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A pre-Mongolian church near Novgorod

Dating back to ancient Russian cities such as Kiev and Novgorod, Russias 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 10th-13th 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 evolve. Referred 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 Catherines Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.


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