The Capital of Russia
The History of Moscow
Moscow is situated in the European part of Russia. The Moscow River, which flows through the city, is joined to the great Russian river the Volga by the Oka River and the Moscow Canal.
Down the centuries Moscow has played an outstanding role in the life of all the country. “Every Russian who looks at Moscow, feels she is his mother,” the great Russian writer Lev Tolstoy said.
For more than 850 years Moscow has stood on seven hills on both banks of the Moscow River. Many legends, songs, ballads and epics were created celebrating the beauty and grandeur of the main city of the Russian lands. One of them tells how Prince Yuri Dolgoruky ordered a wooden fort to be built and named it Moscow after the river on whose banks it rose. The first written mention of Moscow dates back to 1147, which marks the beginning of the city’s chronicled history. Settlements, however, existed on its site long before that, as recent archeological excavations have revealed, the most ancient being some 5000 years old.
Since its very beginning Moscow has been inseparably linked with the fate of the Russian people; and it is not without reason that in olden times foreigners called the Russian state Muscovy and its inhabitants Muscovites.
Moscow has seen much and experienced much.
For nearly two and a half centuries the Russian people lived under Tartar-Mongolian yoke. Moscow played a leading role in unifying the Russian lands in a single state and in overthrowing the hateful oppressors (in 1480)
The people rose more than once in defense of Moscow, which they saw as the heart of the Russian land. Thus, in 1612, the people’s volunteers, led by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kozma Minin, liberated Moscow from the Polish invaders and their foreign mercenaries, routed the enemy and drove them from the Russian land. Moscow also played a vital role in the Patriotic War of 1812. At the battle of Borodino, near Moscow, Napoleon’s Grande Army was dealt a blow from which it never recovered. Since then no invader has set foot in Moscow.
With the formation of the Russian centralized state at the end of the 15th century Moscow became the country’s most important political, economic, trade centre. Later it also became the focal point of Russian culture. There the chronicles were compiled and outstanding works of literature, painting and architecture were created. It was here, in Moscow, too, that Russian printing began (in 1564), and the first Russian higher educational institution, the Slavono-Graeco-Latin Academy, was founded (in 1687)
In 1712 Peter the Great transferred the capital of Russia to St. Petersburg, which was built to his orders on the banks of the Neva; but Moscow remained, as before, the symbol of national, patriotic feelings of the people and pride of the whole country. In 1755 the first Russian University was founded in Moscow, and the first newspaper was published. The creative work of the leading Russian writers and poets of the 18th century, Alexander Sumarokov, Denis Fonvizin, Gavriil Derzhavin, Nikolai Karamzin, Alexander Radishchev is bound up with Moscow. It was in Moscow that the great Russian 18th-century scientist, Mikhail Lomonosov, stated on his scientific career. In later times many eminent writers and poets, scientists and artists, whose work greatly contributed to the development of not only Russian culture and science but of the world’s, lived and worked in Moscow.
In the 19th century Moscow strengthened its reputation as the major centre of Russian national literature and science. Its theatres, the Bolshoi, the Maly, the Moscow Art Theatre make an immense contribution to the development of Russian culture.
Moscow was closely linked with the Decembrist movement, the first Russian revolutionaries of the nobility, who struggled against serfdom and autocracy between 1816 and 1825.
In the 1870s and 1880s Moscow, together with St. Petersburg became one of the most important centres of the working class movement. After the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 Moscow rapidly became the biggest centre of industry in Russia and the largest railway junction.
Moscow played a major role in the revolution of 1905-1907. On February 26, 1918 the capital of the state was transferred from Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) to Moscow.
In the years before the Great Patriotic War Moscow covered a difficult but glorious road, becoming the political, economic and cultural centre of Russia. Big factories, research centres and educational establishments were built here, and the reconstruction of the city was started on a vast scale. It has been transformed before one’s very eyes.
In the summer of 1941 the peaceful work of all our people was disrupted: on June 22, fascist Germany treacherously, without declaration of war, attacked our country. The Great Patriotic War against fascism began. Moscow suffered severe trials; around 80 German divisions, including 14 armoured and eight motorized divisions attacked the city. Hitler declared he would inspect his troops in person in Moscow. Granite was even dressed by his order to build a monument in honour of the fascist Reich’s victory.
That monument, however, was never erected and the planned triumph was never held. Another parade took place. On November 7, 1941 Soviet troops marched sternly and ceremonially through Red Square and went straight to the frontlines. These were really trying days – the destiny of the country was at stake. A great battle was fought near Moscow. The front was then on the very approaches to the capital, but all the peoples rose in Moscow’s defense. The troops of the Soviet Army and the citizens of the capital displayed unprecedented heroism and selflessness in the battles. More than 500000 of the city’s inhabitants built defense works and 168000 Muscovites applied to join the ranks of the People’s Volunteers. The Soviet soldiers stood to the death and withstood. In December 1941 they passed to the offensive and threw the enemy back from Moscow. It was here that the myth of the invincibility of Hitler’s army was dispelled.
The significance of Moscow in the life of our country is very great. The capital is the seat of the President of the Russian Federation, the Government and the Federal Assembly. The most important state and government institutions are concentrated here.
Moscow symbolizes the unity and friendship of the peoples of our country. For every Russian citizen Moscow and Motherland are synonyms.
Moscow is a major centre of international contacts and meeting-place of many important international forums.
Moscow welcomes with an open heart all people who come to our country desiring to strengthen peace and international cooperation and to develop economic relations. Every year various international congresses, symposiums, exhibitions are held here.
Moscow is a multi-national city. Most of the people are Russians but the city is also inhabited by Ukranians, Belorussians, Tatars, Armenians, Poles, Georgians and many other nationalities. According to the last census women constituted 57 per cent of the population and men 43 per cent.
Muscovites are sociable, hospitable people. They love their city and are proud of it, and enjoy showing its sights to visitors.
Some Places of Interest
This outstanding monument of Russian history and culture stands majestically on a steep elevation overlooking the Moscow River, and covers an area of 28 hectares.
The Kremlin is the oldest historical and architectural centre of Moscow. The old chronicles record that in 1156 Prince Yuri Dolgoruky ordered a wooden fort to be built on Borovitsky Hill, which later became the residence of the sovereign Dukes of Moscow. That was when the building of the Kremlin began.
This fortress was razed to the ground in 1238 during the Tartar invasion; but Moscow continued to live and grow. In 1326-39 walls of oak were erected around the Kremlin. They were replaced by white-stone ones and towers in 1367-68 and Moscow began to be called white-stone. In 1382 the Tartar Khan Tokhtamysh and his hordes broke into the Kremlin through undefended gates, demolished the fortress, pillaged the churches, burnt the houses inside it, and killed around half the population. Moscow had to start building all over again.
In 1485-95, during the reign of Ivan III, the walls of white stone were replaced by new red-brick walls and towers, and these, restored many times, are those still standing. At the same time the area of the Kremlin was extended to its present size.
The 17th century wrote a new page in the history of the Kremlin. The consolidation of the Russian State was accompanied with a flourishing of national art and architecture, which can be seen in the new buildings that appeared then in the Kremlin.
In 1713 the capital was moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The Kremlin became the temporary residence of the tsar’s court. Russian emperors and empresses came here to be crowned.
In 1737 a great fire destroyed all the wooden structures still standing within it. Building began once more.
The Kremlin also suffered greatly in 1812. In September of that year Napoleon’s armies marched into Moscow. For a month and four days French troops were quartered in the Kremlin. When forced to retreat from Moscow they tried, on Napoleon’s orders, to blow up the Kremlin. Thanks to the courage of the Russian people, they failed to achieve their criminal design, but three towers and the belfry of the Ivan the Great Bell-tower were destroyed, and the Nikolsky (St. Nicholas) Tower and other structures severely damaged. However, everything was restored.
Tsar Cannon is a remarkable example of the 16th century military engineering and foundry work. Its caliber 890 mm makes it the largest gun in the world. It was cast in bronze in 1586, and it is 5.34 metres long and weighs 40 tons. The gun was never fired.
Tsar Bell is the largest bell in the world, which weighs 200 tons, 6.14 metres in diameter. Next to it is a fragment weighing 11.5 tons that split off during a fire in 1737. Tsar Bell is a unique example of Russian foundry work.
The Belfry of Ivan the Great unites all the Kremlin cathedrals into a majestic architectural ensemble which faces Cathedral Square, the oldest square in Moscow. Its foundation was laid out in the early 14th century and has ever since been the main square of the Kremlin. There the ceremonial processions were held when the tsars were invested and emperors crowned, and foreign ambassadors were received.
The Cathedral of the Assumption /Uspensky Sobor/ is the main church of the Kremlin, built in 1475-79 by Russian master builders under the supervision of Aristotle Fioravante, a native of Bologna invited to work in Moscow by the Grand Duke Ivan III.
The walls are of white stone, but the vaulting and drums beneath the domes are of brick. The architectural proportions of the cathedral are perfect – 38 metres high, 24 metres wide and 35.5 metres long.
The Cathedral contains many fine examples of early Russian applied art. Among them is the southern door covered in cooper sheets on which there are twenty scenes on biblical themes. Near this entrance stands the throne of Ivan the Terrible, the first Russian tsar. It dates from 1551.
The Cathedral was the place where tsars were invested and emperors crowned. In it, too, important state decrees were proclaimed and solemn ceremonies held.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation / Blagoveshchensky Sobor/ was built in 1484-89 by master builders from Pskov. It was the private chapel of the Russian princes and tsars, so its architecture and interior are more intimate than those of the Cathedral of the Assumption.
The frescoes of this Cathedral are magnificent. They mainly depict themes from the Apocalypse. The icons of the iconostasis were painted in 1405 by Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev and Prokhor of Gorodets.
The Archangel Cathedral. This Cathedral combines the early Russian architectural style with that of the Italian Rennaissance. It was built in 1505-08 under the direction of the Italian architect Alevisio Novi.
A gilt iconostasis, 13 metres high, separates the central part of the Cathedral from the altar. It contains wonderful 15th-17th century icons by Russian masters. The icon of the Archangel Michael, attributed to Andrei Rublev (15th century), is of outstanding beauty and perfection. This Cathedral was the burial place of the Moscow princes and tsars. There are 46 tombs with white tombstones in it. Ivan the Terrible and his sons are buried here. The oldest tomb is that of Prince Ivan Kalita, who died in 1340.
Armoury / Oruzheinaya palata/ was built in 1851 by Konstantin Ton. The Armoury itself was founded in the 16th century. It then consisted of workshops where armour and weapons were made and stored. In 1720, by decree of Peter the Great, the workshops were preserved into a museum. The Armoury contains unique specimens of Russian and foreign applied art, royal regalia, ambassadors’ gifts, collections of arms and accoutrements (12th to 18th century), one of the world’s largest collections of fabrics and clothes of the 14th to 19th centuries, and some very fine articles by goldsmiths of the 12th to early 20th centuries.
Among the royal regalia are the famous golden Cap of Monomakh, which was used to crown all Russian tsars up to Peter the Great; the first Russian imperial crown of Catherine I, made of gilt silver; the coronation dress of Catherine II; and many other precious historical items. There is also a very big collection of ceremonial carriages, each one of which is a work of art.
The Armoury is a treasury of world importance, housing unique works of decorative and applied art. Most of the items are closely associated with the history of Russia and the Kremlin.
The State Tretyakov Gallery
The State Tretyakov Gallery is at No.10 Lavrushinsky pereulok, a quiet side-street on the other side of the river, opposite the Kremlin. It was founded as a city museum in 1892. Its founder, Pavel Tretyakov (1832-1898), a Moscow merchant, began collecting the finest works of Russian artists in 1856. Thirty-six years later, in 1892, when he had acquired 1200 paintings and several hundreds sculptures and works of graphic art, he presented the whole collection to the city of Moscow. Today the Tretyakov Gallery has over 8000 canvases, more than 5500 icons and works of early Russian art, over 2000 sculptures, and 35000 drawings, water colours, and engravings. Every year the Gallery is visited by over 2 million people.
The Tretyakov Gallery is a country’s treasure-house of fine arts, and its collection reflects the whole history of Russian art.
The collection of early Russian art includes icons by the brilliant artist Andrei Rublev (circum. 1360-1430), the outstanding masters Dionisius and Theofanus the Greek (15th century), Simon Ushakov (17th century). The fine icon “Our Lady of Vladimir” (11th -12th centuries) was brought from Constantinople in the first half of the 12th century.
The Gallery has many interesting 18th century works by Fyodor Rokotov, Dmitry Levitsky, Vladimir Borovikovsky and others. Russian art of the first half of the 19th century is also well represented: Oleg Kiprensky’s portrait of Pushkin, Vassily Tropinin’s Lace-Maker, Karl Bryullov’s Horsewoman, Alexander Ivanov’s Christ before the People, to which the artist dedicated over 20 years of his life.
Special rooms are devoted to the work of such outstanding artists of the 19th century as Pavel Fedotov, Ilya Repin, Vassily Surikov, Isaac Levitan, Nikolai Ghe.
There is also an exhibition of the best works of painters and sculptures of the century, like Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Nikolai Kasatkin, etc.
The 20th century art is widely represented in the gallery: Mikhail Nesterov, Igor Grabar, Isaac Brodsky, Boris Ioganson, the Kukryniksy trio, Sergei Konenkov, Matvei Manizer, etc.
The Tretyakov Gallery’s collections reflect the whole history of Russia, the life and work of her people.
The façade of the building of the Tretyakov Gallery was refaced in 1902 to sketches by Victor Vasnetsov, which gave it an intricate, bright, rather fairy-land appearance, like a traditional Russian terem. The upper section portrays the emblem of old Moscow, St.George slaying the dragon.
The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
It is situated at No.12 Volkhonka Street, one of Moscow’s old streets. It is an imposing building with a high portico and glass roof. Its façade is decorated with twenty-two light-grey granite columns. The building was built in Greek classical style by Roman Klein in 1898-1912 to house a museum of fine arts founded on the initiative of Prof. Ivan Tsvetayev. Since 1937 it has been known as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. It has one of the world’s largest collections of the ancient oriental, classical and Western European art.
The museum’s Egyptian department has one of the world’s largest collection of ancient papyruses, painted sarcophagi, bas-reliefs, Coptic fabrics. There are also rich exhibits of the art and culture of Babylon, Assyria and Ancient Persia there.
Original Greek and Etruscan terracotta and vases, classical sculptures are also here.
The pride of the Museum is its rich collection of Byzantine, Italo-Cretan and Italian icons.
The picture gallery has over 2000 works of various schools of painting.
Among the masterpieces exhibited are pictures by Italian masters of the Renaissance (Botticelli, Perugino and Veronese, among others) and fine pictures by artists of the German, English and Spanish schools (15th –17th centuries) (Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck).
There is a broad and representative collection of French paintings of the 17th – 20th centuries, including works by Poussin, Boucher, Chardin, Delacroix, etc. and an outstanding collection of French Impressionists (Monet, Cezanne, Gaugin, van Gogh, Manet, Matisse, Sisley, Renoir, Degas, Pissaro).
The Pushkin Museum periodically holds exhibitions of the art of various countries and of individual outstanding artists of past and present.
Apart from arranging exhibitions, the Museum carries out extensive research into the world’s heritage of art, and maintains contacts with the biggest museums and galleries of the world.
Arbat Street /better known as Arbat/
Arbat is one of the oldest streets, first mentioned in chronicles of the 15th century. Moscow people are very fond of this narrow, winding street with its houses of different heights and styles, and variety of shops. Pleasant side-streets run off from Arbat, where you can find interesting old houses and mansions still preserved, associated with the names of famous figures in Russian culture. At №53 on Arbat itself, Pushkin lived in 1831.
Kutuzovsky Prospect is connected with Novy Arbat by Kutuzov Bridge. It is 43 metres wide and with its ramps around 500 metres long. The Prospect is named in honour of Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov (1745-1813), the hero of the War of 1812.
Kutuzovsky Prospect begins with the Ukraina Hotel, 172 metres high, a typical example of the architecture of the tall buildings erected in the 1950s, ornamented with unusual corner turrets, has a high imposing portico, and a tall spire crowned with a star. It was designed by Arkady Mordvinov. The hotel (1000 rooms) was opened in 1957, and its central section is 20-stories high.
In the garden in front of the hotel there is a monument to the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) unveiled in 1964. The bronze statue stands on a pedestal of Ukrainian granite.
The Triumphal Arch at the end of Kutuzovsky Prospect is an imposing monument commemorating the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812.
The Arch was designed by Osip Bovet and erected in 1827-1834 in front of the Byelorussian Railway Station. When the reconstruction of Tverskaya Street began it was dismantled, and finally re-erected on its present site in 1968. Originally it was built of brick and faced with white stone. Concrete and steel reinforcings were used when it was re-erected.
The restored monument is a single arch decorated on all four sides with pairs of Corinthian columns, between which there are statues of warriors and bas-reliefs with allegorical images of different stages of the War. On the top of the arch are female figures representing Courage, Staunchness and Victory. The arch is topped with the winged figure of Glory in a chariot drawn by six steeds. On one side of the arch there is an inscription taken from orders issued by Kutuzov in 1812: “Brave and Victorious Troops! … each one of you is a saviour of your country! Russia hails you. … Your great feats and deeds will not fade or be forgotten. … Posterity will preserve the4m in their hearts. You saved your country with your blood!”
Near the Triumphal Arch is another monument to the Patriotic War of 1812. It is the Panorama Museum of the Battle of Borodino. It is a large cylindrical building of glass and aluminium, designed by a group of architects headed by Alexander Korabelnikov, and erected in 1962. The building is more than 40 metres in diameter. Along its walls are 68 cannons captured from Napoleon’s army during the Battle of Borodino. The facades of the wings are decorated with coloured mosaics. In front on a high pedestal is a bronze equestrian statue of Mikhail Kutuzov by the Russian sculptor Nikolai Tomsky, unveiled in 1973. On three sides of the pedestal are images of the commanders, soldiers and partisans who rose in defense of the country. The surname of each of the sculptured figures is given, which lends the whole composition a very documentary character.
In the museum there is a remarkable4 panoramic painting of the Battle of Borodino by the Russian artist Franz Rubo, 115 metres long. Rubo completed his work in 1912 for the centenary of the battle. It was restored in 1949-1962 by a group of Russian artists.
Visitors see panorama from an observation platform six metres high. Between them and the painting is a relief reconstruction of the battlefield 12 metres wide, which gives them the impression that they are in the midst of the raging battle that took place on August 26, 1812. Napoleon later wrote that of the 50 battles he had fought, in the one near Moscow “the greatest valor was displayed and the smallest victory won”.
In the courtyard of the museum there is an obelisk marking the common grave of 300 officers and men of the Russian army, heroes of the War of 1812. A few yards away is a wooden cottage, an exact copy of the one in Fili where the historic Council of War was held on September 1, 1812, when Kutuzov made his bold decision to abandon Moscow but save the army. The cottage became known as Kutuzov Hut. The original one was burned down in 1868.
It is a favourite spot with a fine view of Moscow. There is probably no better place for taking in all Moscow at a glance. There is an observation platform on the top of the hill. In various parts of the panorama you can see the sithouettes of tall buildings, and straight ahead in the distance the golden domes of the Kremlin cathedrals and the Ivan the Great Bell-tower. On a clear day one can see the TV tower at Ostankino. Down below us the Moscow River flows quietly along between the granite embankments. The river is 115 metres above sea level, and the top of the hill is 85 metres above the river. All Muscovites are extremely fond of the Vorobyevy Hills, where they come to relax with their families. It is pleasant to sit here in summer in the shade of trees, or to walk down the river bank along the forest paths. In winter the Vorobyevy Hills is a favourite spot for skiing and tobogganing.
Moscow State University /Lomonosov University/
Just behind the observation platform there are buildings of the Moscow State University, which has had a galaxy of famous teachers and former students (physicists, mathematicians, chemists, biologists, physiologists, geologists)- Stoletov, Sechenjv, Chaplygin, Timiryazev,Lebedev, Vernadsky, Zhukovsky, Fortunatov, Kolmogorov, Vavilov, Tamm, Kapitsa and very many others. The University is a research institution as well as a teaching one. The staff includes over 150 full and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of sciences, famous for their work in the most important fields of modern science.
Most of these buildings were put up in 1949-1953. Before construction began, this whole area lay on the outskirts of the city. The University campus covers an area over 350 hectares, and includes some forty teaching blocks and research facilities. There are also botanical gardens, a sports stadium, and a big park. The architects of the main building, the centre of the architectural ensemble, were Lev Rudnev, Sergei Chernyshev and Pavel Abrosimov. The 32-storey main tower, with its spire crowned by a golden star set in ears of wheat, is more than 380 metres high. On the flanking 18- and 12-storey blocks there is a clock, thermometer, and barometer with surface diameters around nine metres. The buildings contain a fine assembly hall seating 1500, a student club, 19 lecture theatres, dozens of teaching and research laboratories, a Museum of the Earth Sciences, a large library, many hostels for students, a swimming pool and sport facilities.
The main building is flanked on both sides by busts of great Russian scientists and scholars. In front of it in the inner courtyard there is a monument to the founder Mikhail Lomonosov by Nikolai Tomsky.
Central Stadium / Luzhniki /
Directly across the river is the Central Stadium, a green park with dozens of sports facilities. The whole thing (187 hectares) was built amazingly quickly in fifteen months on an empty tract of marshy ground and allotments. In the old days this area was called Luzhniki (or The Marshes) because the meadows often used to be soggy after heavy rain or flooded when the river overflowed its banks. It is still called Luzhniki, but when the stadium was built the ground level was raised 1.5 metres. The big bowl in the centre is the Large Sports Arena, seating 100000, for football matches and athletics meetings. Under the grandstands are around 1000 premises- changing rooms, rooms for training and warming up, doctor’s surgeries, a hotel, several cinemas, restaurants, cafes and a unique Museum of Physical Culture and Sport.
To the right of the stadium is a championship Swimming Pool. To the left is the Small Sports Arena, which seats some 15000. Further to the left is the Dvorets Sporta (Palace of Sport), Moscow’s largest indoor stadium. It is used not only for ice hockey and other sports but also for ice shows, variety concerts, New Year entertainments for schoolchildren.
There can be as many as 160000 people watching sport in the Stadium at any time. The grounds also contain 140 various football pitches, tennis courts, volleyball and basketball courts and other facilities. Everyday over 25000 people from eight to eighty use Luzhniki’s facilities, and in winter one can find thousands skating on its flooded paths and rinks.
The Central Stadium is regularly used for international football matches, championships in every sport in the Olympic calendar, plus many more. Since it was opened World and European championships and international competitions have been held in volleyball, basketball, modern pentathlon, ice hockey, speed skating, gymnastics, acrobatics, fencing, figure skating, weightlifting and wrestling to name some. Altogether Moscow has around 6000 sports facilities used by 2000000 people.