In the first quarter of the 19th century all of a sudden Ekaterinburg became a Golden city. This happened thanks to the discovery of stream gold by Lev Brusnitsyn in the surrounding river valleys. The city rapidly became rich. Officials and people close to the tsar who were coming to the city said that “the road itself was gold”. Influential and rapidly growing wealthy merchants did not stop at the Urals – they started opening mines in Siberia, and money was flowing into the city, which made the 1830−1850s the “Golden Age” in the history of Ekaterinburg. It was at that time that magnificent merchants’ houses built with the “golden” money began to appear. These were manors with a lot of rooms, wings, and parks for leisurely walks.

Today, almost two centuries later, these manors are filled with mysteries. Fabulous wealth gave rise to urban legends about underground passages, secret cells crammed with chests full of treasures and hides with jewellery.

One of the most famous legends of Ekaterinburg is connected with the Kharitonov’s Manor. It was rumoured that people went missing in its cellars, counterfeit coins were produced and untold treasures were buried in the park which even today attracts treasure hunters with its hilly terrain and winding paths. The brick Zheleznov’s Mansion — one of the most unusual buildings in the city — also keeps a lot of secrets. There is a legend that the merchant’s wife, Maria, was prone to kleptomania. Her death was unexpected, and since that time people saw her ghost in a white garment, that was possibly guarding treasures hidden in the mansion. Another story, which is also connected with the wife of a gold mines owner, tells us about jewellery hidden in a secret chamber that belonged to Evgenia Tupikova, who, after the death of her husband, became a wealthy pious widow. A treasure of old coins is said to have been found during the reconstruction of another house – Ryazanov’s Mansion, the king of the gold industry’s manor. It is now in a deplorable state: the mansion was turned into a communal house, and who knows, what treasuries might be found there in a hundred years’ time.

Old walls, rejecting modern life layers as alien elements, project to the human’s mind the time, when the function of these buildings and life in these houses was different from what it is today. Touching them, one may imagine mysterious events or hidden gold. Real stories of people supplemented and embellished with legends about treasures, contribute to the representation of these spaces and create a special aura for each of them.  

The project was made in the art residence "New Stories of Yekaterinburg" in the Metenkov House (Yekaterinburg, March-April 2018)