Early art in Novegrad is descended from the Byzantine tradition of iconography and frescos. Forms were largely two-dimensional with emphasis placed on the people, with abstract backgrounds and no distinction between inside and outside. To this day iconography remains popular among Orthodox Christians, many of whom own several ikons. Although few ikons nowadays are written by hand, the skill is considered very respectable.
The iconographic style was adapted for secular usage as well. Illustrations in documents from Medieval Novegrad continued to use the same two-dimensional style up until the 16th or 17th centuries, when more realistic art styles emerging from Renaissance Europe spread into Novegrad.
Related to iconography are the lúbenki (singular lúbenka), two-dimensional woodcuts that tell stories, often from folklore. The style is clearly derived from that of the ikons, but is very distinctive. Forms were generally abstract and few colors used. Scenes would sometimes be arranged into frames, but just as often scenes would be blended together. Text all around the image would describe the scene, making the entire image somewhat reminiscent of a comic book. Up through the 19th century lúbenki were popular decorations in homes and public places, such as inns and bars. Recently lúbenki styles have once again become somewhat popular.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries the dominant art style was European realism and romanticism. Toward the end of the 19th century, however, a number of new styles began to appear as modernism spread. These include the more abstract suprematist, constructivist, and futurist styles, though primativism, reflecting a return to more traditional art forms, was also present.
In the Soviet era, many of these styles were suppressed in favor of state-sponsored socialist realism, where art was used for the purposes of furthering the socialist cause. During the Great Thaw, artists' freedom increased and many abstract modernist styles began to return.
Differences between Novegradian and Russian/Kievan architectural styles were already apparent in the 11th century. One of the most apparent differences was the construction of the domes atop Orthodox churches. Kievan churches had adopted a rounded form, creating the traditional "onion dome". Novegradian churches did not adopt such a structure, instead using the "helmet dome", which resembles the top two-thirds of the onion domes. Most early structures were wooden, due to the cost of stone and the inexperience of Novegradians with stonemasonry. Little information about non-religious buildings from this era survives, however.
By the 13th century more stone structures were appearing. Churches, walls, and other important city structures were generally built out of stone, while most homes and commercial buildings remained wooden. Churches acquired a tent-roof style, with very steep roofs beneath the domes. Homes too acquired steep roofs in order to prevent snow from building up and putting strain on the building.
Most large towns from this period had large walls surrounding all or part of the city, known as krémeni (or "kremlins" in the West). The main gate into a city tended to very grandiose; the more richly-decorated, the wealthier the town generally is. A number of krémeni still survive, most famously those in Novegráde Velíkei and Pleskóve.
In the 16th to 17th centuries, Western styles of architecture began to spread to Novegrad, particularly Gothic. In the 19th century, however, there was a return to older styles, known as Neo-Byzantinism. Come the Red Revolution, however, Novegradian architecture would be completely overturned.
In the early Soviet period, before WWII, the socialist style known as constructivism became dominant as classical styles were denounced. Constructivism was an experimental architectural form blending new technology with the advancement of socialism, resulting in modernist ideas never seen before. These buildings featured shapes, dimensions, bridges, structures, balconies, that all pushed the limits of technology to the edge, or often far beyond the capabilities of the time.
After the war up until the 1970s the Stalinist style spread across Novegrad, although in Novegrad it is generally referred to as "Sovietism". The Sovietist style combined monumentalism, patriotic symbolism, and traditional motifs. The style was immensely popular, but gave way in the 1970s to the need for more buildings, not fancier buildings. As restrictions began to be lifted in the 1980s, however, the Sovietist style was readopted by many architects and designers, and remain common in the design of educational facilities, government facilities, apartment complexes, and hotels. The original subway stations built in the Sovietist era (which tend to be very large and ornate), such as those in Novegráde Velíkei and Néugrade, serve as the models for new subways that have been built in other cities. The modern skyscrapers appearing throughout major cities use a more modernist style.
As there are many different cultures represented in Novegrad, there exist a wide variety of different types of folk music.
Early Novegradian folk music revolved mostly around string instruments, particularly the gudóke (a three-stringed violin-like instrument played with a bow) and the gáśli (a zither-like instrument). Later the balaláika was introduced from Russia, and the accordian from the West. The Baltic republics have a similar musical heritage.
One of the most popular folk instruments in Finland and Karelia is the kántele, a type of zither. In the Komi region, instruments are less common, although the vargáne (a Jew's harp) was sometimes used in more southernly regions.
In the 19th century opera and ballet gained popularity, especially among the upper classes. In the Soviet period, however, most music was suppressed. In the 1970s underground musical groups, ranging from folk music to rock, began to emerge. In the Great Thaw they were allowed to become public. By the 1980s-1990s most Western styles were present in Novegrad, but with a local Eastern European flare.
Novegradian foods can be compared to those of other Slavic nations. They originate in the foods of peasants, and are usually based on breads, vegetables, cereals, fish, poultry, game, mushrooms, berries, and honey, commonly found in Novegradian territory. Potatoes, though introduced later on, also became a staple of the Novegradian diet.
Many dishes are based on meat, particularly lamb. Common foods include pirógi (stuffed pastries), śaślíke (a type of shish kebab including onions as well, introduced from Russia), pelnjáni (meat dumplings, generally served in butter or sour cream), and kotléti (a type of meat cake). Meals generally feature many types of appetizers (zákuski), often including cured meats, fish, various vegetables, salads, and breads. Cured meats and fish are often eaten on a slice of bread; Slavic cuisines are known for their many types of breads.
Soups are also a very common traditional food. Many types of soups exist, both hot and cold. There are five main types: noodle soups, meat-broth-based soups, fish soups, cabbage-based soups, and grain- and vegetable-based soups. Well-known soups include bórśkji (in English, borshch) and śkjí (shchi). Káhja (kasha), a porridge made from buckweat, is also common.
Mushrooms, onions, garlic, potatoes, and eggplant are common in many Novegradian dishes.
Mlíni (blintzes) are thin pancakes, similar to crêpes. A wide variety of foods can be placed inside of them, before they are rolled up and eaten. These range from meats, sour cream, and caviar to sugar, jams, and honey.
Two of the most distinctively Slavic drinks popular in Novegrad are kuáse (kvas), a slightly fermented beverage made from rye bread, and kompóte, a sweet drink made from simmering fruit in water with sugar. Tea is also an immensely popular drink, often served with a small amount of honey or varénje (a type of jam) stirred in. Instead of using teabags, Novegradian tea is generally prepared extremely concentrated in one pot, which can be kept for several days. To serve it, a small amount of concentrate would be poured into a cup, and boiling water added on top of it to dilute and heat it. Coffee has never been as popular a drink, but it can be found in newer coffee shops across the country.
Alcoholic drinks are quite common at meals, particularly wine and vódoka (vodka in English and Russian).
Customs and Traditions
There are many features of Novegradian etiquette and customs that visitors should be aware of. Many of these habits derive from old superstitions whose origins are largely unknown to the general populace, though they have since become a part of standard etiquette. Many of these are comparable to similar traditions throughout Eastern Europe.
Traditionally, when meeting a friend whom you have not seen in a while, or whom you are congratulationing for some occasion, you greet them with three alternating cheek kisses (left, right, left). This is normal between two women or two men, but is generally not done between a man and a woman unless they are related. It is generally considered inappropriate to shake hands across a doorway or other barrier; the guest is expected to set inside first, or if they are not well known to the host, the host will step outside. When walking with someone, never step on the opposite side of a tree, lamppost, or other divider as they are, as allowing it to come between you is said to bring future conflict.
When visiting someone's home, guests are always expected to bring a gift, often alcohol, although children are not expected to bring anything. Flowers and other gifts should be given in odd numbers, as even numbers are generally brought to funerals. Whenever a gift that is meant to carry something is given, it should never be empty; e.g., purses and wallets should have a small some of money, generally a few marks.
Toasts and alcohol traditions are widely followed. When someone proposes a toast, one should always drink to it no matter how much one has already had to drink; doing otherwise is considered very rude. Drinks should always be poured overhand, never underhand. Empty bottles should never be set on the table again; they should either be turned upside down, or be set down on the ground.
When sharing a meal as a guest, it is not uncommon for the hosts to seem very pushy and try to put more food on your plate for you, even if you are not hungry. This should not be regarded as being rude. Guests should try everything the hosts offer, but are not expected to finish everything placed on their plate.
Events should never be celebrated before they occur. Birthdays should be celebrated either the day of or after the actual birthday. Gifts should not be bought for a couple having a baby until after the baby is born. Similarly, one should not boast about future successes until they occur.
One should never point at other people or objects with a finger; the whole hand should be used. A single finger is only used when pointing at oneself. When describing someone else, one should never gesture using their own body, especially when talking about disfigurements such as scars. It is best to gesture in the air. If you use your own body accidently, you should touch the part you had used and then jerk your hand away, as though you were grabbing something off of yourself and throwing it away.
Before setting off on a trip, the person travelling and all those who are seeing him off should take a moment to sit down together in completely silence for a few seconds before leaving the house. After leaving the house (for any reason), it is generally considered bad luck to return to get something that was forgotten. If it is necessary, you should look at yourself in a mirror just before leaving; most homes traditionally have a mirror placed opposite the front door.
Among the Orthodox Christians, it is not uncommon to see ikons in many different places. Often a small ikon of one's patron saint is placed either in their bedroom or above the doorway to their bedroom. Many will also have a small ikon in their cars, often attached to the driver's visor. Others may carry a small ikon in their wallet or purse.