Historical Insights into Russia’s Leather Shoe Industry

During excavations in Nerevskij End, remnants of workshop for shoemakers and beamhouses were found. Shoes made of leather from the 11th-16th century were also found.

The process of preparing the leather to be used in shoemaking started with a soak. The hide was cleansed of all remaining subcutaneous and flesh tissues using iron adzes.

Russian shoemaking traditions

Shoemakers started using various kinds of baste around the 12th century. The bark from birch, oak, linden or elm trees was removed and mixed with bast. It was then stored. The bark was cut into strips and was used to weave the lapti. The strips were weaved using either straight or diagonal weaving and the shoes were embellished with embroidering or stamping.

Lapti were the main shoes of the common man. The simplicity, comfort and low cost of the shoes led to their popularity. They were worn until the start of the Russian Civil War. Then, the mass production of leather shoes started to replace them.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, there was a different kind of footwear that was popular with ordinary people — porshni, which were low shoes. This type of shoe was only found in the urban excavation layers. They were made of rawhide ox, but featured a felt top as well as an ox-skin sole.

The leather shoe industry in Russia

In the 11th and 10th centuries, Novgorod’s tanners produced rawhide. Rawhide was not dyed, but rather was it was kneaded with fat before being was soaked. Using it, leatherworkers made tackles, belts as well as a simpler form of footwear called “bog shoes” [Rus. porshni]. The two pairs of symmetrical shoe (left and right) discovered in the excavations indicate that the shoemakers employed a special last to shape the materials.

It is interesting to note that the earliest bog footwear had printed patterns on their sides like the ornamental design of a pouch (Rus. kosheliok, koshelek). It was a very popular method to embellish leather. The patterns were later embroidered with silk or wool thread.

Novgorod is where the earliest Mulgati leather shoes that have been preserved in Russia were discovered. They differed from one another: some were low and ascended to the ankle; others included a collar that sat around the ankles which was similar to boots. There were a number of pair of these shoes belonged to nobles and boysars as that were depicted on art monuments.

Lapti was a very popular kind of shoe among the Russian peasants in medieval times. Old, ragged lapti were hung on fences and inside homes to prevent the negative thoughts an unknown visitor might bring to a home. Old lapti could also be used to transport domovoi, or the house spirit, from one residence into another during a move.


Evolution of Russian leather shoes

The archaeological evidence suggests that Novgorod shoemakers produced shoes for all classes of people, including artisans and peasants. Shoemakers also produced shoes for princes of wealth and boyars depicted on monuments to art. During the 11th to 12th centuries, shoemakers’ craftsmanship was significantly improved. Early shoes were characterized by simple embroidery and carvings. These gave way to more elaborate designs.

In the 13th century, soft shoes were introduced [Rus. porshni]. The remains of these shoes with soles that were flat were found in the burial mounds of Vjatichi. The upper, sole the bootleg, and the heel quarter of these shoes were made of a more flexible and elastic leather that is more flexible than the sole. Between these two halves, a lining or podnarjad] is sewn.

The Russian leather (lapti) used in these shoes is a distinctive feature. The leather was crafted from animal hides that were tanned using barks of birch, oak as well as linden and other trees. The leather was renowned for its longevity, a distinctive aroma and unique hatched pattern.

The 17th and 16th centuries saw the introduction of new footwear types in Europe. They became the norm winter shoes of Russian peasants during the 19th century. They are still a part of the traditional Russian dress and have become an emblem of the country’s culture. They are made of premium natural leather. They feature an asymmetrical last that corresponds to the shape of the foot. They also leave room for the toes.

Russian leather shoe brands

In Russia the production of leather shoes accounts for over 10% of Russia’s footwear manufacturing industry. The growing demand for shoes made of leather that are high quality has made this one of Russia’s most important industries. To meet this growing need several companies have emerged in the area of production of leather shoes in Russia. Vakhrushi-Litobuv as well as Technoavia are two of the companies that are based out of Yoshkar Ola.

Vakhrushi-Litobuv specializes in safety footwear made of leather and is the largest manufacturer of these products on the Russian market. It supplies its products to Mosvodokanal>the Management Company LLC and North-West>> PJSC, as well as Bashkiravtodor>>> JSC. It also sells a variety of casual leather shoes.

Technoavia is a full-cycle footwear production company that has been operating since 1992. The facility located in Yoshkar-Ola has four Desma injection molding machines, which allows it to manufacture shoes with PU/PU or PU/TPU bottoms. Technoavia is also the sole manufacturer of leather safety boots that are insulated in the world.

The company has been a pioneer of using “Russian leather” which is crafted from hides of Southern German cattle and is protected with wax and oil. The leather is a rich deep color, ranging from sienna to deep claret. It also has a distinct sweet scent. Leather is very sturdy and stain-resistant.

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