Orkney Connections With Russia: Khokhloma

Scotland’s trade links with Europe, including what we would now call Russia, stretch back centuries. If you have listened to the talks broadcast by Billy Kay On The Scots In Russia you will know the extent of their influence. Highly recommended if you haven’t listened to them before.

Orkney Archaeology Society hosted a fascinating talk on Saturday 9th of February by Dr Jeremy Howard, Senior Lecturer at the School of Art History, St Andrews University.Dr Jeremy Howard St Andrews UniversityDr Howard’s talk was about Khokhloma. In Scotland they have become known as Riga or Baltic Bowls.

Dr Howard, not only informed us of Khokhloma, of its history, its links with trade (why so many examples are found in Scotland and east coastal areas), and its artistry but he challenged the accepted description as “Neither Baltic Bowls Nor Riga Cups.”

Riga Bowls exhibition Orkney Museum

Khokhloma on display in Orkney Musem

The bowls are mainly made from birch wood and are beautifully decorated. Under Stalin it became a huge industry exported as Russian folk art with far more gaudy colours than before. The older examples of Khokhloma have much more subtle colours – they are extremely beautiful.

Rig Bowls exhibition Orkney Museum

examples of the types of patters used – this is on a textile

If you would like to see examples for yourself there is a small exhibition on the ground floor of the Orkney Museum in Orkney.

Dr Jeremy Howard at the Riga Bowls Exhibition Orkney Museum

And if you would like to view the talk given by Dr Howard it is free to view on The Orkney News YouTube channel.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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