If they ask you which of the inventions of mankind is the most ancient, what will be your first thought? You’ll definitely think about a wheel. But sledge appeared much earlier! And indeed – just tie two front ends of poles to your dog or horse and let the rear ones drag – and you get a primitive sledge. There were so many of them created in different times – sledge without skids (Russian volokushy and Canadian toboggan) and with skids (Siberian and European), sledge with a closed body and even with a sail.
Sledge in Russia was always popular. It’s used to say that Russia has two troubles – fools and roads. The second one was a reason why sledge was often used as a main mean of transport even in summer (in some areas till the beginning of the 20th century!). Sledge was considered more honourable or, let’s say, prestigious way to appear on public rather than any kind of wheeled transport. And for this reason it was chosen by many of Russian monarchs as a main festive transport (and again even in summer).
In general the traditional Russian surface transport means were wheel, skid and drag transport. The wheel transport was widespread mostly in traditionally agricultural areas due to availability of dirt-roads. These simple wagons were named differently depending on the region – snopovozka (crop sheaves carrier), khlebovozka (grain carrier), drogi (dray cart), dolgusha (long-body wagon), rydvan (large coach harnessed with two or three horses), etc. All of these were of a more or less similar construction but with some differences in structure of a body. For example it could be made of wood board as a solid thing or wattled of rod.
A typical peasant cart was equipped with wheels of different size – the front wheels were usually smaller than the rear ones. This was caused by a lower load on the front part of such cart. Besides that, this design feature made it easier for carts to turn in a limited road space – a small wheel can turn for a wider angle under the cart body.
Apart from regular carts for various cargos transporting, a number of more comfortable and more complicated in design wagons was used for festive occasions. These usually had a solid body – covered, open or with a folding top (cabriolet), a kind of a shock absorber system and at least two seats for passengers.
Two-wheeled carts were a separate type of traditional Russian wheel transport. They were used for short-distance rides, even as a kind of taxi in big cities, but never for cargo transporting.
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