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BOULEVARD RING

Today boulevards are Moscow integral part, and it is difficult to imagine that only two centuries ago there were no trees and park benches but an assailable fortress wall, the wall which surrounded the area of the Kremlin and Kitai-Gorod. It was built of white stone, therefore the enclosed city was named Bely Gorod, or "White City". For many centuries this wall, built in the end of the 16th century, scared away the enemies with its imposing size - 10 metres (33 ft.) high and 5-6 (16-19 ft.) metres thick. By the 18th century it had lost its defensive significance and started to dilapidate; that is why it was dismantled and replaced with the Boulevard Ring. 

The Boulevard Ring is comprised of the following boulevards: Gogolevsky Boulevard, Nikitsky Boulevard, Tverskoy Boulevard, Strastnoy Boulevard, Petrovsky Boulevard, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, Sretensky Boulevard, Chistoprudny Boulevard, Pokrovsky Boulevard, Yauzsky Boulevard. It forms a semi-circle around the center of Moscow and is ideal for leisurely strolls. A walk along the boulevard ring's park-like areas is a great way to explore the city center, undisturbed by traffic. The park strip is situated in the middle of the road, in-between traffic lanes. Scores of beautiful old buildings are located along this route (and down the side streets leading off the Boulevard Ring), and there are plenty of benches to sit and relax on along the way. It is also well worth venturing into some of the side streets branching off from the ring - you will find lots of pretty lanes with interesting buildings, monasteries, convents, mansions, exhibitions, museums there.

Gogolevsky Boulevard

Gogolevsky Boulevard is the only one that preserved some features of former Moscow landscape: boulevard's inner side is much higher than its outer side. It is a lovely place for a promenade and a favourite place of dating couples. Close to Arbat there is a monument to one of Russia's greatest writers - Nikolay Gogol, whose name was given to this boulevard. 

At the corner of Znamenka street and Gogolevsky boulevard there is a reconstructed mansion of Apraksiny, one of the richest families in 19th century Moscow. Their house was famous for its theatre where some of Russian greatest actors appeared on stage for the first time. In 1812 French officer of the Napoleon army Henry Beil stayed in this house. This officer was to become the world famous writer Stendhal. House No 10 is famous for secret meetings of the Decembrists (the first Russian revolutionaries). Today it is occupied by Russian Chess Association. 

 

Petrovsky Boulevard

Petrovsky boulevard was named after the Vysokopetrovsky monastery. But buildings here are not as old as the monastery. The oldest one is dated 1786. Once it was a palace of count Tatishchev, noble grandee of Catherine the Great. Magnificent balls attracted all Moscow aristocrats here and even Tsar Pavel I favoured Tatishchev with His Majestic visit. Elegantly looking house No 17 was built by R. Klein. Probably once it attracted as many people as Tatishchev's balls: it was a famous wine-shop owned by Dupret.

 

House No 14 at the corner of Neglinnaya street and Petrovsky boulevard is a "permanent address" of Melpomene and Thalia - famous Moscow theatre "School of Modern Play". Before the revolution it was an institution more appropriate for a residence of the Cooking Muse: beloved by Moscow intellectuals restaurant "Hermitage" offered its delicious dishes here. Petr Tchaikovsky enjoyed it enough to organise his own wedding here in 1877. And the whole Russia must be grateful to the chef of this restaurant Lucien Olivier for inventing a salad later known in Russia as "Olivier" and in the rest of the world as "the Russian salad": a mixture of potatoes, eggs, meat, cucumbers and plenty of mayonnaise. And another fine tradition began here: the day of Tatyana, students' day, was celebrated here for the first time. 

 

Petrovsky Boulevard runs into Trubnaya Square. In the 17th century there was once a deep hole in the wall of the White City: Neglinka river used this hole to carry its waters to the White City and the square used this hole or pipe ("truba") as a name. In 1840s the first pet market ("Ptichy rynok", literally "bird's market") appeared here and brought a nice tradition: every year on the Annunciation day people would let doves free. 

 

Rozhdestvensky Boulevard

Rozhdestvensky boulevrad is the next link in the chain of boulevards. Once it was a steep bank of Neglinka river. The boulevard was given its name after ancient Rozhdestvensky convent which is situated at the corner of the boulevard and Rozhdestvenka street. It is said to be founded by Prince Ivan Kalita's daughter-in-law, countess Maria in 1380s. She was the proud mother of Vladimir the Brave who was a hero of the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Many wives and widows of those who had taken part in the battle helped to build this convent. 

 

Most of the ancient buildings have not preserved because of numerous fires that the convent had been through, but some churches survived. The Cathedral of the Nativity of Mother of God was erected in 1501-1505 and in the 19th century one lady donated a sum of money which allowed architect Kozlovsky to add a bell-tower to the architectural ensemble of the convent. In the beginning of the 20th century Fedor Schechter himself was involved in the construction works. When communists came to power they closed the Rozhdestvensky convent to organise communal flats, police office and a club for policemen here. 70 years later it was returned to the Orthodox Church.

 

Sretenky Boulevard

Rozhdestvensky boulevard used to be a part of Sretensky boulevard but it split off and Sretensky boulevard became the shortest boulevard in Moscow (it is only 214 metres (0.1 mi.) long). Historically, this area was a home for market and trade, with craftsmen living and working here. Nowadays, there are a lot of reconstructed old buildings in that part of Moscow. So, if you are interested in living in the "old city", you should choose the Sretenka street area. In the 17th century, the area of Sretenka was built up by benches of dealers and workshops of handicraftsmen - a new, large Sretensky village. The length of the whole modern Sretenka is only 800 meters (0.5 mi.), but it is literally cut up by lanes: on the left side of the street there are seven, and on right - nine. There are also lanes that do not lead directly to Sretenka, but are in immediate proximity. The area of Sretenka is characterized by a big number of reconstructed buildings, which have in most parts kept the historical facades that are typical for old Moscow. The paradox of the area is that there are a considerable amount of dilapidated buildings, often adjoining modern and reconstructed structures. The area's buildings are concentrated along the streets Sretenka, Trubnaya and Tsvetnoy boulevard, where coffee houses, restaurants and shops are located.

 

Chistoprudny Boulevard

People come to Chistye Prudy ("Clean Ponds") searching for "Moscow idyll": cosy boulevard, lime-trees and lilacs, boats sliding over the pond and children feeding swans and ducks. A couple of centuries ago everything was quite different. Those "clean" ponds were once a big dirty puddle and butchers, who inhabited the district, used them as a sewage place. Logically the first unofficial name of these ponds was "Foul Ponds".

 

In the 18th century Alexander Menshikov, Peter the Great's favourite, became owner of this area. His delicate scent couldn't bear terrible stench coming from the ponds, so Menshikov ordered to clean them; since then they have been known as "Clean Ponds". In summer people come here to swim in a boat, and in winter the pond turns into one of the most popular skating-rinks with lovely illumination.

 

Chistye Prudy gave name to one of the cosiest Moscow boulevards - Chistoprudny boulevard. As well as other Moscow boulevards, in 1820s it replaced the brick walls of the ancient White City. It begins with a monument to one of the best Russian playwrights Alexander Griboedov. He was a person of versatile talents: he sang, brilliantly danced, was successful in studying all the fields of knowledge; he was a master of fence, dashing horseman, and a gifted writer (his most famous play is "Grief from Mind"). 

 

To the right from the monument one can see a pink bell-tower with something like a golden cone on the top. It is the Church of the Archangel Gabriel on Arkhangelsky lane. The man who had cleaned the ponds, Alexander Menshikov, ordered to build a cathedral higher then the Ivan the Great's Bell Tower in the Kremlin. At that time it was regarded as an unbelievable impertinence and impudence. Moreover, Menshikov bought a gigantic chiming clock and placed it on the wall of the church. Such arrogance was punished very soon: during a storm lighting hit the tower and the burning debris fell down, crippling and killing the innocent parishioners. Couple of years later Menshikov became seriously ill and fell into disgrace. 

 

Chistoprudny boulevard and its surroundings was a residential area for Moscow nobility; many of their mansions are still seen here. In Bolshoi Kharitonievsky lane there is an imposing 17th century house with fabulous cast fence, which once belonged to a wealthy grandee Yusupov. Yusupov was famous for his fantastic collection of art, not less fantastic collection of mistresses in his harem and his extravagant behaviour. 

 

Considerable part of local buildings appeared in the late 19th - early 20th century. One of them, former apartment house No 14 is a remarkable example of Moscow Art Nouveau. Here architect S. Vashkov tried to revive the spirit of pagan Russia, placing mysterious mythological creatures on the facades. Once this house belonged to the Church of Trinity on the Mire, named after its location on the muddy banks of the Rachka river. During its tercentennial history this church has survived many destructions and reconstructions; as a result of all this it has unfortunately lost its dome. In another former apartment house, No 23, the great film director Sergey Eisenstein, who influenced not only Soviet but also the world's art of film making, lived from 1920 to 1934. 

 

Pokrovsky and Yauzsky Boulevards

Quiet and cosy, they lead down to the Moscow-river; now it is hard to imagine that not far from this peaceful and pleasant area once was situated Moscow underworld, criminal headquarters, true inferno. The district between Pevchesky and Petropavlovsky lanes, known as Khitrovka, inspired fear and horror into the entire city. Thieves, murderers, prostitutes, convicts and fugitives inhabited dark lanes and dirty dens, and even policemen were afraid to step down into this hell. Only in 1923 Soviet police organised a massive raid to Khitrovka and managed to get rid of this pit.

 

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