Thursday, March 12, 2009

Russian Troika

This is the second post in The King’s Daughters theme series. And as indicated by the title, this one is about troikas: the Russian carriage, or sleigh in winter, drawn by a team of three horses abreast. (By the way, the meaning of the Russian word troika is threesome.)

The traditional cold weather transportation, the troika is, in my opinion, the quintessential Russian symbol. As such, it is widely employed in folkloric scenes, in paintings, movies (Doctor Zhivago), literature etcetera. But regardless of the medium used, it always spells romance to me—it’s probably why I absolutely wanted to have troikas in the book.

The troikas are always depicted as heavily decorated sleighs, and the horses as powerful and spirited animals

Once a national pastime, troika racing almost disappeared after the communism collapsed in 1990. But thanks to a few diehard enthusiasts led by Alla Polzunova, the greatest female troika racer of the Soviet era, the sport is now making a small comeback…and may have a future. Some speculated that it is mainly because Vladimir Putin has demonstrated some interest in the sport.

A notoriously difficult sport, experts in the field estimate that it takes five years of daily practice to acquire the skills to control a troika — an art that revolves around keeping the middle horse trotting, acting as a locomotive against its better instincts, while its flanking companions maintain a brisk gallop.

The Orlov Trotter, a breed developed in Russia, is considered the supreme troika horse because of its sturdy conformation, long stride and speedy trot.


Anonymous said...

With your love a troikas you might introduce another in a future novel. Many years (decades) ago in a Russian Club located in Connecticut I saw a painting of a family being pursued by wolves. One of the parents, I don't remember which, was throwing a child to the wolves. That would slow the wolves down and perhaps save the remaining family. My hope is to see the painting once again. It's not in the club. Probably political correctness.

Nathalie Mallet said...

I’ve seen several paintings of troikas being pursued by wolves—apparently it was a popular subject back then. However, I don’t recall ever seeing one where a child is being tossed out to the wolves. That’s cold…to say the least.

deanakinalporrebo said...

are you familiar with a troika painting by a painter named ?? wallern

Nathalie Mallet said...

No, I’m afraid I’m not. I’ve seen a lot of troika paintings, I but can’t recall a painter by that name. Sorry!