Ship-Building in the Pskov-Peipsi Catchment in the Modern and Contemporary History

In the first half and mid-19th century, all waterway trade from Pskov was conducted by Pskov merchantry, and yet they did not possess the vessels. The ships sailing between Pskov, Dörpt and Narva were hired from residents of Syrenets and Skamyi villages, located at the source of the Narova, on its Estland and Petersburg shores. The residents of the settlements were known as ladya masters. Pskov merchants hired them with their boats, paying 40-45 kopecks per 400 Russian pounds of flax, 8-pound sack of salt, or a barrel of herring to be delivered to Narva or back, with all of the reloading costs resting with the ladya masters.

The ladya masters of Skamyi and Syrenets built vessels themselves: budaras, semi-budaras, ladyas, pavozki, ladeykas, and boats of various sizes. They used timber-wood from Sorokovy Bor (Zhukovsky, 1851: p. 256; Semeka, 1852: p. 92). This vast forest tract between Gdov and Seryodka was notorious for its bandits and famous for the carvel pine, which was floated to the Peipsi Lake down the Rivers Chyornaya and Zhelcha. Smaller ships and boats were built in other shoreline settlements as well – Podlipye, Mtezh, Osotno on the Gdov shore, Alexandrovsky trading quarter on Talabsk, and in the Wesenberg county of the Governorate of Estonia.

By the end of the century, the ship builders of Podlipye become especially well-known, with the majority of males in the hamlet involved in this trade. The annual income per employee comprised 100 rubles on average. In Podlipye starting in the old days, they have been building all types of Peipsi boats, differing in sazhen sizes: troyenka (three), pyatyorenka (five), gdovka, dvuklyuchenka (double-rowlock). They were used to transport cargo and commodities to littoral and insular villages, to carry hay from meadows, pick up harvest during floods. In the end of the last century in Podlipye, they also built specific barks – of no deck for firewood, with a compartment for bread transportation (Semyonov, 1900: p. 175).

By the mid-20th century, collective farm Novaya Zhizn’ (New Life) in Podlipye built a wharf employing over 100 people. They built vessels, dry-cargo freighters, hoys and sailboats. After World War II, the entire fleet of the Pskov-Peipsi water body was restored. Then, the industry fell into decay. In 1980’s, only two ship-carpenters remained – Anatoly Gul’tyayev and Sergey Volkov – dreaming to find apprentices to pass on the secrets of the trade (Martynova, 1986; PRD, edition 1, 1967: p. 119).

Budaras were wooden cargo sailboats of 6-10 thousand Russian pounds – and even up to 15 thousand – of burden. In other regions this term was used to refer to small boats. Pskov budaras had a deck, a keel and a ship-rig mast, and were navigated by five boatmen. The vessel cost 1500-2000 rubles in silver. These ships performed most of the cargo transport on the lake (Semeka, 1852: p. 92; Dal’, 1994, v. 1: p. 331; PRD, edition. .2, 1973: p. 195).


Semi-budaras and ladyas were of a similar design but smaller. The burden of semi-budaras comprised 2.5-4 and up to 6 thousand Russian pounds, with a crew of three boatmen, and the price of 750-1500 rubles in silver. The burden of ladyas was over 2 thousand R pounds, and it took two boatmen to steer them. The price comprised 200-500 rubles in silver.

To sail shallows and the rapids of the Narova, open flat-bottom boats named pavozki (carriers) were built – up to 70 feet long and 15-18 feet wide, with the burden of 1500-2250 R pounds. The price tags were from 100-150 to 285-315 rubles in silver. Ladeykas (900-1800 R pounds in burden, price of 160-300 silver rubles) and boats (450-600 R pounds in burden, price of 70-125 silver rubles) differed from pavozki only in the smaller sizes and lower prices.

In the Alexandrovsky trading quarter of the island of Talabsk – the center of smelt fishing – also contributed somewhat to ship-building. In the summer fishing season, they used fishermen boats – mutnitsa and podyezda (or vodovitsa). The latter were used to carry one large seine stocks, and were 60-150 R pounds of burden and 20-60 silver rubles in price. Mainly pine planks were used to build them. They were usually purchased in the Gdov county from ship-builders of Mtezh, Osotno and Syrenets, but some part was made by local residents from imported timber.

Besides, there were ladeykas of 400-1000 R pounds in burden to transport firewood, timber-wood, slabs, bricks, salt, smelt etc. They were used to transport 4-4.5 thousand sq. sazhens of firewood for smelt-drying stoves, and baskets of pine chips for smelt.

In 1840, merchant Fyodor Wegener of Dörpt was issued a seven-year privilege to establish steamship communications in the Pskov-Peipsi catchment (Semyonov, 1900, v. III: p. 221). The first steamship – Juliana-Clementina – with the merchant onboard arrived to Pskov from Dörpt on May 15, 1843. However, Wegener did not fulfill his commitment to clean the Narova of boulders, and following his death in 1848 steam navigation becomes free. As a result, the irregular steam line between Dörpt and Pskov in 1853 ceases completely. In the spring of 1862, the Trading House of Gent re-established the regular line between Dörpt and Pskov with small steamship Narova. The following year, another steamship – the more comfortable Alexander – joined the line. In 1869 upon the order of the flax-exporting company Hans Dietrich Schmidt, cargo-passenger steamship Dorpat was brought to Pskov by railway, assembled and floated out (horsepower of 60, 110 feet long, and 23 feet wide). By the early 20th century, around 10 cargo and passenger steamships traversed the Pskov-Peipsi Lake, and freighting was actively developing. Thus, a 30-35 horsepower steamship annually transported about 100 to 200 passengers and towed 4 cargo hoys between Pskov, Dörpt and the Narova source.