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Scottish Architects in Tsarist Russia

The role of British architects in 19th century Russia: Jeremy Howard and Sergei Kuznetsov reveal how the pleasantest sight that some of Dr Johnson's Scotsmen saw was not the high road to England but the sea passage to Russia, where they found fame and fortune making a key contribution to urban remodelling and architecture.

When the Scots architect William Hastie (1755-1832) designed the so-called Contract House in Kiev in 1815 he was not just carrying out one more commission in his role as head of Tsar Alexander I's town planning service but was involved in creating the most important economic institution in the whole of the Ukraine. For it was this building, Kiev's stock exchange, which was to be home to the annual winter Ukrainian 'contract fair' at which contracts were signed for the wholesale trading of everything from handicrafts and manufactured goods to agricultural produce. Contracts were also drawn up here for the purchasing, selling and renting of property and land, loan agreements, dowries, wills and many other financial affairs. And far from being of purely domestic concern the fair was an international event, attracting landowners and merchants from as far afield as Britain, France, Denmark, Greece, Austria and Prussia. At the same time it was significant for the local population in that it provided the venue and occasion for a unique assembly of the nobility of the vast region. One of its prime reasons for meeting during the fair was to conduct local elections.

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