1902 Encyclopedia > Moscow > Moscow: Theatre, Russian Language, Intellectual/Social Life

(Part 4)


Though the drama was introduced into Russia at Kieff, Moscow was the place of its develompment. The earliest stage representations were made at Moscow in 1640, and the first comedy—a translation of Molière’s Médecin Malgré Lui—was played in the palace before Sophile, the sister of Peter I. It was only in 1759 that a theatre was erected. A large stone theatre was erected in 1776, and rebuilt in 1856 after a fire. It is for the Moscow stage the best Russian dramas have been written, and it was the "small theatre" that the best Russian actors—Schepkin, Sadovsky, Shumsky, and Madame Vasilieff—exhibited the comedies of Gogol, Griboyedoff, and Ostrosky.

Moscow, where the great-Russian language is spoken in its greatest purity, was the birthplace of the two chief Russian poets, Pushkin and Lermontoff, as well as Griboyedoff, Ostrovsky, and Herzein.

A monument to Pushkin was erected in 1880, on the Tverskoy boulevard. Griboyedoff, in his remarkable comedy Goré ot uma, has given a lively picture of the higher Moscow society of the beginning of this century, which continued to hold good until within the last few years. His remark as to the unmistakable individuality of the Moscow type also maintains its truth; although the physiognomy of Moscow has much changed since his day, it still has its special features that distinguish it from every other capital. The division of classes is much more felt at Moscow than elsewhere. The tendency towards originality, the love of grandiose undertakings, a kind of brag, together with little of independence, a good deal of laziness, and much cordiality, still characterize the educated classes.

The merchants live quite aloof from any political or even intellectual movement, under a rude patriarchal system, well described in the dramas of Ostrovsky. A large proportion of them are nonconformists.

Their sons, the well-known kupecheskiye synki, "merchants’ sons," when they leave this kind of life, astonish the capital with their extravagances and absurd display of wealth.

But Moscow takes its present physiognomy chiefly from its busy lower classes. The streets are full of merchants and peasants, who continue to wear the old Russian garb, go on foot in the streets, drink tea in modest restaurants, and transact large business. From being a town of the aristocracy, Moscow is coming to be more a town of the wealthy middle classes, who persist in keeping the low educational level of the peasants in the villages, and have but one aspiration, to become in their turn "merchants" of the type describe by Ostrovsky.

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