The steam mill in Zaslavl is a unique specimen of flour manufacture of early 20th century. It is a three-store building dated back to 1910. The construction of the mill was sponsored by a wealthy town citizen Miachedka-Savicki. Originally, the millstones were moved by a steam engine, so-called lacomobile, and the boiler was heated by wood fire. However, in 1930s, lacomobile was replaced with a more effective Polish factory manufactured one-cylinder diesel engine “Perkun”. The latter was replaced with an electric engine in 1950.
Grain was sifted through grain smoother, cleaned from particles, and only then grinded by millstones to turn into flour. The miller’s customers could pay for the services either with money or with natural products. Sometimes, the customer was returning home anxious. Would it be enough flour to survive through the winter? The situation could be quite opposite: another mill’s visitor was going from the mill straight to the market, to buy presents for his friends and family.
The mill rendered obedient service to the people for almost 80 years, and declined with the time. After the reconstruction, the mill, along with the inn, barn, and the blacksmith’s workshop, is the central object of the Ethnographic center “Mill (Mlyn)” at the Culture and History Museum-Reservation “Zaslavl”.
Inn (Chata zavoznika)
Many peasants travelled to the mill from afar. Very often they had to wait in line, and sometimes even had to stay in Zaslavl overnight, until the miller could mill their grain. Therefore, the mill’s owner built a little inn, where the visitors could rest, recover their health with nutritious meals, and stay overnight. It is known that the services were offered for a charge; therefore the inn keepers received additional income. The building became known among people as the Inn and was quite popular among miller’s customers. The traditional name of this unique local hotel - Chata Zavoznika - stems from the word zavoznik, meaning “miller’s customer”.
Unfortunately, the original inn building did not survive until our days. Nevertheless, Zaslavl Museum launched reconstruction of the hotel, which will reward its guests by offering a glimpse of traditional lifestyle in late 19th - early 20th century Belarus. Excursions, demonstrations, skits and dramas are staged there; the nutritious lunches are also offered to the visitors.
A stove, corner cabinet, shelves with ceramic, copper, and brass kitchenware can be seen in siency (hall). Burnus (winter clothes from rough material) and horse harnessing hang on the walls. In the other half of the Inn – the white room – the floor is laid with wooden planks, walls are plastered and bleached. The glazed tiled stove, beds with straw mattresses, the sofa, and the German pendulum clock are essential interior elements. Diagonally from the stove – in the red corner – the icon is covered with traditional fancy embroidered sash/towel - rucnik. Obviously, the white room is more festive, in comparison with the siency.
Sviran (barn) is a traditional building structure of Belarusians in the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries, used mainly as food storage; occasionally, clothes, and every day items were also kept there. The traditional name – Sviran – is characteristic to the western regions of Belarus. The eastern Belarusian called the barn differently – kliec.
Wooden sviran near the mill has a stone foundation. Its front side boasts a gallery and a balcony, decorated with fancy carvings. Inside, grain sections are positioned along the walls. Wooden boxes and straw baskets of various types and sizes are kept in the center, while the large chest box is placed next to them.
The large chest box, known as kufar, and also could be decorated and was used to keep the finest clothing.
Smiths were heard working from early morning until late night. The local citizens revered smiths, in particular. It was not unusual: in pre-Christian times, smiths were considered magicians – only they could forge the iron as they wished.
Sometimes, the cart of a mill’s visitor would break, or the horse happened to lose its horseshoe. To change a misfortune into a fortune, the owner built a blacksmith’s workshop. It was a car-service-station of its time. Also, smiths supplied their products – axes, choppers, scythes, and sickles - to Zaslavl market. Door lock and bolts were of the highest demand.
The smithy was brought to Zaslavl Museum from Kamienka village in Valozynski region. Forgery equipment, typical to the early 20th century, after reconstruction, includes: furnace, bellows, one horn anvil, tool sharpeners, drill equipment, and numerous tools: hammers, swages, fullers. The two people worked at the smith’s workshop: the experienced smith directed his younger helper, making sure the iron was hit in a correct spot. Fire safety was enhanced by the plastered walls.
Horseshoes were put on horses next to the smith shop, in a small stable, so that the frightened animal could not kick the worker. Gbala – a rock, similar to a millstone – served for strengthening the wheels with iron belts and was kept near the smith’s shop.