Keeping Russia Warm

Courtesy of Pavlovo Posad Manufactory
One of the two towns in the Moscow region to be called a posad, or trading quarter, Pavlovsky Posad was formed from a cluster of villages and historically is not a city. Located to the east of the capital, it is known primarily for its woolen shawls. Although there are not many other attractions, the town has a fleeting old-time atmosphere, and many wooden houses with carved nalichniki, or window aprons, that are lovingly repainted every spring.

Many of the textile factories in the Moscow region that thrived in the 19th century developed from production facilities that relocated from Moscow during the war of 1812. Nearby villages grew and developed, and Pavlovsky Posad became a city in 1844.

Courtesy of Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory
Designer Slava Zaitsev's inspired show.
The present-day style of Pavlovsky Posad's shawl production took off in the mid-19th century, when a local workshop switched from silk scarves to wool shawls. It thrived under the dual leadership of Yakov Labzin and Vasily Gryaznov, despite competition from dozens of similar manufacturers in the Moscow and Vladimir regions.

"None of those factories has survived, we are the only ones," said Yevgeny Obukhov, the head of public relations for the Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory.

Somehow, the tradition persevered the twists of Russian history, and shawls are still made in the 1901 building with latticed wrought-iron stairs. Besides a brief stint in wheat sheaves and sickles in the 1930s, the shawls always featured the same basic motifs: colorful flower arrangements and plant patterns.

The town's life historically revolved around the factory. The business financed a dozen schools, a shelter and a hospital, and Gryaznov even wanted to build a monastery on the grounds and become its abbot. His plans didn't materialize before he died in 1869. In 1999, the locals pressed the church to canonize him.

The shawls were spared the fate of many other Russian crafts that have ceased to exist due to rising rents, market pressures and counterfeits. Complicated technology rules out the possibility of rip-offs; in the worst case, there is theft of artistic ideas. "Once our buyers went to China to purchase silk, and saw a Chinese umbrella with the flower design ripped from our shawls," Obukhov laughed.

Courtesy of Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory
Head artist Viktor Zubritsky working on the design of a special edition shawl.
Since the 1970s, this technology entails mechanized carriage printing using screens that are developed by eight artists. Previously, the ornament was stamped onto the shawls using heavy wooden blocks, one block per color. Larger and more complex shawls would require as many as 400 print applications, done by tough bare-chested men who walked around buckets of paint stamping squares of wool fabric with blossoms and paisley patterns (known in Russia as "Turkish cucumbers"). These blocks are now in the factory museum.

The town doesn't have much to see that is not related to shawls. Only the bell tower, standing over the Vokhna River, remains of the 17th-century Resurrection church, where the original factory owners were wardens. Along the main drag, Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Ulitsa, the old wooden houses are being replaced with new structures, often by way of fires. In some side streets, however, you can still admire beautifully carved windows and accents on residential one-story homes.

How to Get There

By car: the town is on Gorkovskoye Shosse, or the M7, 62 kilometers from Moscow.

By bus: take bus 386 from Partizanskaya metro station. Call 166-1179 to check the schedule, which changes frequently.

By train: trains depart several times an hour from Kursky Station.

What to See

Courtesy of Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory
Employees hanging future shawls to dry after running the printer over the fabric. Shawls are made of wool imported from New Zealand and designed by eight artists.
Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory: Call ahead to arrange visits to the factory museum. The shawls are also sold nationwide by mail through a catalog that you can order on the web site
5 Ul. Kalyayeva, (49643) 5–65–70,

Pavloposadsky Shawl Factory store: Shawls at half the price and in 10 times the variety available in Moscow. Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.; weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no lunch break. Closed last day of each month. Exercise patience.
1 Per. Gertsena, (49643) 2-96-91.

Museum of the Russian Shawl: Only a few years old, this private museum is based on the shawl collection of a local resident, Vladimir Shishenin. The exposition is dedicated to the shawl's general history, not only the local artisans.
27 Bolshaya Pokrovskaya, (49643) 2-25-19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Monday, call ahead to arrange a visit.

Where to Eat

Vesna Cafe: Simple cafe with typical fare, main courses priced around 100 rubles. Ragout, julienne, soups, salads, coffee. Located near the main square.
5 Bolshaya Pokrovskaya Ul.