Before the Imperial decree that inaugurated the grand metropolis St Petersburg in 1703, Arkhangelsk was a primary site of trade culture and travel between the interior the White Sea and Arctic roots of Russia’s western regions.
Located on the wide banks of the Northern Dvina River, The city has a strong material cultural history. This is for example, evident in the Arkhangelsk Regional Lore Museum that sits beside the river on the site of the Arkhangelsk merchant yards of the 17th to 19th century. This is the oldest building in the town, and houses one of the largest collections and exhibitions of natural and cultural history in the Arkhangelsk oblast or region.
The museum celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. It is a bastion of the built against the sandy banks and then interior city. Marked by its neoclassical military monumentalism, the building is filled with galleries spanning the city’s history. (Russian language website).
The city is as a hub of cultural and commercial exchange, a maritime point of departure and arrival, wedged between the vast interior and the expensive white sea to the north. In the museum one repeatedly comes across images of the Archangel Michael with black wings defending the city against the Devil.
The city has been constantly attacked undefended for its strategic access to Arctic waters and since the mid-16th century it is been linked to expeditions in search of the North East passage. In the 20th century the city has undergone severe bombardment into world wars as well as being highly contested in the birth of the Soviet state.
The regional timber trade has declined somewhat we were told, though online publications list the city as the largest site for pulp and paper works in the Russian Federation. Still a centre for fishing, projections of today’s global reaching Northern Sea Route may in future bypass this riverine harbour in the depths of the White Sea.
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