Traditional Timber Constructions in Belarus

The concept of vernacular architecture, as a distinguish style, includes a diverse number of local historical and non historical cultural constructions. They include traditional residential, public, industrial, religious and commercial buildings. The architecture contains urban and rural settlements, which were established by non-professional local people on the basis of different regional and local architectural traditions. Vernacular architectures is not an individual process but rather they illustrate a long process of collecting experiences and embodying practices and ideas from previous generations.

Belarus has its own characteristics of vernacular architecture, which vary from a region to region. The architecture represent a unique perspective of the local people, who are living in the different part of Belarus. It reflects their local traditions, of those who used to live here for centuries. The majority of people, who created examples of vernacular architecture in Belarus, were traditional constructional workers. They were working in the villages, towns, cities and castles. The architectures were influenced by the fact that the vast majority of Belarus were rural at that time which impacted the formation of different architectures between the regions and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Many examples of vernacular architecture in Belarus are the peasants’ houses in the rural areas. The biggest number of traditional houses were made from wood rather than mineral and metamorphosed limestone materials. Wood was the most common wide-spread material in the territory of Belarus, which was used by people from early settlement of Balts. Traditionally, the popular wooden houses look like a terrestrial construction, where an upper part was built from wooden logs, which were commonly used till the beginning of 20th century. The houses’ walls were often covered by clay. This technique is still currently used by some craftsmen in Eastern Europe.

Log cabins were widespread in Eastern and Northern Europe, which were first constructed probably during late Bronze Age or beginning of Iron Age. The prototypes of later Eastern European vernacular architecture can be found in Pemerian, Lusatian and other Baltic and Slavic tribes. The modern examples can be found at the museums of Poland (The archaeological open air museum, Biskupin), Ukraine (Museum of Folk Architecture and Folkways of Ukraine) and Belarus (Belarusian State Museum of Vernacular Architecture and Ethnic Heritage).

Belarusian State Museum of Vernacular Architecture and Ethnic Heritage, well-known as Strochici, is an open air museum. It has three different sectors which represent typical characteristics of the three historical and ethnographical regions of the country: Central Belarus, Poddnieprovie (Dnieper coast) and Poozerie (Lakeland). These “villages” recreate the traditional way of life of the peasants of the late 19th – early 20th century. Each sectors exhibits houses and outbuildings (threshing floor, barn, windmills), religious buildings (three churches and a chapel), public buildings (school, tavern and public granary).

A reconstruction of village in the central part of Belarus, Belarusian State Museum of Vernacular Architecture and Ethnic Heritage, Belarus

The main characteristic vernacular architecture in Central Belarus is street (linear) settlement structure: single-row or double-row. Central Belarus Architecture was formed on the basis of the synthesis features of their forms from the neighboring regions, aristocrats residences and local solutions. There are some frequent palaces and manors, in which buildings were constructed separately. It was done in the khutars because of a bulk composition and wide-spread ideas. A khutor is a type of rural hamlet. The buildings can be seen from different angles, as more attention is dedicated not only to the main facade but to all. The house of Sushkevich family in Mastischa village illustates it.

The house of Sushkevich family in Mastischa village, Belarus

Poozerie(Lakeland) is represented in the museum as a small village and a separately located khutor. These are two characteristic types of settlement for this region. This region is characterized by chaotic and to be subjected to certain laws of development of villages. They used closed and asymmetric methods in space-planning of rural buildings, which are bound architecture very harmoniously with surrounded environment. The main goal is to unite different functions in a small space. Decorative techniques are usually very modest.

In Podnieprovie region, residential and farm buildings are arranged around an open courtyard space. A characteristic feature of the Podnieper vernacular house is the dominance of a living house in a composition of countryside development. Architecture of East Belarus is characterized by an extraordinary variety of compositional techniques and a rich decorative ornament on the main facade. Old timber decorations are made by the carpentry technics that are based on artistic interpretation of the structural elements’ role, connecting with new propyl thread techniques. Some examples are some houses in Gomel in Paris Commune street N. 20, which has rich extraordinary artistic features on the main facade.

The house in Paris Commune street N. 20 in Gomel, Belarus

Some of the constructions have simple decorations and others are done with elaborate architectural details. Examples of Vernacular style building can be found all around Eastern Europe with diverse variations of distinguish features. Nowadays, Vernacular architecture is one of the main source for studying the history of people, their culture and traditions by observing their environment of everyday life, work and leisure.


1 Rosberg, K., About the Introduction of Joint Timber Building in Scandinavia, Uppsala university, 2006 [checked online:] 2 ??????????? ???????? ??????????? ????????, 2004 [checked online:] 3 Old European Culture, 2015. [checked online:] 4 ? ??? ???????????? ??????? ????? ?? ???? ?????? ????????????? “??” ??????, ??????? ? ????????? ? ????????????, Forum about Gomel, 2011. [checked online:]


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