Troika is a very popular means of transportation of Russia and therefore a frequent subject matter of Russian painters. You can find it on many items we sell in our store. ...Famous Russian artists, like Konstantin Korovin, Boris Kandisnkiy, Petr Gruzinskiy and other artists left us a rich Troika paintings' heritage.
So, what is Troika?
"Troika" is three horses abreast pulling a carriage (in the summer) or a sleigh (in the winter).
"It differs from most other three-horse combinations in that the horses are harnessed abreast. The middle horse is usually harnessed in a horse collar and shaft bow; the side horses are usually in breast collar harness. The troika is traditionally driven so that the middle horse trots and the side horses canter; the right-hand horse will be on the right lead and the left-hand horse on the left lead. The troika is often claimed to be the world's only harness combination with different gaits of the horses." (Excerpt from Wikipedia)
Usually "Troikas" are intricately decorated with chains, leather tassels, rosettes and brushes, among other things. The semi circular wooden bar is almost always very colorful and in blues, with bells hanging from it. While "Troika" is in movement these bells could be heard at great distances.
Troika is a symbol of Russia (along with Russian bear, musical instrument balalaika, Russian samovar, and also the nesting doll "Semenovo" (red and yellow pattern of flowers). That is the reason why it is often depicted on a variety of Russian crafted items - from Santa Claus figurines to nesting dolls, and lacquer boxes, and even intricate Christmas ornaments. There are even wooden carvings of "troikas".
Initially Troika in Russia appeared in the XV II century for covering big distances and speeding the process of delivering mail. Later it became a regular means of transportation. In the XIX century it acquired a lot of popularity. Russian writers and poets, like Nikolai Gogol and Alexander Pushkin made it famous in their novels. Rich people used it for holiday celebrations. Troika was used everywhere. Literally all Russia of those times "was on troikas"!
(Excerpt from Nikolai Gogol's novel "Dead Souls")
...And what Russian is there who doesn't love fast driving? How should his soul that yearns to go off into a whirl, to go off on a fling, to say on occasion, "Devil take it all!" How should his soul fail to love it? Is it not a thing to be loved, when one can sense in it something exaltedly wondrous? Some unseen power has caught you up on its wing and you are flying yourself, and all things are flying; some merchants are flying towards you, perched on the front seats of their covered carts. The forest flies on both sides of the road with its dark rows of firs and pines, echoing with the ring of axes and the cawing of crows. The whole road is flying, no one knows where into the unseen distance. There is something fearsome hidden in the objects that are flashing by, so rapid that there is no time for each one to become defined before it disappears; only the sky in the infinity above, the light clouds and the moon breaking through these clouds seem motionless.
Eh, thou troika, thou that art a bird! Who conceived thee? Methinks only among a spirited folk that thou could have come into being. In the land that is not fond of doing things by halves, but has evenly and smoothly spread itself out over half the world. Therefore try and count its milestones until they turn to spots before the eyes! Far from cunningly contrived is the vehicle the troika draws; held together with no screws of iron art thou, but hastily, with a slam and a bang, wet thou put together and fitted by some handy Muzhik of Yaroslav, with nothing but an ax and a chisel. No fancy Hessian jack boots does the driver wear. He spots a beard, great gauntlets, and only the devil knows what he sits on for a cushion. Let him rise in his seat, swing his whip back, and strike up a long-drawn song while his steeds are off like a whirlwind.
The spokes of each wheel has blended into one unbroken disk; the road merely quivers, and a pedestrian, stopping short, cries out in fright, and the troika is soaring, soaring away! ...Now all one can see, already far in the distance, is something raising the dust and swirling through the air.
Thou art not my Russia , soaring along even like a spirited never to be outdistanced troika? The road actually smokes under thee, the bridges thunder, everything falls back and is left behind thee! The witness of thy passing comes to a deep stop, dumbfounded by this God's wonder! Is it not a streak of lightning cast down from heaven? What signifies this onrush that inspires terror? And what unknown power is contained in these steeds, whose like is not known in this world? Ah, these steeds, these steeds, what steeds they are! Are there whirlwinds perched upon your manes? Is there a sensitive ear, alert as a flame, in your every fiber? You have caught the familiar song coming down to you from above. All as one and all at the same instant, you have strained your brazen chests and almost without touching earth with your hoofs, you have become transformed into straight lines cleaving the air.
The troika tears along, inspired by God! Where art thou soaring away to, Russia ? Give me the answer! But Russia gives none. With a wondrous ring does the jingle bell trill; the air rent to shreds thunders and turns to the wind. All things on earth fly past, eyeing the troika and all the other peoples and nations stand aside giving it the right of way.
Chapter 12. Chichikov's journey. Home life in the Old Russia . of "Dead Souls", by N.V.Gogol.