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Where they dug clay, where they baked the royal bread, and where they planted gardens: What the center of Moscow looked like in the Middle Ages
Where they dug clay, where they baked the royal bread, and where they planted gardens: What the center of Moscow looked like in the Middle Ages
Executions were carried out on Bolotnaya. For example, Pugachev was executed here. Engraving from the painting by A. I. Charlemagne. Mid 19th century

Walking around the center of Moscow, it is interesting to think about what was in this or that place in the Middle Ages. And if you know the true history of a particular area or street and imagine who and how lived here several centuries ago, the names of the areas and the whole view are perceived in a completely different way. And you already look at the Moscow center with completely different eyes …

Arbat was an impregnable wall

The name of the district, the streets located in it (with the prefixes "New" and "Old"), as well as the square of the same name came either from the Turkic word "arba" (cart), or from the Arabic word "orba" (suburb). Indeed, it used to be the border part of the city. At the end of the 16th century, a fortress wall was built around the rapidly expanding Moscow settlement, lined with white stone, which served as a third defensive ring and was called the "Wall of the White City". It was very high, its lower part sloped, and the upper part had a ledge, so it would be problematic to shoot it with cannons. The cannon holes were directed downward, and thus, the arrows could immediately hit anyone who approached the foot of the wall. The White Wall had 15 gates, which were carefully guarded.

At the Arbat Gate of the White City at the beginning of the 17th century. Reconstruction by V. A. Ryabov

In the second half of the 18th century, when the need for such protection of the city historically disappeared, Catherine II ordered to demolish the defensive walls and equip in their place boulevards along which the townspeople could walk. But the gate from them remained standing for a long time, and it looked funny. As a result, they were removed due to dilapidation, but the names remained (Arbat, Pokrovsky, Sretensky, and so on). The Arbat Gate later gave the name to the square, street and even the district. Initially, the area was inhabited by archers and artisans, but after the VIII century, nobility began to build houses here, and the area became prestigious.

Elite bread was made in Basmanniy

In Basmannaya Sloboda, located to the north-west of Nemetskaya, palace bakers lived and worked, who made delicious bread called Basman. It was served to the tsar's table and distributed to the servants of the sovereign, ambassadors and everyone who was entitled to state allowances. Each basman was baked with a special stigma. Among the Tatars, such a seal (only applied to leather or metal) was called "Basma" - hence the name of the loaves. And according to it, the district began to be called similarly.

Old Basmannaya street before the revolution

By the way, there is a version that the name of the scales is derived from the word "basman" - "steelyard". This is due to the fact that all Basman breads weighed the same.

At the end of the 17th century, officers of the Petrine regiments began to settle here, and a hundred years later, the city nobility began to settle in the area. By the way, in ancient times, on the territory of the modern Basmanny district, there were many more smaller settlements - pancakes, syromyat archers, etc.

Bolotnaya as a place of execution and festivities

In ancient times, there was a swampy meadow here. Later, local residents laid out princely and monastic gardens, vegetable gardens on the site of the swamps, and a large market appeared nearby. This area was a local trade until the beginning of the revolution. But the name associated with the former swamps here has survived to this day.

Such a typical Moscow square of medieval times was seen by the artist Apollinary Vasnetsov

In the XV-XVII centuries. at this place, folk festivities were regularly held, which were invariably accompanied by fist fights.

Pugachev is being taken to execution. / Artist T. Nazarenko

Also on Bolotnaya Square, the authorities carried out public punishment of criminals and the death penalty.The last and perhaps the most famous execution on Bolotnaya was the quartering of Emelyan Pugachev in 1775. This event attracted thousands of citizens. Onlookers even sat on the roofs of buildings.

Clay was mined in Tverskoye and buffoons lived

Once upon a time at this place, located outside the borders of Moscow, there was a quarry in which clay was mined. Pits and mines were called "clay". Around the XIV century, this craft gave the name of the adjacent area and the emerging settlement, and three hundred years later - and the temple, which was called the Church of St. Alexis Metropolitan, in Glinishchi.

In the 1930s, the church was demolished, and Glinischevsky Lane was renamed into Nemirovich-Danchenko Street, but in 1993 the old name was returned.

Next to this lane was the road to the city of Dmitrov. At the end of the XIII century, a settlement began to be built along it, which was inhabited by artisans of various professions, as well as buffoons. The overwhelming majority of its inhabitants were visitors from the Dmitrov regions. Hence the name - Dmitrovskaya Sloboda.

B. Dmitrovka in our century

Beginning in the 16th century, noble people began to settle in these parts, closer to the Moscow Kremlin, and the authorities ordered the artisans to move farther. They moved a little further north, but along the same road, and their new settlement was named Malaya Dmitrovskaya. At the end of the 17th century, the inhabitants were resettled even further north, and their settlement began to be called "Novaya". Thus, in the middle of the 18th century, three streets of the same name appeared - Bolshaya and Malaya Dmitrovka and Novoslobodskaya.

The earthen rampart and the moat were planted with apple trees

At the end of the 16th century, the fourth ring of Moscow fortifications appeared on this place. It was made because of the threat of an attack on the city of the Khan of the Crimean Horde. A new wall, very modern by those standards, ran approximately where the Garden Ring is now located. Muscovites called it "Skorodom" - apparently because it was built very quickly.

Fortunately, the Crimean enemies never reached this wall, but in 1611 the towers and walls erected from wood were burned by the Polish-Lithuanian troops.

In the first half of the 17th century, on the site of the burnt wall, an earthen rampart was erected as a fortification, along which ditches ran on both sides. The fortification was considered more impregnable than the defensive wall. Gradually, Skorod began to be called the Earthen Wall, and the area between this fortification and the wall of the White City received the same name.

The settlements of the archers were located here. For some time, the Zemlyanoy Val was also the customs border of the city.

An earthen rampart today. Photo:

At the beginning of the 19th century, the shaft was torn off as unnecessary. In its place, residents built streets and laid out gardens. Hence the names of several nearby streets with the prefix "Sadovaya".

Okhotny Ryad as a symbol of abundance

From time immemorial Moscow has been famous for its trade rows. Okhotny was one of the most humble among them. As the name implies, they sold game caught on the hunt in it.

Apollinary Vasnetsov. Red Square in the second half of the 17th century

In the 17th century, Okhotny Ryad was located where the Historical Museum now stands, and in the next century food shops, including a hunting one, were moved beyond Neglinka (now it is a section from Manezhnaya Square to Teatralnaya).

And Vasnetsov. Cannon Foundry on the Neglinnaya River

Gradually, all local residents began to call them Okhotny, since the most valuable goods began to be sold here. The assortment was very wide, and the trade was both retail and wholesale. By the 19th century, the townspeople and guests of the capital began to associate Okhotny Ryad with the abundance and well-fed Moscow life. Until the onset of the revolution, he was a symbol of stability, giving rise to many popular proverbs.

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