Trawling for Clothes in St Petersburg’s Biggest Flea Market

Sprawling by a huge Peter the Great-era park in north-central St Petersburg is the largest flea market in the city, and perhaps all of Russia – Udelnaya (Удельной in Cyrillic). Every Saturday and Sunday, it’s home to hundreds of small stall-holders, selling everything from electrical supplies to Soviet memorabilia to recently excavated – and live – WWII grenades.

Poetically, the name is related to Imperial appanage, destiny, and fishing, and, like flea markets the world over, it’s also home to lots of second, third or forth-hand clothes. Moscow photographer Egor Melikhov and stylists Yuliya Polshkova, Adel Duisalieva and Dima Popov shot the following editorial in April on the streets around the market and in the studio, using clothes and objects sourced from Udelnaya. Click through to the photos and read an interview with Melikhov below.

How many of the items used in the editorial were taken from the market?

Egor Melikhov: It is mostly vintage, with clothes sourced from Udelnaya, and some from the showroom Cultsome, and the vintage store Kissa Market.

Can you explain the significance of flea markets in Russia?

Egor Melikhov: There are flea markets across Russia and the former Soviet Republics – in Moscow for example, there is a big monthly flea market, [held] at the territory of the Museum of Moscow. They exist because a lot of people want to get valuable vintage things from the USSR, as well as Europe, America and Asia. Some people just want to get things at a reduced price, while others want to find something special.

Udelnaya works every week at Saturday and Sunday, even in winter, in temperatures of -20, -30 degrees. You can find electronic goods for the home, as well as expensive furniture: carved, polished, rough and broken, alongside old records, tapes and CDs from USSR, Europe and America. There are also good vintage clothes – the classic Burberry trench, for example, or some old rocker leather jacket – as well as military uniforms from all over the world: ankle boots, helmets, caps, shoulder straps and so on. 

I heard its name has some significance: could you explain what it means please?

Egor Melikhov: One of the meanings of the old Russian word “udel” is fate, or destiny. But it is also the name for the area owned by the Rus’ Imperial family in the Middle Ages. There were park named Udelniy, set up by Peter the Great, after which the market is named.

In marked contrast to the globalized fashion industry, a flea market is an implicitly hyperlocal organism: its vendors are often lifelong inhabitants of the town, selling wares from their immediate environment, by and large, to other citizens. Is this part of the appeal for young Russians? 

Egor Melikhov: Of course, what is attractive about flea markets is the atmosphere. But there are unattractive things about this. Not all people are friendly – sellers can look disgusting, and behave so. There were a lot of problems during the shooting. Some people were friendly and even helped – one man gave us cool sunglasses that he was selling, for example. Others, however, were rude, shouting at us, telling us not to photograph, and threatening to call the police.

Team credits:

Photographer: Egor Melikhov.
Stylists: Yuliya Polshkova, Adel Duisalieva, Dima Popov.
Models: Dima, Lily, August at Aurora, Rita.


  • 032c Cosmic Workshop Collection

    032c COSMIC WORKSHOP "Maria" Longsleeve Grey

    Buy Now
  • Life Exists: Theaster Gates’ Black Image Corporation

    Theaster Gates' “The Black Image Corporation” presents photographs from the holdings of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company, a sprawling archive that shaped “the aesthetic and cultural languages of contemporary African American identity.” Gates approached the project as a celebration and activation of the black image in Milan through photographs of women photographed by Moneta Sleet Jr. and Isaac Sutton – of black entrepreneurship and legacy-making. “Life exists” in the Johnson archive, he says, just as it exists and should be honored in other places of black creativity.More
  • FRIDA ESCOBEDO: The Era of the Starchitect is Over

    Rising Mexican architect Frida Escobedo is relentlessly inquisitive, eschewing stylistic constants in favour of an overriding preoccupation with shifting dynamics. Personal curiosity is the driving force behind her practice, which makes he an outlier in a profession dominated by extroverted personalities keen on making bold assertions. "I think it really is a generational shift," Escobedo says. "The idea of the starchitect making grand gestures with huge commissions is over."More
  • “I live a hope despite my knowing better”: James Baldwin in Conversation With Fritz J. Raddatz (1978)

    Born in Berlin in 1931, editor and writer Fritz J. Raddatz relied on food delivered by African American GIs after the death of his parents. To Baldwin he was an “anti-Nazi German who has the scars to prove it.” Debating his return to the USA after 25 years, Baldwin explores the political climate in America at the end of the 1970s in a conversation at home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.More
  • House as Archive: James Baldwin’s Provençal Home

    For her new book, Magdalena J. Zaborowska visited the house Baldwin occupied from 1971 to 1987 “to expand his biography and explore the politics and poetics of blackness, queerness, and domesticity”. Here, she narrates her early journeys to Baldwin’s home and proposes a salve for its recent loss: a virtual presentation of Baldwin’s home and effects.More
  • Where are the real investments? Theaster Gates on James Baldwin

    The Chicago-based artist talks to Victoria Camblin about materializing the past, the house as museum, and preserving black legacies. Social and artistic engagement, Gates suggests, may allow the contents and spirit of Baldwin’s home, and others like it, to settle in lived experience.More