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Outcast Visionary: Yurii Pavlovich Spegal'skii and the Reconstruction of Pskov

Outcast Visionary: Yurii Pavlovich Spegal'skii and the Reconstruction of Pskov

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Outcast Visionary: Yurii Pavlovich Spegal'skii and the Reconstruction of Pskov

752 pages
8 heures
Oct 5, 2017


Outcast Visionary: Yu. P. Spegal'skii and the Reconstruction of Pskov, is the first comprehensive, critical biography in any language of this outstanding man, a native of one of Russia's oldest and most beautiful cities, Pskov. It is the story of one man's love and passion for Pskov's architectural and cultural heritage and the struggles he endured to try and save that heritage. Spegal'skii (1909-69) was a man of enormous gifts and wide-ranging interests, stonemason, architect-restorer, scholar, steeplejack, and gifted artist who poured his love for Pskov into art intended to educate and inspire his fellow citizens. He lived in a time of great political and cultural turmoil in Russia and was tempered by the struggles he endured early in his life. Orphaned as a teenager after his father died in WWI and his mother moved away, he raised himself in an abandoned 17th-century house, spending his days drawing the architectural monuments which dotted the ancient city and working as an apprentice stonemason. He moved to Leningrad and became an architect, and returned to begin resurrecting his city's ancient monuments. His work was cut short by WWII, during which he barely survived the siege of Leningrad, camouflaging and preserving the city's damaged architecture. He returned to Pskov after the war, to a city devastated by Nazi brutality, living under extremely severe conditions and supported in his work by his wife, the architect Ol'ga K. Arshakuni.
As the second half of the title indicates, the book chronicles his efforts to preserve architectural monuments in post-war Pskov in 1944-47, detailing his conservation and restoration work, his revolutionary project for architectural reserves and the foundation of the Pskov Restoration Workshop. However, he was eventually driven from his native city by forces opposed to his plans and ideas, the "Outcast Visionary", an outsider who battled the reconstruction projects undertaken in Pskov by a government hostile to its architectural legacy. The book addresses in detail such topics as his controversial theories on the evolution and characteristics of Pskov stone church and house architecture, his extensive legacy of scholarly publications and his fine, graphic and applied art. In the conclusion, it examines Spegal'skii's lasting influence on the cultural life of Pskov and his relevance for those now engaged in the same battle Spegal'skii fought his entire life: cultural preservation.
Outcast Visionary is illustrated with 190 photographs, graphics and examples of Spegal'skii's outstanding creations in painting, drawing, graphic design, wood carving and other media, all connected with the ancient culture and architecture of his native city, Pskov. With extensive source notes and bibliography, Outcast Visionary is intended for anyone interested in art, architecture, cultural preservation, city planning, and simply the life story of a fascinating and complex man who was tragically "... born out of his time."
Irina B. Golubeva, architectural historian and former Chairman of the Pskov branch of the All Russia Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, wrote: "The book's publication promises to be a significant cultural event in Pskov", and called it, "A balanced, meticulously researched and respectful examination of the life and work of this talented man against the backdrop of a turbulent period in the history of Pskov. A respectful bow to Dr. Cothren for his work preserving the memories of a complex, by-gone era, 20th-century Russia."
The author's wife summed up the book succinctly in the Preface: "At its heart, Outcast Visionary is a love story written by a man who shares Spegal'skii's passion for Pskov."
Oct 5, 2017

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Outcast Visionary - Larry Cothren

Outcast Visionary

Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii


The Reconstruction of Pskov

Larry W. Cothren

Second Edition, 2017

Outcast Visionary: Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii and the Reconstruction of Pskov is published by interweave australia.

E-book, second edition: ISBN 978-1-91231-762-2

E-book formatting by ebookpartnership.com.

Printed, first edition: ISBN 978-1-68418-216-9 Published December, 2016.

Printed and bound by MASTERPRESS S.A., Medellin, Colombia.

A limited number of printed, hardback copies are available for libraries and interested readers from the author, while supplies last: larrycothren69@gmail.com

The author welcomes comments, constructive criticism and corrections from readers.

The author and publisher have made all reasonable efforts to contact copyright holders for permission to use images, and apologize for any omissions or errors in the form of credits given.

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, no part of this book may be reprinted, reproduced or stored in any form whatsoever without the permission of the copyright holder in writing.

Copyright © 2017 by Larry W. Cothren.

Dedicated to Bonnie, the memory of Yu. P. Spegal’skii and the people of Pskov.


Transliteration and Abbreviations

Glossary of Terms

Sources for Illustrations


Foreword: Irina B. Golubeva

Preface: Bonnie P. Cothren

Author’s Notes to the Second Edition

Part One: The Formative Years: 1909-1944

One: Yu. P. Spegal’skii and Pskov

Pskov: A Brief History

Pskov: The Early 20th Century


Two: Youth, Education and Early Career: 1909-1941


Education and Professional Activities

The Beginning of a Professional Career


Three: Surviving the War: 1941-1944

The Siege of Leningrad

Ol’ga Konstantinovna Arshakuni

Dreaming of Rebuilding Pskov

The End of the Siege of Leningrad

The Liberation of Pskov


Part Two: Rebuilding Pskov: 1944-1947

Four: Protecting Architectural Monuments: 1944-1945

Implementing the Project to Protect Architectural Monuments

Publicizing the Reconstruction Effort



Five: The Pskov Restoration Workshop: 1945-1947





Six: Restoring Architectural Monuments: 1944-1947

Restoration Project Proposals: 1944-1947

The Restoration Process: Preliminary Investigation and Examination

The Restoration Process: Comprehensive Investigation and Examination

The Restoration Process: Creating a Project Proposal

The Restoration Process: Restoring the Church of St. Nicholas On-the-Dry-Spot

Spegal’skii’s Restoration Methodology: An Assessment



Seven: The Project for Architectural Reserves: 1944-1947

Perspectives on Rebuilding Pskov

Spegal’skii’s Proposal for the ‘General Plan’ of 1945

Rebuilding Novgorod: A Comparison

The ‘General Plan’ of 1945

Spegal’skii’s Project Proposal for Architectural Reserves

The Project Proposal for Architectural Reserves: An Assessment

The Political Struggle to Implement the Project for Architectural Reserves



Eight: The Value of Cultural Heritage

Social Values

Personal Values


Part Three: The Later Years: 1947-1969

Nine: ‘Exile’ in Leningrad

Doctoral Dissertation

The Visionary in Opposition

Rejection, Despondency and Resignation

Professional Work in Leningrad: 1952-1968



Ten: Spegal’skii and Fine, Graphic and Applied Art

Professional Artwork

Personal Artwork


Eleven: The Visionary Vindicated

Spegal’skii’s Revised Proposal for Architectural Reserves

The Visionary Returns: 1968-1969


Twelve: The Legacy of Yu. P. Spegal’skii

Exhibitions and Publications

Biographical and Critical Materials

The Museum-Apartment of Yu. P. Spegal’skii

Remembering Yu. P. Spegal’skii

Spegal’skii and Cultural Preservation in Pskov

Outcast Visionary


Part Four: Spegal’skii and Stone Architecture in Pskov

Thirteen: Yu. P. Spegal’skii and Stone Church Architecture: 12th-17th Centuries

Constructing a Chronology of Pskov’s Architectural Development

Establishment and Consolidation of Architectural Forms in Pskov: 1123-1400

Development and Flowering of the Pskov School: 1400-1550

Devolution of the Pskov School: 1550-1700


Fourteen: Yu. P. Spegal’skii and Stone House Architecture: 16th - 17th Centuries

The Development of Stone House Construction

The Theory of Pskov Stone Houses with Upper Wooden Stories

Spegal’skii’s Theory: An Assessment



Sources and Notes

Selected Bibliography

Transliteration and Abbreviations

I have followed the Library of Congress transliteration system, including ë for io/yo, but with the exception of westernized spellings such as ‘boyar’ and ‘Nevsky’ and initial ‘ia’, ‘iu’ and ‘ie’ in names such as Yakovlev, Yelena and, of course, Yurii.

Glossary of Terms

Sources for Illustrations

Yu. P. Spegal’skii was an exceptionally gifted and prolific artist whose portfolio of published and unpublished work would fill many volumes. A representative sample of his fine, graphic and applied art presented in Outcast Visionary displays the breadth and depth of his artistic vision. Pskov, one of the most picturesque of cities with its multitude of churches and fortress walls and towers, provided a fertile environment which stimulated Spegal’skii’s inherent brilliance and resulted in a unique artistic perspective on Pskov’s cultural and architectural heritage. The historical illustrations of Pskov, Yu. P. Spegal’skii and his professional work and O. K. Arshakuni used in this book are all courtesy of, and copyrighted by, the Museum-Apartment of Yu. P. Spegal’skii and the Pskov State Unified Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve (PGOIAKhMZ), with the exception of the following:

Dedication page: The Church of the Archangels by the author.

Foreword: Photograph of Irina B. Golubeva by Lev M. Shlosberg, 2009.

Preface: Photograph of the author by Bonnie P. Cothren, 1984.

Portrait of Spegal’skii by Alexei Kirillov. Quote of Spegal’skii from ‘Tserkov Vasilii na Gorke v Pskove’, SA, No. 2, 1970, p. 252.

Part One: The Formative Years, 1909-1941:

The Krom and Trinity Cathedral by Debra Lewis, 2010.

Part Two: Rebuilding Pskov, 1944-1947:

Reconstructions of the Church of St. Nicholas On-the-Dry-Spot in four periods by Spegal’skii from GAPO, f. 1767, op. 2, d. 99, l. 73, No. 15 and 16 and l. 74, No. 17 and 18.

Perspective watercolour of St. Nicholas On-the-Dry-Spot by Spegal’skii from GAPO, f. 1767, op. 2, d. 98, l. 15.

Photograph of the north facade of St Nicholas On-the-Dry-Spot from Yamshchikov, S., Pskov: Art Treasure and Architectural Monuments, 12th – 17th Centuries, L., Aurora, 1978, No. 53.

Architectural Reserves One, Two and Three from Spegal’skii’s 1947 proposal. Illustration of boundaries created by author, superimposed over map of Pskov by Spegal’skii found at Arshakuni, O. K., Narodnoe zodchestvo Pskova: Arkhitekturnoe nasledie Yu. P. Spegal’skogo, M., Stroiizdat, 1987, p. 38.

Part Three: The Later Years, 1947-1969

Architectural Reserve Complexes One through Thirteen from Spegal’skii’s proposal of 1968-69. Illustration of boundaries created by author, superimposed over map of Pskov by Spegal’skii found at Arshakuni, O. K., Narodnoe zodchestvo Pskova: Arkhitekturnoe nasledie Yu. P. Spegal’skogo, M., Stroiizdat, 1987, p. 38.

Photographs of Smirnov, Skobel’tsyn, Semënov and Likhachëv from Veresova, T. V, ed., Pskovskaia zemlia: Istoriia v litsakh, M., Severnyi Palomnik, 2007, pp. 443, 419, 451 and 428, respectively.

Photograph of the reconstructed Church of the Epiphany by Debra Lewis, 2010.

Photograph of the graves of Spegal’skii and Arshakuni by Oleg Fedorov, Pskov, 2017.

Photograph of the commemorative plaque to Spegal’skii by the author, 2010.

Part Four: Spegal’skii and Stone Architecture in Pskov

Photograph of the Trinity Cathedral of 1699 by B. S. Skobel’tsyn, from Skobel’tsyn, B. S. & Khrabrova, N. S., Pskov: Pamiatniki drevnerusskogo zodchestva, L., Iskusstvo, 1968, #3.

Reconstruction of the Cathedral of St. John the Forerunner from Mikhailov, S. P., ‘Pervonachal’noe ubranstvo inter’era sobora Ivanovskogo monastyria vo Pskove’, Drevnerusskoe iskusstvo: Khudozhestvennaia kul’tura X-pervoi poloviny XIII v., Komech, A. I. & Podobedova, O. I., ed., M., Nauka, 1988, p. 98.

Photographs of the Cathedral of St. John, Pskov church belfries, the Pogankin Chambers, the Pechenko House and the reconstruction of the Church of Odigitria are by the author.

Photograph of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration at the Mirozhskii Monastery from Voronin, N. N., ‘Zodchestvo Pskova’ in Grabar’, I. E. & Kemenova, V. S., ed., Istoriia Russkogo iskusstva, Tom II, M., Izdat. AN SSSR, 1954, p. 311.

Photograph of decorative elements, ‘runners’, on a Pskov church dome by B. S. Skobel’tsyn, from Skobel’tsyn, B. S. & Khrabrova, N. S., Pskov: Pamiatniki drevnerusskogo zodchestva, L., Iskusstvo, 1968, cover.

Reconstruction of the Zhukov House by Godovikov from Spegal’skii, Yu. P., Pskovskie Kamennye Zhilye Zdaniia XVII veka, Izdat. AN SSSR, 1963, M.-L., p. 126.

Reconstruction of the Solodëzhnia in 2009 from Emelina, O. V. & Ivanov, E. A., ‘Solodëzhnia – pamiatnik zhilogo zodchestva XVII veka’, in Yu. P. Spegal’skii i istoriko-kul’turnoe nasledie Pskovskoi zemli, Kharlashov, B. N., ed., 2009, P., PGOIAKhMZ, p. 105.

Spegal’skii’s drawing of the Ksëndz House of 1947 from GAPO, f. 1767, op. 2, d. 189, l. 1.

Reconstruction of the Yamskii Chambers by Godovikov from Voronin, N. N., ‘Zodchestvo Pskova’ in Grabar’, I. E. & Kemenova, V. S., ed., Istoriia Russkogo iskusstva, Tom II, M., Izdat. AN SSSR, 1954, p. 335.


This book is based on research completed for my Doctoral Thesis in 2000 supplemented with additional research and materials collected over the past 16 years. It would not have been possible without the assistance of many others on four continents.

In Pskov, I am especially indebted to Zh. M. Arakcheeva, former Director of the Museum-Apartment of Yu. P. Spegal’skii, for her friendship and dedication to making my research as complete as possible. O. B. Nikolaene at the Pskov oblast’ Library assisted in finding numerous books on a variety of topics related to Spegal’skii and Pskov’s cultural history, and made research more enjoyable with her seemingly endless supply of tea, cakes and laughter. The staff at the Archive of Pskov oblast’ was especially helpful, with special gratitude to T. V. Vasiutina, Director; and Ye. M. Katsnelson and L. V. Svetlova. Others in Pskov contributed in ways large and small to this book, including Yu. B. Biriukov, I. B. Golubeva, Ye. N. Lukina, E. L. Moppel, N. K. Nikonova, S. F. Ryshkova, L. M. Schlosberg, and M. V. Sharaev.

Heartfelt appreciation to all in Pskov and St. Petersburg who agreed to be interviewed for the initial project and whose comments are incorporated into this book (with their positions at the time of the interviews): Zh. M. Arakcheeva (Director, Museum-Apartment of Yu. P. Spegal’skii); Yu. B. Biriukov (Archaeologist-Researcher, Pskov Institute ‘Spetsproektrestavratsiia); V. A. Bulkin (Senior Lecturer, St. Petersburg University, Faculty of History); I. B. Golubeva (Head Researcher, Pskov Institute ‘Spetsproektrestavratsiia’ and Chairman, Pskov oblast’branch of All-Russia Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture); N. I. Guzheva (Researcher, Pskov State Unified Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve); M. A. Kuz’menko (Research Associate, Museum-Apartment of Yu. P. Spegal’skii); I. I. Lagunin (Deputy Director, Organization ‘Pskovrekonstruktsiia’); S. P. Mikhailov (Chief Architect of the Restoration Workshop ARM-4 of Pskov Institute ‘Spetsproektrestavratsiia); V. V. Mukhortov (Chief Architect, Pskov Institute ‘Pskovgrazhdanproekt’); E. M. Petukhova (from 1974 to 1979, Head of the Project Section of the Pskov Restoration Workshop and close friend of Spegal’skii); V. M. Rozhniatovskii (Curator for The Pskov State Unified Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve of the frescoes of the Mirozhskii and Snetogorskii Monasteries and the Church of the Assumption in Melëtovo); M. V. Saleev (Grandson of the restorer M. I. Semënov and curator of his professional workshop) and M. I. Semënov, (architect-restorer of monuments in Pskov and Pskov oblast’). In every instance, I was welcomed with warmth and hospitality.

From Colorado, my sister Debra Lewis graciously donated beautiful photographs of Pskov.

Appreciation also goes to those in Adelaide who donated their time to read the manuscript and offer comments: my son, Alex Cothren; Andrew Brenner; Alys Jackson; and Harald Lindemann. Gratitude goes to Gary Pore at IELI-Flinders University for assistance with designing the graphics. Maria Isabel Suarez Ospina also assisted in graphic and layout work and helped design the cover. Her father, Juan David Suarez Hidalgo, made printing possible in Medellin, Colombia, donating his time and patience. This is truly an international effort!

My wonderful wife, Bonnie Price Cothren, who served as primary editor, read and corrected innumerable drafts and has listened patiently to unsolicited soliloquies on Pskov and Spegal’skii for over thirty years. Without her enthusiasm, support, patience and understanding, this book would not have been imaginable. I will never be able to thank her enough.

A special ‘thank you’ goes to Irina Golubeva and Tamara Shulakova in Pskov, who have donated their precious time and energy to promote and distribute the first edition of this book in Russia. Their love for, and devotion to, Pskov and its cultural heritage are inspiring to others and matched only by that of Yurii Spegal’skii himself.

Finally, I am eternally grateful to dedicated teachers who taught me to read and think critically, several of whom I remember with great fondness: Mrs. Marjorie Lane, Miss Ann Pemberton, Mrs. Bobby Willoughby and Mrs. Nancy Alton. I am especially thankful to those who exposed me to the beauty and complexity of Russian language, literature, art and history: Dr. John Kolsti, Dr. John Bowlt and Dr. Oliver Radkey.

Lastly, sincere and eternal gratitude to the late Dr. Maurice Hood for his skills and life-long commitment to others.

Foreword: The Fata Morgana of Spegal’skii

Irina Borisovna Golubeva

Architectural Historian; Chief Specialist on Architecture, Pskov Institute ‘Spetsproektrestavratsiia’; Chairman, Pskov oblast’ branch of the All-Russia Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture (VOOPIiK); Pskov, June 2016

Our colleague, the research scholar Dr. Larry Cothren, has written a wide-ranging biography providing new information about one of Pskov’s most important native sons, the architect-restorer, Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii. Over years of research in Pskov’s archives and libraries, and through interviews with a number of people associated with Spegal’skii and restoration work in Pskov, Larry assembled biographical, archival and unique personal and iconographic material, much of which the veil of time was already concealing. The result, Outcast Visionary: Yu. P. Spegal’skii and the Reconstruction of Pskov , is the first comprehensive, critical biography in any language of this outstanding Pskovite. In addition to recounting the important events and relationships in Spegal’skii’s life, the book addresses in detail such topics as his theories on the evolution and characteristics of Pskov stone architecture, his extensive legacy of scholarly publications and his fine, graphic and applied art. As the second half of the title implies, the book also chronicles his efforts to preserve architectural monuments in post-war Pskov in 1944-47 and as an outsider criticising the reconstruction projects in Pskov from 1947 to 1968, detailing his conservation and restoration work, his project for architectural reserves and the foundation of the Pskov Restoration Workshop. Outcast Visionary is a balanced, meticulously researched and respectful examination of the life and work of this talented man against the backdrop of a turbulent period in the history of Pskov. A respectful bow to Dr. Cothren for his work preserving the memories of a complex, by-gone era – 20 th -century Russia.

The book’s publication promises to be a significant cultural event in Pskov, not the least because it is being published abroad. This is a sign of the times, and unfortunately, an eternal sign as the best works of Russian literature of the 20th century first saw the light of day in America and in Europe. The appearance of Spegal’skii’s biography abroad will open our eyes to the reality and circumstances of our present-day culture. In the world of the 21st century, an Australian can publish a book about a Russian architect-restorer and the younger generation of Russians, many of whom know English much better than we do, can read it in the original. Spegal’skii and his contemporaries could never have dreamed that such a future was possible.

Even today, the name of Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii, architect-restorer, artist, researcher of ancient Russian architecture, elicits mixed feelings of wonder and admiration for someone who always seemed an enigma. In the 1960s, he was perceived as an eccentric because his physical appearance and unorthodox ideas stood out against the backdrop of the monotonous Soviet crowd. He was well-known in the creative and scholarly fields, but opinions of him were mostly superficial: ‘everyone has his own affectations’. However, Spegal’skii’s entire life showed that he was not an actor playing a role, but a man of his own time period and a man true to his own self.

For him, Pskov was the ideal place on Earth, a feeling interwoven with the circumstances of his childhood and his earliest aesthetic and intellectual stimulation. Pskov heavily influenced Spegal’skii’s subsequent creative life and endowed him with the ability to form deep and serious relationships with life, with people, with architecture. With all his being, through his study of Pskov’s cultural legacy and his own art, he experienced the power and stability of Pskov in the middle ages, conceptualizing it as a vital and vigorous way of life which had been lost in the 20th century. In fact, in my understanding, in idealizing ancient Pskov, Spegal’skii felt as if he were very much a peasant-Pskovite of the period. Much of his life was devoted to balancing his ‘modern’ and his ‘ancient’ selves, his unique, internal conception of ‘I’.

Pskov also determined Spegal’skii’s selection of profession, and underlay his appreciation for the stones of his native land, the construction qualities of limestone mortar, the colours of its river sand. From Pskov emanated his respect for the stonemasons and their simple construction tools, his sense of being a member of their collective, creative workforce. Also from Pskov came the test of his own abilities with stonework during the restoration of an ancient fortress tower and ‘The Yaklov House’ in the 1930s, before the war. He was driven from Pskov after clashes with authorities over his insistence on high standards for restoration work.

In blockaded Leningrad, on the boundary between life and death, Spegal’skii was consumed by creative architectural work– and was saved by thoughts of rebuilding Pskov, his dreams articulated in a series of beautiful sketches and drawings depicting the people and architecture of 17th-century Pskov.

Once again needed in Pskov due to a wave of post-war social enthusiasm, Spegal’skii was summoned to help rebuild the destroyed city. It became clear then that his previous conflicts over the restoration of monuments had not been incidental. From those rebuilding Pskov, he insisted on quality restoration work and an understanding of the characteristics of Pskov architecture, neither of which was deemed essential in the Soviet system of the period. Once again, he was forced out of Pskov. Cut off from his native city, Spegal’skii continued his work in Leningrad, dedicating his free time and energy to research and artistic creativity. This is where he developed his theory on the stone and wooden composition of Pskov secular buildings of the 17th century. While the theory had a certain historical logic, it was supported with questionable evidence. Nevertheless, it became the key to his entire career, bringing him recognition in the wider fields of architecture and history.

Today, Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii’s name evokes vivid images of these unique and important merchants’ houses which changed the appearance of Pskov. For Spegal’skii, it was not coincidental that this 17th-century architecture, these rich, comfortable stone palaces which belonged to the ‘best’ people – Pskov merchants, was created as the Russian national consciousness and international economic relations were being developed. It was the border-town, Pskov, and its merchants, which had played significant roles in that progress. With all his creative energy, Spegal’skii promoted and defended what he viewed as the eternal values of that era – resoluteness, truth, beauty and life-affirming optimism

It’s impossible not to say a few words about Ol’ga Konstantinovna Arshakuni – Yurii Pavlovich’s wife, his faithful companion through all his unsettled life, in times of grief and happiness. In their private lives, they lived for each other. She followed Yurii Pavlovich to destroyed Pskov, tearing herself away from her own familiar creative environment in Leningrad. He could work peacefully only with her at his side. Their letters, and Ol’ga Konstantinovna’s memoirs, have revealed the complexity of their unusual relationship.

Spegal’skii’s publications on the architecture of Pskov form an essential component of Russia’s cultural history. Thanks to Arshakuni’s efforts, several of his books were published posthumously, increasing our understanding of the complexity of his views and talents. However, Arshakuni angered and alienated Pskov restorers when, preserving and promoting Spegal’skii’s memory, she elevated his ideas on architecture to the level of doctrine (more accurately, to the level of dogma). Yurii Pavlovich had been much more tolerant than she became toward the possibilities of changes in his theories as a result of new research on Pskov architecture of the middle ages.

Very few of Spegal’skii’s contemporaries remain. My generation was unable to know Spegal’skii, to work with him. His architectural legacy has not been sufficiently researched; meanwhile, the best secular buildings of Pskov, to which Yurii Pavlovich devoted his entire life, have suffered tragic fates and many are now on the threshold of destruction. Only when the restoration of these buildings begins will the spirit of Spegal’skii be revived and his ideas thoroughly examined, since determining the original form of these buildings will require conscientious, scientific methods. Without the work and discoveries of Spegal’skii, it would be impossible to restore the monuments of Pskov. He was a master and an architect who asked the key questions, without which the preservation of our cultural legacy would not exist.


Bonnie Price Cothren, Flinders University

Adelaide, South Australia, October 2016

At its heart, Outcast Visionary is a love story written by a man who shares Spegal’skii’s passion for Pskov. It isn’t often one can point to the moment in which an academic passion begins, but in this case, not only a memory but also a photograph pinpoints that instant.

Having studied Russian language, culture and history as an undergraduate and graduate student, Larry travelled to Russia as often as possible to experience the culture. He had a natural affinity for the people and one of his favourite activities was to sit on benches in parks and outside Russian churches and start up conversations with elderly pensioners. From them, he got a feel for old Russia and a glimpse into the strong feelings Russians have for their native land and culture.

In August, 1984, Larry and I travelled by train and decided to stop over in the city of Pskov. We had already travelled widely in European Russia on previous trips and had been to many other major historical cities and towns, including Novgorod, Vladimir and Suzdal, but decided to add one more to the itinerary. We arrived in the middle of the night and were astonished by the majesty of the Trinity Cathedral rising in the Pskov Kremlin and surprised to find that the local hotel had decided to charge only 50 percent of the room bill because we didn’t have time to sleep for a full night. Clearly, there was something different about Pskov.

We had only one day in the city, and set off on foot to see as much as we could. Our walk led us through areas of greenery linking historical sites, along crumbling fortress walls and around ancient churches, remnants we would later learn of Spegal’skii’s dream of Pskov’s magnificent heritage. Stopping on a high section of the old walls of Pskov near the Church of Sts. Koz’ma and Damian On-Gremiachaia-Hill, Larry commented that from that vantage point, he could really feel how the city would have looked in ancient times. The beauty of Pskov was apparent in the way that the Churches were built to enhance the landscape, whereas the modern buildings detracted from the beauty of the rivers and the land.

A few minutes later, we met an old woman getting water from a natural spring trickling below the church. She was one of the few inhabitants of Pskov who stayed in the city throughout the war and survived. ‘It was much better before the war’, she said. ‘The water from the spring flowed strongly and it was a beautiful city.’ With a shake of her head, she left with her pail of water.

This book, and a 30-year love affair with Pskov, began on that beautiful summer day, with the sad shake of an old woman’s head.

On Larry’s second trip to Pskov, he learned about Spegal’skii, the man who had tried to restore the city to its finest period, and met his widow, Ol’ga Arshakuni. She showed him around the newly opened Museum-Apartment of Spegal’skii and as she spoke, he was moved and inspired by her love and dedication for her husband and for Pskov. Larry returned dozens of times and much of the last 30 years has been devoted to learning as much as possible about the beauty and heritage of Pskov and exploring the complex life and unique vision of one of its most gifted native sons, Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii.

Author’s Notes to the Second Edition

Seacliff, South Australia, September 2017

This electronic, second edition of Outcast Visionary has a few changes from the printed edition of 2016. The author thanks all those who have offered suggestions for improvements to this edition of the book.

The text remains the same as in the printed first edition, with the exception of corrections of spelling and typographical errors and the updating of a few sources; however, the sequencing of the chapters has been altered. The chapter dealing with Spegal’skii’s theories, research and publications on stone architecture in Pskov (previously Chapter Ten) has been divided and moved to the end of the book to Part Four (now Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen). Therefore, those who wish to follow the chronology of his life can read through from Chapter One to Chapter Twelve without significant interruption in the flow of events. Nevertheless, this in no way means that the chapters on architecture are any less important. In fact, they form the core of Spegal’skii’s professional career and include discussion of some aspects of his work which have been controversial since his death. A complete understanding of Spegal’skii’s life, work and legacy is impossible without acquaintance with the information in these chapters.

A second change is with the illustrations. First, many photographs have been restored to colour since printing costs are no longer an issue. Secondly, some additional photographs and graphic art produced by Spegal’skii have been included, especially graphics connected with his proposals on architectural reserves, which give the reader a more detailed view of his work. Finally, the illustrations for each chapter have been placed at the end of the chapters, rather than collectively at the end of the book.

The ‘biographies’ of architectural monuments, like the biographies of people, are sometimes uncomplicated, but sometimes, on the contrary, they are tangled and twisted with unexpected turns, dark and full of mystery. - Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii

Part One: The Formative Years: 1909-1944

One: Yu. P. Spegal’skii and Pskov

Two: Youth, Education and Early Career: 1909 - 1941

Three: Surviving the War: 1941 – 1944

Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii felt from a very early age that it was his destiny to resurrect the architectural glory of Pskov, one of Russia’s oldest and most beautiful cities. He had learned passion and love for the cultural and architectural heritage of his city from his father, who was taken away when young Yurii was at an impressionable and vulnerable age. Learning to survive alone in a society undergoing multiple traumas, he acquired a practical education from the skilled stonemasons of his city who inspired him in his choice of career. Becoming an architect, working in his chosen field of restoration, and then surviving the siege of Leningrad strengthened and tempered him for the struggles he would face attempting to realize his dreams.


Yu. P. Spegal’skii and Pskov

Writing to an old and trusted friend in 1967, Yurii Pavlovich Spegal’skii confided that the summers of 1925 and 1926 were ‘…the happiest days of my life.’ ¹ He was a teenager, living in the abandoned and decaying 17th-century Pechenko House in Pskov, spending his days and nights drawing and digging for fragments of ancient stove tiles.

Those were the formative years spent wandering the streets of Pskov, exploring the dozens of ancient churches and buildings, learning about the past and the historic people of Pskov, who had built one of the largest and most beautiful cities of Europe. There were books to read on Pskov history and culture, vaulted cellars and ancient cemeteries to examine, fortress walls and church bell towers of limestone slabs to sketch before they melted into the beige dust of Pskov. They were years of independence, when he learned to live by his own hands and sweat as an apprentice stonemason, always studying, sketching, collecting, seeking answers to his many questions about the city he loved so much. These were days spent exploring the past and preparing for his future, which would bring happiness and success as well as inexplicable frustration and sorrow. He would find himself near death during some of the darkest days of his country's tortured history and, at his lowest point, would find the love and unwavering support of a strong and talented woman. He would develop into a great scholar and architectural historian and would play a vital role in the rebirth of his city after its near-total destruction at the hands of a cruel enemy. But always, he would look back to those years of intense and self-directed study, when he at last understood where his destiny lay and what his heart desired: to dedicate his life to the study and reconstruction of his beloved Pskov.

Anyone familiar with Pskov in 1926 might have seriously questioned young Spegal’skii’s choice of profession, his passion for the architectural and cultural history of the city and his dreams of restoring it to its former glory. Long before young Spegal’skii began planning his life around the active study and reconstruction of Pskov, it had deteriorated into a small, provincial town with a population of around 33,000.² It hardly seemed a promising city to rebuild and resurrect. Photographs of the city taken in 1903, when Tsar Nicholas II visited Pskov in connection with military manoeuvres, revealed a once-magnificent city whose fortress walls and towers were decaying as time took its toll.³

Few were interested in the architectural and cultural heritage of Pskov, which, up to the beginning of the 18th century, had been ‘… one of the richest and most populous cities in Russia.’⁴ Even though Spegal’skii was still a teenager, he knew the architectural monuments of his decaying city by heart, having spent countless hours exploring, sketching and even drawing blueprints of them. It was Spegal’skii’s unique gift that, from a young age, he could study fragments of the past and see not only the beauty of the completed form, but also the creativity, ingenuity and effort of the workmen who created them. For Spegal’skii, rebuilding the ancient monuments of his native city became his life’s goal, spurred on by the skills and knowledge he gained working alongside experienced stonemasons and what he observed firsthand of the often-destructive approaches toward ‘conservation’ of the new Soviet government. Due to his experiences in Pskov during these formative years, his independence, drive and determination, and artistic talents inherited from his father, Spegal’skii’s name and professional legacy would eventually become an important component of Pskov’s architectural and cultural history.

In order to better understand the passion and love that this gifted man had for his native city and the struggle he was willing to endure to make his dreams come true, it is necessary to briefly look at the city’s architectural and cultural history which so inspired and motivated a young boy to devote his life to its resurrection and preservation.

Pskov: A Brief History

Once one of Russia’s most important cities, Pskov was first mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years , the oldest Russian Chronicle, for 903, when young Ol’ga from Pskov was married to Prince Igor of Kiev. ⁵ In fact, when the first stone church was built in Pskov in the 12th century, a settlement had existed there for at least 600 years, making it older than Novgorod and Staraia Ladoga. ⁶ The Balt and Finno-Ugric tribes which made up the first population were joined by migrating Krivichi Slavs, who arrived by the 7th century. ⁷ Among the agricultural settlements of the Slav-Krivichi, trade and commercial centres began to appear, either on new sites or in places where previous Finno-Ugric or Balt populations had settled. Those sites which offered easy access to water and land transportation routes and which could be easily defended began to attract settlers and grew into small fortified settlements. Because it offered all these advantages, by the 9th century at the latest, a permanent, fortified trade and commercial city had arisen at Pskov. ⁸

Pskov's location determined its two future roles in the development of the emerging Rus’ state: shield and trade centre. Because Pskov was the largest, western-most settlement of Orthodox Slavs after Rus’ adopted Christianity in 989, it became a vital defensive fortress protecting the developing state from non-Orthodox enemies approaching from the west and north-west. This first-line of protection provided by the Pskov fortress and skilled fighters also made it possible for trade to develop, and in 1034, Pskov became an important prigorod, a fortress city, defending the expanses and riches of the Novgorod Veche Republic.

Just as important as its defensive position, Pskov was located on a transportation and trade route connecting the Black and Baltic Seas. The city stands on the Velikaia River, just south of where it flows into Lakes Pskov and Chud, which are connected to the Baltic Sea by the Narva River. As trade developed among the emerging cities of the Baltics, Scandinavia and Rus', Pskov was ideally situated as a transit and commercial centre, as was the growing city to its east, Novgorod. Because Novgorod’s territories included large areas to its north and east rich with furs, honey and other goods traded to the south, it became more prosperous than Pskov. This dual role of defensive shield and trading centre meant that Pskov’s importance would wax and wane as the economic, political and military situation between Rus’ and the west changed. In times of war or heavy trade, Pskov was important and usually received the assistance and investment it needed and deserved. During peaceful periods when trade declined for economic reasons, Pskov had to rely on its own resources in relations with its western and northern neighbours.

Pskov’s establishment and physical development were determined by topography. Of most importance, Pskov could be easily defended because of its location on a bluff at the confluence of two rivers: the wide and deep Velikaia and the shallow, rather placid Pskova. Between the two rivers rises a precipice 15 to 20 meters above the level of the rivers, with a flat top and steep slopes on the west, north and east sides. This plateau, about 450 meters long and 150 to 250 meters wide, provided an excellent location for a fortified settlement and commercial centre protected behind earthen ramparts and walls. This site where the settlers decided to build their fortress was called the Detinets, then beginning in the 14th century, the Krom (Kremlin). As the land widened out south of the Detinets between the Velikaia and Pskova Rivers, it varied in soil and relief, lower and wetter in some places, higher and drier in others, flat in some areas, hilly in others. Numerous springs along the banks of both rivers and fertile soil made it suitable for agriculture and stock grazing. This combination of topographical features created an attractive environment for settlement and, over the centuries, the city grew in concentric rings radiating out from the central kernel, the Detinets.

Pskov was primarily a military city and because Pskov was founded as a defensible settlement and grew to become a vital link in the chain of defence for Rus’, it had to build, maintain and enlarge its defensive infrastructure. This consisted of the Detinets plus a ring of additional walls around the city and across the Pskova River as the town grew and spread in area. While such a defensive fortress required immense resources of labour and materials, Pskov was blessed by nature for this task by the limestone which lay beneath the thin soil of the region and which made an excellent building material. It was abundant and therefore cheap, easily worked, required minimal or no preparation, and could be quickly gathered when needed, which was especially important when building fortifications. Since brick kilns were not needed once building without bricks was established, Pskov builders could construct structures almost continuously, limited only by their manpower.

The limestone in the Pskov area was not uniform in colour and thickness, but varied from one location to the next. It was deposited in layers from a few centimetres to many meters, and could be quarried in slabs with rudimentary tools. It varied in hardness, with some varieties almost clay-like and others extremely hard and therefore useful for the bottom layers of walls and for floors. The limestone also varied in its heat-absorption and moisture-resistance qualities, so builders chose the correct type depending on interior or exterior use. Limestone also made an excellent insulating material, helping to moderate the cold of winter and the heat of summer in churches and homes.¹⁰

The main drawback to working with limestone was that, if left unprotected, it weathered poorly in a wet climate which had a significant number of days in which the masonry froze and then thawed, only to be refrozen at night. It was therefore vital to cover all exterior walls with limestone-based plaster; even the Pskov fortifications were plastered and whitewashed. This, of course, was a labour-intensive activity, but, as modern restorers have learned, not nearly as expensive in time and energy as rebuilding walls that had been allowed to deteriorate due to weathering. This plastered limestone also gave the walls and buildings of Pskov plasticity, an uneven surface texture, which came to characterize its architecture and differentiate it from that of any other area of Russia.

Using this abundant building material, over the centuries the citizens of Pskov erected one of Europe’s largest and most impregnable fortresses. Archaeological research has shown that as early as the 8th century, the Detinets was built of logs from the surrounding forest, and this was undoubtedly sufficient for the weapons of the time. However, as the technology of war improved, stronger walls became a necessity. When the original wooden fortress was enlarged and rebuilt in the 10th century, its main protective wall on the vulnerable south side, called the Persi Wall, was probably erected in stone by Prince Sudislav.¹¹ But, because the Detinets housed the population and stored its trade goods, it quickly became crowded, so the city expanded south and the prince’s residence was relocated there. By the end of the 12th century at the latest, this new section of town, called the posad, was also encircled with a stone wall and eventually came to be called Dovmont Town, named after the prince who ruled Pskov at the end of the 13th century.

As trade increased and the population grew, Dovmont Town became crowded with churches and the posad developed south of Dovmont Town. Eventually, the citizens in the growing posad demanded more protection, so in 1309 they erected a new wall around it, complete with towers for defensive positions. All the while they continued to maintain and improve the walls of the rest of the original fortress. In the same way, the town continued to grow, so by 1375/76, a new system of walls was erected to encompass the former posad. But by 1465, again the city had outgrown its defensive fortress, so an enormous new wall was erected which stretched from the Velikaia River across the Pskova River into Zapskov’e and included 39 stone towers.¹² Grated iron gates which could be raised and lowered over the Pskova River were installed to prevent an enemy from gaining access to the city along the banks of the river.

While the extent of the Pskov fortress was effectively completed by 1485, over the next 200 years it was almost continually rebuilt and strengthened, a project which cost the city dearly in labour and materials. In the 16th and 17th centuries, experts in new building techniques from Moscow and Italy were invited to Pskov to assist in keeping the fortress defences up to date with evolving military technology. This ongoing work saved the city on numerous occasions over the centuries as armies faced the walls of Pskov, laid siege and retreated without success. In fact, from its beginning in the 6th century to its decline in the late 17th century, there was but one instance when the city of Pskov was taken by an enemy. Although the Teutonic Knights laid siege to Pskov in 1240, only when disaffected boyars among the population opened the gates to the city was the city taken and occupied, and finally liberated a year later by Alexander Nevsky. Even though the Poles in 1585 under Stephan Batory and the Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus in 1615 pounded the city with artillery and partially breached the walls, the city was never taken. In fact, the city of Pskov was never forcibly taken by an enemy until 1918 when the Germans advanced after the partial withdrawal of Russian forces and again in 1941, when the Nazis occupied the city for three years.

The expense of building and maintaining a large fortress fell largely on the citizens of Pskov, who also poured their wealth into the construction of over a hundred stone churches and monasteries. Behind the walls of the formidable fortress, one of Russia’s most dynamic cultures developed over more than half a millennium. This wealth was generated largely thorough trade. Ideally located at the crossroads between the giant economies of Novgorod and the European markets in the west, which consumed it furs, wax and honey, among other goods, Pskov grew wealthy as a transhipment point, a trading centre where Orthodox Russia met non-Orthodox western and northern neighbours. Goods flowed into the

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