Why are cobblestones rarely found on the streets of modern Russia? Why is asphalt preferred?
In Tsarist Russia, it was the duty of landowners and rural communities to keep the roads in good condition. The unpaved roads in the spring and fall have turned into an impassable quagmire. From the end of the 17th century, authorities in Moscow began to pave the streets of the city and quickly ordered the paving of main streets in other cities as well. For many years, however, the streets of Russia were paved with various materials, mainly wood, as there was no shortage of it. Even if this type of surface was not very durable, a new one could be laid right on top of the old one.
Laying of paving stones in Moscow, late 19th century
Pushkin National Museum of Fine Arts
Because the roads were paved with uncut cobblestones, the surface was terribly uneven. The horse-drawn carts vibrated violently, making the journey incredibly uncomfortable for the passengers.
Some streets became smoothly paved, but processing the stone to produce an even surface was a laborious and time-consuming process.
Paving cobblestones on Palace Square in St. Petersburg
In the middle of the 19th century, Russia began its first modest experiments with asphalt surfaces. But it was not until 1873 that engineer Ivan Buttats set up an asphalt production plant in the town of Syzran on the Volga. At the time, however, asphalt proved too expensive for mass use.
By the mid-1920s, over 90% of all roads in the country were unpaved. The first comprehensive asphalt resurfacing program was implemented by the Bolsheviks in Leningrad in 1924, after a flood that year washed away most of the roads.
Paving with wooden blocks in St. Petersburg after the 1924 flood
After that, concrete and asphalt became the main paving materials, and many cobbled streets from the Tsarist era were covered.
Today, during renovation work, we can see under the layers of asphalt old paving stones, because they are much more resistant to the Russian climate. Sudden changes in temperature cause cracking of the asphalt and the appearance of holes.
Renovation of Petrovskaya Street in the center of Taganrog
And yet, old cobblestones still exist in many cities. We present to you the most beautiful.
1. Red Square, Moscow
The most famous cobbled space in the Russian capital is Red Square. Until the 1920s it was paved, but under Stalin it was replaced by pavers made of diabase, a volcanic stone from the shores of Lake Onega more rugged than granite. Later, this surface was taken up and replaced on a concrete foundation.
2. Saint Petersburg
When Peter the Great built his new capital at the beginning of the 18th century, he introduced a “stone tax” and ordered all ships and carts that arrived there to bring stones for the express purpose of paving all the main streets of the city. the city.
3. Vyborg, Leningrad region
Vyborg, a relic of old Europe, can be found near St. Petersburg. The city was founded by the Swedes and its cobblestone pavement has been almost completely preserved in the historic medieval part around Vyborg Castle.
The former German city of KÃ¶nigsberg was not attached to Russia, or rather the USSR, until after World War II. As in Vyborg, some artifacts from old Europe, including cobbled streets, have survived.
5. Suzdal, Vladimir region
The historic center of the fairytale town of Suzdal is well preserved, but, alas, the same cannot be said of the roads. However, the cobblestone paving can still be seen in the main square. And cobblestones have recently returned to other streets of the city, adding an old Russian flavor to them.
6. Izborsk, Pskov region
The city of Izborsk, on the western border of Russia, is famous for its mighty 14th-century fortress, which withstood several sieges from the Teutonic Knights. In the 21st century, work was carried out to dig an 18th century paved road leading to the gates of the castle.
7. Tobolsk, Tyumen region
In the 18th century, Tobolsk was an important stronghold for the opening up of Siberia. The city is home to the only stone Kremlin still standing in this vast region. The old paved road leading to it appears to be wedged on both sides by stone retaining walls.
8. Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan
In the 19th century, with the Tsar’s agreement, the local governor began to pave the streets of the city (with another “stone tax” specially levied on arriving ships). In 2019, due to the shallow depth of the Volga, an ancient cobbled path emerged on one of its banks, which remained hidden underwater for many decades. Meanwhile, the paving around the Kazan Kremlin was paved in Soviet times and restored only for the city’s millennium anniversary in 2005.
9. Plyos, Ivanovo region
It is rare to come across cobblestone cobblestones in a small old world town. There was once an active river trade on the banks of the Volga, so it would have been difficult to transport goods through the steep streets along a dirt road. Paved roads have been preserved in several places, and archaeologists have even found the remains of a 12th century paving!
Most of the streets of Krasnodar were covered with asphalt in Soviet times, but a few rare specimens of cobblestones have survived, such as on Gorky Street, where trams pass. The pedestrian part of the main red street has also been restored and repaved.
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