March 01, 2012

Vasily Bazhenov

Vasily Bazhenov

Of all the figures that have risen to prominence throughout the history of Russian culture, few have been so plagued by misfortune as Vasily Bazhenov. This is a tall claim, since fortune has not exactly showered favor on Russia’s greatest architects, artists, writers, poets, or musicians.

As often happens, however, in his youth Bazhenov appeared to be blessed with a lucky star. The son of a sexton serving in one of the Kremlin churches, he grew up surrounded by extraordinary works of Russian architecture. By the middle of the eighteenth century, although it was still thought of as Russia’s traditional capital, Moscow had been forced to cede primacy in this regard to its younger sister, St. Petersburg. But this “dethroning” had a positive side: the city was able to preserve its ancient appearance; it was spared the never-ending construction of government buildings and sumptuous palaces.

Little Vasya Bazhenov spent his childhood drawing old churches and buildings. At one point, somebody noticed that he had quite a knack for this. The renowned architect Dmitry Ukhtomsky was shown the boy’s drawings and took him on as a student. This was his first stroke of luck.

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