Raising a child is a difficult and crucial task for any parent. And, above and beyond the more commonplace means of child-rearing, the atmosphere in which the child lives is of the utmost importance. What items surround him, what pictures hang on the walls, if there’s firelight, and how his toys are selected, along with the lighting fixtures, wallpaper color, and the other elements of home decor placed about his bedroom and throughout the apartment.
Until the second half of the 20th century, the decor of St. Petersburg apartments mostly consisted of items that had been passed down from parents. Furniture made from solid blocks of redwood, a few surviving pieces of silverware, miniature medicine boxes, silver picture frames, clocks, the eggs gifted on a faraway Easter morning, figurines made of stone, cigarette cases, flower vases hewn from stone, gold and silver, often encrusted with diamonds. The interior space of apartments was adorned with old hand-embroidered tablecloths, napkins twisted into a cylinder and slipped into silver rings, crystal vases with elements of silver, filled with brightly-colored fruit...
One way or another, those elements of nobility filled the home with the elegance of refinement and taste. Add to that the jewelry of the ladies of the house, kept in cherished boxes - fine chains with medallions, Easter eggs, elegant brooches, pendants, rings, earrings and chokers handed down from beloved grandmothers - it was all known as the “family jewels.” It was these pieces of jewelry and prized possessions that came to the rescue more than once for their owners in the difficult years of our nation’s history. That’s the real value of these family treasures. They can be worn on special occasions, and they can be lifesavers for their owners, which is why they’re only ever sold in cases of extreme need.
In the second half of the 20th century, the “fashion” of pressboard furniture “took off” in Russia. The author of this article will never forget how the city dumps came to be filled with wardrobes and other pieces of furniture made from redwood, Singer sewing machines, and enormous mirror frames. The average person, a mere cog in the state machine, was forced to accept such mass-produced furniture, apartment ceilings that could be touched with the hand, and an atmosphere in which the only way to raise intellectually-developed children was to surround them with cheap consumer goods. Gone are the high ceilings, the starched tablecloths, the silverware, the hearth with a warm and glowing fire that could be gazed at forever.
The jewelry boxes were emptied, the pendants, brooches, the rings with turquoise, sapphires, rubies and diamonds, the bracelets and tiaras, the chains with little Easter eggs - they were all ransacked by the revolutionary sailors in 1917, cannibalized during the siege of Leningrad, or exchanged at Torgsin for bread. The family jewels, just as items of home decor, must be created all over again.
The atmosphere in which a child lives has a constant influence on his emotions and soul, creates a picture of historical unity between today’s citizen of Russia and past generations. Vulgar objects create emotional callousness, while elegant jewelry pieces and other items foster taste and emotional refinement.
Author: A.G. Ananov