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Children in the Summertime


"My beautiful childhood calls for me by cheerful sounds akin to sunny and salty sounds of the whistle that once adorned my white sailor suit."

       -- V. Nabokov, Other Shores

Children of the high and middle class, who lived in large cities like St. Petersburg, spent summers in their families' country estates. There, they could play, swim, bike, and otherwise spend time with their cousins and other relatives.


Inner courtyard of the house at Fontanka, 191. Kolomna, St. Petersburg, Russia, ca. 1903. Children often played in the yards under the watchful eyes of their governesses and other attendant personnel.


Boys and girls, possibly, cousins, at their home and garden, ca. 1903.


Children of the Shirai family and guests at a children's party. Early 20th c.


Local country and city children on the porch of the mansion, Solova, ca. 1903.


Village children at the pond. Unlike the city girls, village girls necessarily wear headscarves.


Winter sleighs work well over the wet grass too.


Portrait of Nina Zabugina with a bird cage. Solova, 1903. Birds were popular as children's pets.


A sailor suit remembered by Vladimir Nabokov was a popular fashion item of the early 20th century for both boys and girls.


Summer was the time to make long lasting friendships or renew the old ones from the summer before.


Village girl, wearing a traditional headscarf.


The girls are wearing traditional Ukrainian costumes and large wreaths. Such wreaths were made of wild flowers for Ivan Kupala holiday.


Traditionally, in the summer, children were catered for by their mothers and attendants. Fathers attended to business in the cities, but occasionally visited their families. Such visits were happy occasions for children.


“How wonderful it is in the wooden barn, stuffed with hay almost to the top, to the sun-warmed roof! What a joy it is to trample the soft hay, jump off the slippery beams, crawl, and tumble.” – I.S. Sokolov-Mikitov, Childhood Solova, ca. 1903


Village kids, ca. 1903.


A girl showing off her tree climbing skills and a little boy showing off his tricycle at a family photo shoot, ca. 1903.


Children, from gymnasium students to the little ones, are dressed up and posing at the porch of their family's house. The little boy is wearing a cossack uniform.


“A mysterious world of water and plants opened before me. The charm of this world was so great that I could stay at the pond from sunrise to sunset. The water ran away in circles, softly rocking the water lilies…” – K. Paustovsky, Far Away Years


“At the sunset, having pumped the bicycle tires to the fullest, I roamed, God knows whereabout, on my old Enfield or my new Swift.” — V. Nabokov, Other Shores


“The estate house, dating back to Alexander’s reign, white, with symmetrical wings, and columns along the façade and the pediment, towered over linden and oak trees, on a steep hill across the river…” – V. Nabokov, Other Shores Shirai family's estate, ca. 1903

This exhibit shows children of the Shirai family in their Solova and Grinevo estates in the south-west of Russia, in the summer of 1903.

From the archives of the Shirai family.

Attribution of St. Petersburg photos: V. Beshenkov

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