Cities, towns and villages can emerge in a different way: sometimes due to political or economic reasons, sometimes — close to a monastery, sometimes — owing to a favorable geographical position and sometimes — by accident. One could say that it was the case with the town of Shakhuniya located in the northwestern corner of the Nizhny Novgorod region.
Same as with all northern districts of our region, the indigenous population here was the Mari. Nothing especially interesting about this place had been known until 19th century. The only thing that is worth noting is the attractiveness of the name SHAKHUNIYA. One of the explanations is that it comes from Old Russian “shakh”, which means “lie”. Then “Shakhuniya” should mean a “lying girl”. But it is not connected with the peculiarities of local women — it refers to the river that used to flow here and often changed its bed, i.e. “lied”.
As late as 1870, Shakhuniya still had only 2 households and 17 residents. Only in 1913, due to the construction of the railway “Nizhny Novgorod-Kotelnich” these places began to be inhabited by arriving workers. The railway began to create a certain rhythm for this place: a locomotive depot appeared, people began to come and build houses. In the 1930s, Shakhuniya was already a large rail hub on the Gorky railway and in 1943 it became a town. In the memory of the first railroaders, a steam train of the LV series is parked for eternity at the Station square.
The town is young which apparently explains the youth of its sightseeing attractions: the Temple of Holy Protection of the Mother of God built in 1994, the chapel erected in the 21th century.
However, despite the remoteness from major cities, not very picturesque landscape, absence of architectural monuments, there is a good reason to come to this small town — it is the factory “Tkanye Uzory” specializing in patterned weaving.
The emergence of this enterprise is quite curious. In the 1970s, the Research Institute for Art Industry sent an expedition to search for the lost tradition of patterned weaving. The Shakhuniya district turned out to be a “pot of gold” for participants of the expedition: weaving mills could be found almost in every house and the mastership of weavers was amazing. As a result of such successful search, manual weaver looms were made using folk samples and in 1972 a specialized open weaving workshop was established, which later became the factory “Tkanye Uzory”. Until the 1990s it has remained a huge enterprise, the only one in Russia that worked using the manual weaving technique. Today, the uniqueness of this production is preserved: a manual loom is used nowhere else in Russia. The process itself is worth seeing: it has something of sorcery in it. You stay there and think: that is how hands did magic 100, 200, 300 years ago. Especially when you see that the patterns on towels, blankets, tablecloths, clothing are the same as they used to be then.
Some professional enthusiasts in Shakhuniya not only try to preserve this rare production but also attempt to transfer it to the next generation. The Ethnographic Museum gives weaving lessons to young people. They can learn the full cycle of flax processing and making woven clothing. Moreover, of interest are ethnographic exhibits: daily life and household items — everything that surrounded craftswomen in those years. Certainly, the very samples of home weaving items are very impressive: dresses, shirts, trousers, skirts, towels, rugs, etc.