Barge Haulers or "Burlaki"

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

If you watched our last video carefully, you remember the moment of hauling the boat our from the water. I was watching that process and in my mind immediatly appeared the famous painting by well-known Russian artist Ilya Repin "Barge Haulers in the Volga".

On the painting we see how a small amount of people pulling the barges up the river. This profession has called "burlak". During the time of the Russian Empire this work was extremely hard, seasonable and low rated but thousands of poor and desperate people living in villages along the Volga hired to tow up the river barges loaded with cargo. The profession completely disappeared at the beginning of 20th century with development and popularity of steamed ships.

The famous artist was on holiday in St Petersburg where he first time saw the workers.

Repin was very shocked by the cruelty of that action. And he came back many times to the Volga to watch these again. He spent some time with the burlaks, talk to them and to acquainted. Once

he convinced some of them to pose for his painting. Barge Haulers on the Volga, became one of Repin’s most celebrated work and a powerful symbol of capitalistic exploitation.


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