Drying Wash at the Edge of the Sukhona River, Tot'ma, Russia


This photograph of washing day on the Sukhona River at Tot'ma was taken in 1998 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. The Sukhona links the south central part of Vologda Oblast with the northeast and was for centuries part of an important trading network that led northward to the White Sea. The Sukhona flows by the historic towns of Tot'ma and Velikii Ustiug, both of which are known for 17th- and 18th-century brick churches sponsored by local merchants. Although the interiors of Tot'ma's churches were severely damaged during the Soviet era, the structures still stand and form one of the brightest pages of northern Russian culture. The prosperity of these northern river towns was based on their location along a major trading route and on their close ties with Russia's major cities, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. Indeed, Tot'ma's range extended all the way to the New World, via Alaska. Among Tot'ma's notable citizen's was Ivan Kuskov, the first commandant of Fort Ross, in California. Although Sukhona has long since lost its significance as a major transportation artery, it still plays an essential role in the eternal rhythms of this small town with a glorious past.

Last updated: January 11, 2016