petersburg baroque, it combined simplicity of line
with richness of sculptural elements and colorful ornaments. The
best-known architect who worked in this style was Bartholomew
Rastrelli, who built a number of magnificent buildings in and around
the city, including the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and
Catherine’s Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.