Here is a special treat for those of you who may never travel in the realm of Siberia. Beginning in the 1580′s the Russian Empire started expanding eastward into Siberia and villages began to spring up around established Russian forts. As the villages developed into towns, and especially after the tea trade with China took off (beginning in the late 1600′s), people with extra income began to embellish their houses with beautifully carved wooden trimmings. Many of these designs have roots in paganism, and were used to bring good fortune, fertile wombs, a bountiful harvest, or to ward off evil. Today those meanings are largely forgotten, although I am sure someone around still knows them, and I will endeavor to find them. Until then, please enjoy these examples of Siberian craftsmanship.
To my knowledge this is a practice particular to Siberia, as I have never seen house trimmings this elaborate in European Russia. After the Bolshevik revolution the practice of embellishing homes in this fashion was entirely discontinued. Consequently all these window frames date roughly pre-1917, some of them probably from the mid 1800′s. They are always found in old wooden sections of cities, which have had a particular penchant for burning in the last ten years especially, since the value of land has skyrocketed. In case you missed my subtle hint, arson is generally employed to drive poor families out of these areas so they can be developed. Since I first came to Irkutsk in 1998, several sections of the city which used to be wooden, have been burnt down and entirely built over with apartment buildings and shopping centers. Thankfully, the city has recently seen the value of saving some of these old buildings, and it is starting to become popular again to embellish your home with intricate wooden trim. Enjoy.