Museums in the villages
Landscapes with several mills
How to become a windmill detective
Windill River Mezen
Windmills abroad
Working mechanisms


Almost nobody in Russia is engaged with studying windmills. However, Russia is not the whole world. There are a lot of enthusiasts and scientists studying mills in the world. Such scientists are called molinologists, and the science is called molinology. Here is, for example, an article in Wikipedia about it, which, of course, has no Russian version. It gives references to the types of mills with some history and descriptions, without Russian translation as well though. People interested in studying mills are united by TIMS — The International Molinological Society (Facebook). As for the main magazine of the community, it is called IM (International Molinology) and it is issued twice a year. Thanks to Arkhangelsk team, there are articles about Malye Korely and the Mezen mills there. Will there be any more? Who knows…

Museums in the villages

The abandoned windmills fall into ruin, the surviving ones are moved to the museums. Where is the golden mean? Isn’t there a single windmill that is a museum, but that has not been moved from its historical site? Well, they do exist! Now we know about FOUR places, where the windmills in the villages have become museums (usually as branches of local cultural centres). These places are: Pol’noe Konobeevo (Shatsk town, Ryazan region), Bolshoye Remontnoe (Rostov region), Zaval (Proletarsky village, Novgorod region) and Kimzha (Arkhangelsk region). As you can see, there are such examples. All these windmills are, if not restored, but at least conserved. We also hoped that the mill in the village of Morshanka (Saratov region) will become the fifth museum, but it did not work out.

However, such examples are extremely rare. There is a couple of other places where the windmills are used by non-museum organizations, but this is it! What is interesting is that some of the surviving windmills are actually located not far from such famous places as Diveevo (Nizhny Novgorod region) and Lomonosovo (Kholmogory, Arkhangelsk region). Others are in different places all over the country. That would be a major disappointment if 20 years later there would be only FOUR windmills on their historical sites!

Landscapes with several mills

It’s not easy at all to find a restored or a functioning historical mill. And what if you want a landscape with several mills? Go to Holland? Fortunately, there are some other options. We know about six places in Russia, where you can still admire several mills at the same time! Unfortunately, one of them is falling into ruin.

Ok, let’s start with museums. In Suzdal there are TWO grand smocks (1, 2). Their photos are easy to find on the Internet. If you want more, then in Kostroma Sloboda (Kostroma) and in Malye Korely (Arkhangelsk) you can find the view of three windmills at the same time (1, 2, 3) (1, 2, 3). It should be noted that there are eight mills in the Malye Korely, but in a single landscape there can be a maximum of three. A little note about Kizhi (Karelia). Kizhi is the fourth museum with several mills. There are four of them, but there is not any view with more than one mill there. Semyonkovo (Vologda) is also building a second mill (instead of transporting a historical monument), but it has not yet been finished.

If you want even more than that, then the nearest museum of wooden architecture with a special mill “sector” is Pirogovo near Kiev in Ukraine. There you can see about eight windmills at the same time, and there are twelve of them in the museum. Well, if you are still not satisfied, probably you should travel to Holland.

What if you want to see those very mills on historical sites? There are also places like this as well. Two smocks can be seen on a farm near the village of Shorkino — Chuvashia (1, 2). Attention! If we do not take urgent measures, one of the mills may soon collapse! Shorkino is located very close to the capital of Chuvashia — Cheboksary.
Getting to the place with several post-based mills is much more difficult. Pogorelets (1, 2) and Kimzha (1, 2) are two villages in Arkhangelsk region, each of which has two post-based mills (in Kimzha one of them is a new mill with historical elements, but on a historical site and historical trestle), proudly standing on the original mill hills facing the river.

How to become a mill detective

This story is intended for those who want to understand, based on the remaining hints, how the mill looked like. To learn this, let’s study the mill from the village of Razlivnoe, located in the museum of wooden architecture «Kostromskaya Sloboda.» Firstly, it is the only survived mill of such architecture, and secondly, it hasn’t preserved any mechanism at all, but there are a lot of signs it was there.
If you cannot distinguish between the post-based mills and the smocks, you need to read these sections: «Post-based mills» and «Smocks«. Now let’s begin. To start with, take a look at the mill:

In general, it is clear that it is a post-based mill: 1 — trestle. Its recent life has been quite tough. There are two holes. It is easy to assume that the windshaft with the sails came out of the left hole, because it is round. What’s more, the windshaft is on the first floor, so the post is inverted, and the main spindle should go up from the brake wheel to the millstones. 2 — it hints at the presence of the second floor. Now let’s walk inside. Well, if you can call it walking. Getting into an inverted post-based mill, standing not on a rectangular trestle is difficult on its own. When you enter, you will notice the line mark along the wall left by the windshaft on the first floor:

The log on the floor is most likely the result of not the best restoration process. Let’s look closer at the rounded hole:

Firstly, here you can see the unclosed hatch in the roof (1). It gives us the idea where the staircase went to the second floor. Secondly, you can see that the shaft did not touch the bottom edge of the hole (2) therefore it had to lie on the balcony. Let’s return to the first picture:

Now it is clear that the two bulging beams from the wall must hold the balcony supporting the windshaft. The square hole is an exit, not outside, but to this balcony, used to lubricate the mobile connection. But let’s continue and take a look at the other end of the windshaft:

(1) Rear mounting of the windshaft outside the mill.
(2) It is adjustable in height (in general, any vertical longitudinal hole in the mill is most likely to be adjusted by wedges in height).
(3) The spindle hole really goes up, we were not mistaken
(4) The break wheel under the spindle hole is too large, so the wall was hollowed out
(5) The hole from the tailpole. Any external beveled hole most likely means the tailpole was fixed here.
(6) Spindle and stone nut supporting parts
Let’s develop the item 3:

We were right: there are millstones and an upper fastener of the missing spindle. Now let’s develop point 5 and look at the opposite wall:

There is also a symmetrical hole at 45 degrees. It means that the tailpole was double: one part was attached to the side wall, and the second went to the porch. Let’s look at the porch to the left:

(1) Adjustments of the windshaft, as we have already said;
(2) The groove for the tailpole (it will be clearer in the future).
And to the right:

Let’s study this. As the windshaft has blocked off a third of the porch, it is necessary to install a sack hoist. And here it is (1). However, such big cylinders don’t exist, so we can assume that here (2) there used to be a vertical support; between it and the hole (1) there was a hoist. This hollow (3) is a trace from dragging the heavy bags.
Let’s return to the mill and look at the junction of the gears on the other side:

There are three new objects here. As the brake wheel was placed in such a way as to protrude into the wall, to stop it by enveloping was impossible. It can be assumed that the brake was located on top of the wheel. 1 — its groove on the wall. 2 — the groove from the post into which it was inserted. Besides, groove 3, as it is elongated, is for height adjustment only. At this part of the mechanism, only the spindle with stone nut can be adjusted, but how?

This is how. Here there was a transverse log, which was attached to another one, going to the wall.

Thus, the spindle with stone nut was located next to the brake wheel and just under the millstones. By the way, let’s take a look at them.

There was nothing left of the wooden parts of the mechanism, but the millstones were exactly where they were supposed to be. Besides, above them there is a hole from the sticks, which were used to hold the hopper.
Now let’s get out of the mill and take another look at its porch:

(1) sack hoist
(2) stairs
(3) windshaft fastening
(4) tailpole
Let’s look at tailpole construction:

In general, that’s it. The whole mechanism is clear. What is not clear is the number of the sails. In such condition the sails are difficult to count, but if the windshaft is preserved, you can count the number of holes for the sails in the windshaft and multiply by two. If only photographs from one side are available, you can calculate the angle between the adjacent slots and estimate that the number of sails should be even.
By looking through the historical photographs here, you can obtain confirmation of your conclusions (in the collection there is another mill from the village of Germanov Pochinok, but it’s different). Please, remember, this mill is a museum, and many others have never been photographed.
The approximate plan for inspecting the smocks is the same: the remains of the platform, under which there must be the great spur wheel and stone nuts. Each square-shaped hole on the vertical shaft is a gear wheel, the opening flaps in the ceiling — the mechanism of the hoist. Angular constructions are cranes for fixing grain hoppers and turning the millstones.

Mill River Mezen

Far from big cities, in the far northeast of the Arkhangelsk region, there is an amazing reserve of the most unusual Russian mills — the Mezen River. This mill river is unique because it has preserved as many as five mills on their historical sites on the river banks above the river slow waters. Such an ensemble is worth being included in the list of UNESCO monuments. All the Mezen mills are inverted post-based mills on high trestle. All the mills are in the midst of the breathtaking landscapes of the Russian North. All of them stand from the south to the north along the Mezen River downstream. The distance from the most southern mill to the northernmost one is about eighty kilometers.

The southernmost mill of the ensemble is Malaya Nisogora. Its mechanism is not preserved, but the mill is looked after by the local residents. A little to the north there is a mill in Kesloma. The mechanism of the mill has been preserved almost completely, but the construction itself is in critical condition and can collapse at any moment. The next place to the north is the village of Pogorelets. It is the only village in Russia that has preserved two historical post-based mills. Both of them are conserved, but they still need restoration, because their high trestles are in poor condition. And, finally, the northernmost mill of the ensemble, and the northernmost mill in Russia and, perhaps, in the world is in Kimzha. The mill has been completely renovated and functionally restored, but at the moment because of the breakdown it cannot work.

Not far from the historical Kimzha mill there is a museum mill — a replica. It is standing on the original trestle on a historical site, in the right place, so Kimzha landscape has two mills, but the second one is not historical.

Windmills abroad

Windmill in Fort Ross (California, US). Fort Ross is the one of colonial settlements of Russians who went south from Alaska. Historical sources say that the settlement had an inverted post-based windmill made from redwood. New windmill was built in 2012 in Vologda region and transported to the USA. The prototype for it was a windmill from Azapolye.
Another windmill (also inverted post-based) was built in the International Wind- and Watermill Museum in Gifhorn (Lower Saxony, Germany).

Working mechanisms

If you look at the mill from a different perspective, you will see the sails and the windshaft as the converters of wind energy into the rotary motion. And the user of this rotary motion of the windshaft can be anyone. By the way, it is for this reason that in the 20th century very many smocks were turned into mills with electric motors or diesel engines. It is quite easy to hang a pulley on the spindle, and then to get flour without having to maintain the huge system of sails. Let’s look at some examples of the working mechanisms:
First of all, of course, it’s the mill, i.e. the device used to grind grain into flour. It has two millstones, and the upper one (runner stone) rotates. The grain is rubbed between them.
Secondly, the crushing mill, i.e. the device for turning the grain into the groats. It is a crushing bank with rams. The rams are lifted, and they fall into the crushing bank under their own weight, thus crushing the grain.
Third, the butter churn. The oil can be made from pressing the flax. For this, you can roll heavy wheels on flax, or stir it, pressing against the walls of the deck.
Fourth, the honey extractor. Any honey extractor is based on the centrifugal principle. It means, that it’s very easy to attach honeycombs to the central axis and connect this axis to the windshaft .
Fifth, the saw. Saw mills were spread in the north as they were used to build the ships. The principle is simple: we convert the rotary motion into the forward motion and saw the wood.
Sixth, the pump. If you connect a wheel or a drill to the rotating shafts, the mill will be able to pump water. There have never been such mills in Russia, but they existed in Holland.
Seventh, the paper and paints. Such mills in Russia haven’t been found, but Holland mills “know” how to crush paints and make paper.
Thus, the mill is not about the flour only. It is about getting rotary motion from the wind and then using it. After all, wind power plants are very little different from wooden mills, generally speaking.