1902 Encyclopedia > Moscow > Moscow: General Description

(Part 1)

Moscow - (1) General Description; Streets, Churches, Palaces, Commercial Areas, etc.

MOSCOW (Russian, Moskva), the second capital of the Russian empire and chief town of the government and district of the same name, is situated in 55º 45´ N. lat. and 37º 37´ long., on both banks of the river Moskva, a tributary of the Oka, and its confluence with the rivulet Yauza. The popular idea is that Moscow is built on seven hills, and in fact the city covers several eminences, the altitudes of its different parts varying from 500 to 850 feet above the sea level of the sea. It is 400 miles from St Petersburg, 813 from Archangel, 900 from Ufa, 938 from Atrakhan, 933 from Odessa, and 811 from Warsaw. It lies to the north of the most densely-peopled parts of Russia (the "black-earth region"), whilst the country of the north of it is rather thinly peopled as far as the Volga, and very sparsely beyond that. The space between the middle Oka and the Volga, however, was the very cradle of the Great-Russian nationality (Novgorod and Pskov excluded); and four or five centuries ago Moscow had a quite central position with regard to this.

Moscow map

Map of Moscow

The present city measures 7 miles from north to south and 9 miles from west-south-west to the east-north-east, and covers an area of 32 square miles (about 40 when the suburbs are included). In the centre, on the left bank of the Moskva, stands the "kreml" or Kremlin, occupying the Borovitsky hill, which in the 12th century was covered by a dense forest. To the east of the Kremlin is the Kitay-Gorod, formerly the Great Posad, the chief centre for trade.

The Byelyi-Gorod, which was formerly enclosed by a stone wall (whence the name), surrounds the Kremlin and the Kitay-Gorod on the west, north, and north-east. A line of boulevards now occupies the place of its wall (destroyed in the 18th century), and forms a first circle of streets around the centre of Moscow. The Zemlanoy Gorod (Earthen enclosure) surrounds the Byelyi-Gorod, including the "zamaskvoryechie" on the right bank of the Moskva. The earthen wall and palisade that formerly enclosed it no longer exist, their place being taken by a series of broad streets with gardens on both sides, -- the Sadovaya, or Gardens Street. The fourth enclosure (the "Kamer-College earthen wall") was made during the reign of Catherine II.; it is of a irregular shape, and encloses the outer parts of Moscow, whilst the suburbs and the villages which have sprung up on the highways extend 4, 5 and 6 miles beyond. The general view obtained from the west or south is very picturesque, especially on account of the numerous churches, monasteries, and towers with characteristic architecture, and the many gardens and ponds scattered among clusters of houses.

Kremlin is an old fort of pentagonal (nearly triangular) shape, 98 acres in extent, occupying a hill about 100 feet above the level of the Moskva. It is enclosed by a high stone wall 2430 yards in length, restored during the present century, and having eighteen towers. Its five gates are surmounted by high towers. The Spasskiya (Saviour’s Gate) was erected in 1491 by a Milanese architect, the Gothic tower that surmounts its having been added in 1626 by the English architect Holloway. A sacred picture of the Saviour was placed upon it in 1685, and all who pass through the gate must uncover. The towers surmountin the four gates were erected by order of Ivan III.

Of the sacred buildings of the Kremlin the most venerated is the
Uspensky cathedral. The former church of this name was erected in 1326 by Ivan Kalita, but, on its falling into disrepair, a new one was built on the same place in 1475-1479, by Fioraventi, in the Lombardo-Byzantine style, with Indian cupolas. It was restored in the 18th century and in 1813. It contains the oldest and most venerated holy pictures in Russia, one of which is attributed to the metropolitan Peter, another to St Luke. This last was brought from Kieff to Vladimir in 1155, and thence to Moscow in 1395; its jewelled metallic cover is valued at £20,000. The cathedral possesses also a gate brought from Korsun, the throne of Vladimir I., and numerous relics of saints, some of which date from the 14th century. The Russian metropolitans and patriarchs were consecrated in this cathedral, as well as the czars after Ivan IV.

Arkhangelsk cathedral was originally built in 1333, and a new one was erected in its place in 1505. It has suffered very much from subsequent restorations and decorations. It contains the tombs of the czars from Simeon (1353) to Ivan Alexeevitch (1696), and possesses vast wealth.

Blagovyeschensk cathedral, recalling the churches of Athos, was built in 1489; the remarkable pictures of Rubleff (1405), contained in the original structure of 1397-1416, have been preserved it was the private chapel of the czars. Vestiges of a very old church, that of the Saviour in the Wood (Spas na borû), contemporaneous with the foundation of Moscow, still exist in the yard of the palace. A stone church took the place of the old wooden structure `in 1330, and was rebuilt in 1527. Several other churches of the 15 century, with valuable archaeological remains, are found within the walls of the Kremlin.

Voznesensky convent, erected in 1393, and recently restored with great judgment, is the burial-place of wives and sisters of the czars. The Chudoff monastery, erected in 1365, was the seat of theological and a state prison. Close by, the great campanile of Ivan Veliky, erected in the Lombardo-Byzantine style by Boris Godunoff in 1600, arises to the height of 271 feet (328 feet including the cross), and contains many bells, one of each weights 1285 cwts. The view of Moscow from this campanile is really wonderful, and is gilded cupola is seem from a great distance.

Close by is the well-known
Tsar-Kolokol (Czar of the Bells), 60 feet in circumference round the rim, 19 feet high, and weighing 3850 cwts. It was cast in 1735, and broken during the fire of 1737 before being hung. The treasury of the patriarchs (riznitsa) contains not only such articles of value as the sakkos of the metropolitan Foty with 70,000 pearls, but also very remarkable monuments of Russian archaeology. The library has 500 Greek and 1000 very rare Russian MSS., including a Gospel of the 8th century.

The great
palace of the emperors, erected in 1849, is a fine building in white stone with a gilded cupola. It contains the terems, or rooms erected for the young princes in 1636 (restored in 1836-1849, their former character being maintained), a remarkable memorial of the domestic life of the czars in the 17th century. In the treasury of the czars, Granovitaya Palata and Orujeynaya Palata, now public museums, the richest stores connected with old Russian arcaeology are found -- crowns, thrones, dresses , various articles of household furniture belonging to the czars, Russian and Mongolian arms, carriages, &c.

The four sides of the
Senate Square are occupied by buildings of various dates, from the 15th century onwards. The senate, now the law courts, wasbuildings of various dates, from the 15th century onwards. The senate, now the law courts, was erected by Catherine II. Facing it is the arsenal, containing full ammunition for 200,000- men.

Temple of the Saviour, begun in 1817 on the Vorobiovy hills, in commemoration of 1812, was abandoned in 1827, and a new one was built during the years 1838-1881 on a hill on the bank of the Moskva, at a short distance from the Kremlin. Its style is Lombardo-Byzantine, with modifications suggested by a military taste of Nicholas I. Its colossal white walls are well proportioned, and its gilded cupolas are seen from a great distance. The buildings that surround it are to be cleared away, and its squares adorned by obelisks, and by monuments to Kutuzoff, Barclay de Tolly, Alexander I., and Nicholas I.

Kitay-Gorod, which covers 121 acres, and has 20,000 inhabitants, is the chief commercial quarter of Moscow. It contains the Gostinoy Dvor, consisting of several stone buildings divided into 1200 shops, where all kinds of manufactured article are sold. The "Red Square," 900 yards long, whose stone tribunal was formerly the forum, and afterwards the place of execution, separates the Gostinoy Dvor from the Kremlin. At its lower end stands the fantastic Pokrovsky cathedral (usually known as Vasili Blajennyi), which is the wonder of all strangers visiting Moscow, on account of its towers, all differing from each other, and representing, in their variety of colours, pineapples, melons, and the like. It was built under Ivan the Terrible by an Italian. The exchange, built in 1838 and restored in 1873, is very lively, and its twenty-three "exchange artels" (associations of nearly 2000 brokers, possessing a capital of more than £100,000) are worthy of remark. Banks, houses of great commercial firms, streets full of old bookshops carrying on a very large trade, and finally the Tolkuchy ryhok, the market of the poorest dealers in old clothes, occupy the Kitay-Gorod, side by side with restaurants of highest class. In the Kitay-Gorod are also situated the house of the Romanoffs, rebuilt in 1859 in exact conformity with its former shape; a Greek monastery; and the printing-office of the synod, containing about 600 MSS. and 10,000. very old printed books together with a museum of old typographical implements. At the entrance to the Kitay-Gorod stands the highly-venerated chapel of the Virgin of Iberia, which is a copy, made in 1648, of a holy picture placed on the chief gate of the monastery of Athos. Close by is the recently opened historical museum, which will contain collections respectively illustrating separate periods of Russian history.

The northern parts of the Byelyi-Gorod are also the centre of a lively trade. Here are situated the
Okhotnyi Ryad (poultry market) and the narrow streets Tverskaya and Kuznetsky-Most, the rendezvous of the world of fashion. Here also are the theatres. In the south-west of the Byelyi-Gorod, opposite the garden of the Kremlin, stand the university, the public museum, and the military riding school.

Zemlynoy-Gorod, which has arisen from villages that surrounded Moscow, exhibits a variety of characters. In the neighbourhood of the railway stations it is a busy centre of traffic; other parts of it are manufacturing centres, whilst other -- as, for instance, the small quiet streets in the west of the boulevard of Preschistenka, called the old Konushennnaya, with their houses and spacious yards -- are the true abodes of the families of the old, for the most part decayed, but still proud nobility. The Zamoskvoryechie, on the right bank of the Moskva, is the abode of the patriarchal merchant families. Each houses is surrounded by a yard whose gate is rarely opened, and each house, with its dependencies and gardens, bears the character of a separate estate.

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