Lukoshko and tuesok: Old-style Russian bags are back in fashion again

Yury Kaver/Sputnik;
Check out how contemporary designers have reclaimed old Slavic berry baskets as chic fashion accessories.

No self-respecting fashionista could even imagine a summer wardrobe without a wicker bag. In recent years, accessories resembling old Russian baskets have been all the rage. They are perfect for gathering berries in a forest, storing food or going out in the evening.

Lukoshko: an essential small basket

A Russian lady, 1900s.

In Old Rus, the most affordable material was bast fiber made from the bark of deciduous trees, so this was used to make a variety of essential everyday items, from shoes to crockery. Baskets in various shapes and serving various purposes were a must-have in every peasant's home.

A lukoshko with mushrooms.

A small wicker basket is called a “lukoshko,” which comes from “lyko,” the Russian word for bast fiber. This basket was used for picking berries and mushrooms, as well as for sowing grains and harvesting. A lukoshko is a lightweight basket that people carried practically everywhere. If you found yourself in a pinch, you could even gather some bast and make one right there and then in the forest. These baskets were often even used as pillows. People would just fill them with straw to give them shape and softness and then cover them with cloth.

A lukoshko with berries.

In Old Rus, a lukoshko was even used as an unofficial unit of measurement—unofficial partly because each one had a different volume. For Russians, it was clear that "a lukoshko of strawberries" meant not much, but enough. If you visit a food market in Russia, you will notice that berries are often still sold in small bast baskets.

A Soviet lady with a wicker bag vs. A Russian fashion lady with a wicker bag.

Plus, lukoshko-shaped bags have always been popular with girls!

Kuzovok: the perfect basket for berries

This is how kozovoks look like.

The kuzovok is our next type of Russian basket. Usually, this was a birch-bark cylindrical bucket bag with a lid. It was intended mostly for berries, since its shape prevented them from getting squashed. For convenience, a shoulder strap was attached to the kuzovok. This basket is even featured in one of the most famous sayings in Russian: “You say you are a mushroom, so into the basket you go” (“Назвался груздем, полезай в кузовок”). The phrase means that you must take responsibility for your words, so if you said you will do something, you've got to follow through.

Tuesok: a must-have in any kitchen

Tuesoks for home.

The tuesok is a cylindrical birch-bark container used for storing food. It often has a lid with a handle. Tuesok makers often give their imagination free rein, decorating their creations with various elaborate patterns. Each region had its own traditional way of decorating these containers, from floral ornaments to depictions of scenes from everyday life. These days, you can buy a tuesok in practically any shop selling household items, and they are still used for storing cereals.

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