Russia's old wooden houses under threat as villages decline

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Historic wooden homes under threat
An interior view of an historic house in the village of Cherevkovo, Arkhangelsk region, Russia, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of a part of facade of a house moved from the village of Korostilevo, Syamzha District to Vologda Open Air Museum of Architecture and Ethnography in the village of Semenkovo outside Vologda, Russia, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of part of the facade of a house in the village of Krasava, Arkhangelsk region, Russia, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of part of a facade of a house in the village of Debolovskoye, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in the village of Dertniki, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in the village of Debolovskoye, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in Pereslavl-Zalessky, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in the village of Dertniki, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of an abandoned house in the village of Osurovo, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house moved from the village of Bor, Nyuksenitsa District to Vologda Open Air Museum of Architecture and Ethnography in the village of Semenkovo outside Vologda, Russia, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of part of a facade of a house in Borovsk, Kaluga region, Russia, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of part of the facade of a house in the village of 1st Moiseevskaya in Arkhangelsk Region, Russia, July 8, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in the village of Kulakovo, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in Borovsk, Kaluga region, Russia, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A general view of the wooden house and the domes of Rostov Kremlin in Rostov in Yaroslavl region in Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A general view of the facade of a house in the village of Petrovskoe in Yaroslavl region in Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in the village of Cherevkovo, Arkhangelsk region, Russia, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A view of the facade of a house in Pereslavl-Zalessky, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of part of a facade of a house in Rostov, Yaroslavl region, Russia, October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house moved from the village of Korostilevo, Syamzha District to Vologda Open Air Museum of Architecture and Ethnography in the village of Semenkovo outside Vologda, Russia, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of a house in the village of Gridinskaya, Arkhangelsk region, Russia, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of part of a facade of a historic house in the village of Cherevkovo, Arkhangelsk region, Russia, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A view of the facade of a house in the village of Gridinskaya, Arkhangelsk region, Russia, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "ANCESTRAL ARCHITECTURE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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CHEREVKOVO, Russia, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Traditional wooden houses, many featuring exquisite carvings and craftsmanship, are falling into decay across Russia because of neglect, lack of funds and an exodus from the countryside to the cities.

Alexander Morozov, director of the local history museum in the town of Borovsk in Kaluga region, southwest of Moscow, says houses have been built from wood in Russia since ancient times.

"Wooden huts, wooden churches and chapels, wooden mills on the rivers. Only very wealthy citizens built on brick foundations," he says.

"The quality of work and the skills of the craftsmen were such that an ordinary peasant hut was like a Lego construction set. It was possible without a single nail to put together and dismantle a house to transfer it quickly to a new place... Nails were simply not needed."

SEE ALSO: 6 dramatic before-and-after renovation photos of decaying buildings

In the village of Cherevkovo near Arkhangelsk in the far north, Tatyana lives in a wooden house that is more than 120 years old - when stripping wallpaper, she once came across an piece of newspaper with a story about 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The mansion was built in traditional peasant style for a merchant family called the Gusevs, who were evicted from their properties after the 1917 Russian Revolution. It is still quite well preserved, featuring beautiful carvings on its facades, bespoke doors and painted interiors.

Nina Vasilevna has lived in another former Gusev house in the same village for 64 years, and remembers when the building was also used for a state farm office and library. The house is in poorer condition than Tatyana's. "Everything here needs repairing but nobody has any money," she says.

Many of these ancient houses across Russia are in a lamentable condition or falling to pieces. Urbanization and a low birth rate are emptying out the countryside, and residents and authorities are often largely indifferent towards the historical value of their properties.

Some people are taking down carved lintels and putting in plastic windows, Morozov says. "Even the status of monuments isn't helping these dying masterpieces of ancient Russian art."

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