Slavic Traditional Dress. Eastern, Southern and Western Slavs in the collection of the Russian Museum of Ethnography

This exhibition is based on the Museum’s unique collections of ethnographic material concerning the Southern, Western and Eastern Slavs. The history of this collection is related to the history of Russian ethnology and museum work which started from the Russian Ethnographic Exhibition, organized in 1867 by the Amateurs Society of Natural Science at Moscow University. That exhibition represented traditional culture of Slavonic peoples, who inhabited the territory of the Russian Empire as well as the lands of Austro-Hungary, Prussia, Saxony, Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro. Since 1948 the objects of this first All Russian Exhibition are kept in the Russian Museum of Ethnography. The items from other museums that made the exhibition an unprecedented event due to its thematic diversity successfully enrich this exceptionally rich collection.

The exhibition includes the costumes of the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Byelorussians, the Bulgarians, the Serbs, the Macedonians, the Croats, the Slovenians, the Poles, the Czechs, Slovaks, and of various ethic and local groups of these peoples. It is divided into four thematic sections.

The first section has an introductory character. It introduces the visitor to the origin, history and contemporary socio-economic situation of the Slavonic peoples. Unlike the rest sections, the main source of information here is not the material objects but the explanatory texts and carefully designed map, detailing the distribution of Slavonic peoples on the territory of Eastern and South Eastern Europe. The complicated history of Slavonic peoples and the multiplicity of their contacts with neighbors of quite different ethnic origins are explained in this section of the exhibition. The signs of these contacts can be easily traced through the traditional costumes of each Slavonic people. An experienced eye can easy notice in the festive and daily costumes of the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Byelorussians, the Serbs, the Czechs and other Slavs the elements borrowed from the Finno-Ugric, Turkic, Germanic, and Roman peoples depending on with whom they shared the land on which they lived. In its turn, the Slavic costumes influenced the traditional dress of Moldavians, Romanians, Hungarians, Albanians, as well as the clothes of Finno-Ugric peoples of the Kama and Volga regions, and North Western Russia.

The three main thematic sections are arranged according to the commonly accepted ethnic classification of Eastern, Western and Southern Slavic peoples. The Eastern Slavs include Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians. Their costumes are represented in the second section, which has a title “The Eastern Slavs”. Thanks to an active collecting work, conducted by the museum curators for many years, the Russian Museum of Ethnography owns the largest collection of traditional costumes and various details of clothing of Eastern Slavic Peoples, which is unparalleled in the world.

The next section is dedicated to the traditional dress of Western Slavs. Western Slavic peoples were formed in a tense atmosphere of ethnic conflict and centuries-old expansion by their more powerful neighbors. Nevertheless, these peoples managed to survive and preserve not only their language, but also their traditional culture and one of its most remarkable component – national clothing.. This section presents the costumes of all local and subethnic groups as well as those variants, which reflect seasonal, sex and age specific features.

The last section introduces a visitor to the world of Southern Slavonic costumes, dazzling and inimitable in its beauty. The unique items, presented here, give a chance to fully appreciate the uniqueness and originality of the South Slavs’ national dress. Centuries-old cultural contacts of the South Slavs with Thracian, Illyrian, Roman, Germanic, and Turkic ethnic groups found a clear embodiment in the richness and diversity of their traditional clothing. At the same time up to the end of the 19th century, age and gender stratification continued to be the one of major components of Southern Slavic social framework. This circumstance is also reflected in traditional costumes.

The set of objects, presented at the exhibition, is enriched by illustrations and photographs, including unique aquarelles, created during the exhibition of 1867.


Space required - about 150 square meters.

Number of objects - about 300