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OSTOZHENKA: FACT AND FANCY

Дата публикации: 20 ноября 2021
Автор(ы): Olga BAZANOVA
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Рубрика: RUSSIA (TOPICS)
Источник: (c) Science in Russia, №3, 2014, C.88-96
Номер публикации: №1637423747


Olga BAZANOVA, (c)

by Olga BAZANOVA, Science in Russia observer

 

Late in 2013 the Museum of Moscow started a major project-holding exhibitions on every district of the Russian capital, Moscow. The first one deals with Ostozhenka, a street and a neighborhood in the heart of the city. The idea is to look back and, using old photos, documents and publications of the late eighteen-hundreds and early nineteen-hundreds as well as pieces of old furniture, costumes and other mementoes, try to visualize this exotic estate. Taking part in this undertaking are the Department of the City's Cultural Heritage, museums, the State Archives of the Russian Federation and Moscow as well as public institutions like the Galina Vishnevskaya Center of Opera Singing, and the Moscow Times Foundation.

 

The Ostozhenka estate lies on the left bank of the Moskva, he main river meandering through the city, a stone's throw from the Moscow Kremlin. Centuries ago this locality that belonged to Rev. Alexius, metropolitan of Moscow, was under meadow flood-lands with profuse, lush grass all around and haystacks, stogá in Russian. Hence the original name, Stozhye or Ostozhye, meaning "the site of hayricks". Father Alexius broke ground out there, in 1360, for a nunnery, Moscow's first, and named for the hierarch. In 1547 a big fire wiped out the cloister and its chambers. Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) holding the throne at the time set out a patch of land for the homeless nuns on what is now the site of the Christ the Savior Cathedral. Some of the sisters, however, would rather stay put close to their fire-ravaged sanctuary. And so in 1584 the new czar, Feodor, who succeeded the same year his father, Ivan, ordered to restore the sorority. Rising still there, it bears the name of Zachatyevsky, that is of the Immaculate Conception.

 

In those times Ostozhenka was a busy highway linking the Vladimir-Suzdal principality northeast of

 
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Moscow with Kievan Rus and crossing the Moskva at the Crimean ford, named so after the ambassadorial residence of the Crimean Khan on the opposite bank. In 1938 a suspension bridge, known today as the Crimean Bridge, spanned the river. As early as the 17th century Ostozhenka changed its look, with depots, storehouses and residential homes of the not-so-rich rising here and there. In time highborn people began settling there as well. Manorial estates had a boom in the wake of the great fire that ravaged Moscow during its occupation by the Napoleonic Grande Armée in the fall of 1812.

 

Yet another rekindling of interest in this serene borough came towards the close of the eighteen-hundreds after the Christ the Savior Cathedral had been consecrated in 1881 as a pledge of "thanksgiving to God and in memory of those who fell in 1812" fighting the French. This cathedral church became a focal point of religious, cultural and public life of the city. Ostozhenka turned attractive to those who wished to reside in proximity to the grandiose church, and quite a few private homes and tenement houses mushroomed there to add to the attraction of the street; together with buildings put up before, they merge into a scenic mosaic illuminating our capital's past.

 

The exhibition on Ostozhenka and its history was laid out late in 2013 on the premises of the former Provisions Stores close by Guests can see what this district looked like more than a century ago, in the late eighteen-hundreds and in the early nineteen-hundreds. They can do that with the help of the many photographs made by Émile Gotier du Faillet, an ardent local history student, philanthropist and member of H.M. Archeological Society. The exhibition is ushered in by fifty photos from his collection--those made in 1913 and 1914, and enabling us to look back and see old churches, mansions and tenement houses. Many are still there, while others are just a remembrance...

 

And now let us walk up and down Ostozhenka and do the sights. First, let us have a look at monuments put up at the close of the 17th century. Built of red ceramic brick, they are ornate with white-stone carved designs, quite in keeping with the Naryshkin style much in vogue then. Something to feast your eyes on! These are the Red Chambers erected by the boyar noble Boris Yushkov, an attendant to the Czarevich (crown prince) Ivan Alexeyevich (a brother of Peter the Great; for a time Ivan shared the Russian throne with him). Another eye-catcher: the wall and turrets of the Immaculate Conception Nunnery with a Church Above the Gate consecrated to the Image of the Savior Not Wrought With Hands.

 

In 1925 the cloister was closed down; it was reopened only in 1991. However, some of its holies like the miracle-working Image of the Mother of God the Merciful were saved by being moved to the Church of St. Eliah the Prophet in a nearby lane. The very first church was of wood, it was built, according to legend, by one prince who, hit by a violent storm, vowed to build a church if saved from the elements. Now, St. Eliah the Prophet is the sovereign of thunder and

 
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lightning; it was quite natural to dedicate the church on the site of an erstwhile pagan temple of Perun, the Slavic deity analogous to the Greek Zeus, likewise the master of thunder and lightning. Peals of thunder, by popular belief, mean the rumbling of the fiery Chariot of St. Eliah who, dashing in heavens, is battling the fiends.

 

A new church of stone was erected in 1706 in place of the old wooden prayer-house that had fallen in disrepair. The wherewithal for this job was donated by a Duma scribe, Gabriel Derevianin, and his brother Vassily. This church built to the design of Ivan Zarudny still stands. The carved iconostasis (icon stands) wrought at the turn of the 17th century graced the newly dedicated church. The lower level of the iconostasis has the Image of the Savior Not Wrought With Hands and an icon of Our Lady of Kazan (the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God), both thought to be by the brush of Simon Ushakov, a lead Russian icon-painter.

 

One of the photos made by Émile Gotier du Faillet shows a most remarkable building of the 18th century, a large manor of Pyotr Yeropkin, a major statesman and public figure serving as Moscow Governor-General. Today this mansion houses Moscow Linguistic University (its head edifice is there). An imposing three-story building rising on a high pedestal was put up in 1771 to the design of Matvei Kazakov, one of the originators of Russian classicism in architecture; he brought together in a single architectural master plan several chambers built there forty and fifty years before. The front façade is decorated with ten pylons and monumental columns supporting the austere pediment. Yeropkin, the owner of this posh manor, was remarkable for his great hospitality--he kept open house ("open table")--anyone was welcome to step in and dine there for free.

 

In 1804 a commercial school was opened in this mansion. It was there, that Sergei Solovyov, an eminent Russian historian, was born in 1820. A Moscow University professor, he was elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1872. His capital work in 29 volumes, A History of Russia Since Ancient Times (published in 1851 to 1879), is great in its chronological scope and in the amount of documentary evidence.

 

Three small manorial estates nearby built in the style of late classicism date back to the early eighteen-hundreds. Living in one of them in the 1840s and 1850s was Varvara Petrovna, the mother of the Russian classic novelist Ivan Turgenev. A rather wilful lady, she caused much suffering to her serfs. The famous Turgenev short story, Mumu, was conceived in that house (the landlady made one of her serfs, Gerassim, drown the poor pooch Mumu, which he did much against his will). In 2009 a Turgenev museum was opened there to tell about the life and creativity of the writer. The other two manors built in the 1820s rub shoulders; both are yellow and have façades livened up with white columns and elegant stucco molding.

 
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The mansion of Empress Maria (who superintended orphanages) was erected in 1890 in what was known as the pseudo-Russian style and rebuilt six years after. Today it houses one of the departments of Moscow Linguistic University (formerly, the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages). Rising close to the Yeropkin estate, it boasts of sophisticated frills and curlicues-- the fancy curves, twists and flourishes much in fashion in 17th-century Moscow. This décor is most prominent in the design of the upper story windows and the turret crowning the manor.

 

Just a stone's throw away is a modest house dear to residents and guests of Moscow. This is the Master's House where the protagonist of Mikhail Bulgakov's classical novel, The Master and Margarita, used to live. The lodgings of the novelist's friends, the Topleninov brothers (one of them, Vladimir, was an actor, and the other, Sergei, a scene-painter) were there. Bulgakov would come there now and then, and stay with them, in the "two small rooms in the basement of a little house in the garden" immortalized in his novel.

 

Standing out there on Ostozhenka is yet another "pretender to a Gothic mansion", as Bulgakov put it. It was the home of the master's flame, Margarita, and built in 1901-1902 by Lev Kekushev, an architect, for himself and his family. Kekushev was among the first architects working in the style of Moscow Moderne. The elegant building of white and red is amazing in its exquisite and delicate décor, with its slim filigree skylight crowned by a tall hipped turret. The lush stucco done up as a floral carpet adorns the space above the ground floor windows and also the front façade recesses.

 

This mansion, not so large and looking like a medieval castle, soars upward and kisses the skies. Rising on its ornamented pediment was a lion, three meters tall, as if about to make a leap. Kekushev was fond of figures or bas-reliefs like that, a hallmark of his creations. Unfortunately the sculptural décor of this mansion is gone, though we can see its large photograph.

 

Drawing-room interiors are a colorful illustration of the life of this elitarian neighborhood as it was at the turn of the 20th century. Exquisite furniture--a card table, two easy chairs of Karelian birch veneer jazzed up with bronze brackets. Hanging on the wall is an engraving portraying Prince Mikhail, a son to Emperor Pavel (Paul) I holding the Russian throne in 1796 to 1801; this is a work of Feodor Jordan, an eminent engraver of the day. Next to it, a portrait of the architect Osip Bovet painted in the 1820s by an unknown artist...

 

Let's go on with our sight-seeing stroll about the Ostozhenka neighborhood and turn to the Moskva embankment. Here before us is a big house of red brick built in 1901 to the design of Viktor Vasnetsov, a famous Russian painter and architect, for Ivan Tsvet-

 
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kov, one of the heads of the Moscow Land Bank. This one, a great admirer of pictorial art, brought there his collection of pictures and sketches he had been gathering for decades (it included works of 18th and 19th-century Russian artists like Vassily Tropinin, Karl Briullov, Ilya Repin, Vassily Surikov).

 

Although in 1909 Tsvetkov presented his collection to the city, he kept replenishing it; seventeen years later, the collection (comprising 429 paintings, 1,499 drawings, 38 sculptures) was turned over to the State Tretyakov Art Gallery. His "toy house" on the embankment is a chef-d'oeuvre per se. He recalled that the mansion "was of many colors: built of red brick and bedecked with intricate designs and ceramic tiles, it still looks magnificent"...

 

Ostozhenka with its rich and variegated architectural palette of styles is a true compendium of Moscow architecture. In one of the side-alleys near the Church of St. Eliah the Prophet there stands a house which marries the symmetry of classicism to the Modernist style remarkable for the arched, curving lines of gables and balconies (1903, architect Franz Kognowitsky). Between 1907 and 1913 the Kersins, Arcadius and Maria, had a flat there. In 1896 the spouses founded a coterie of Russian music lovers and were in charge of it up until 1912. This circle evolved into a major philharmonic body popularizing Russian composers and their music.

 

A separate section of the exhibition deals with this society. Of particular interest are the rare objects borrowed from the Mikhail Glinka Museum of Music Culture. These include the score of the Peter Tchaikovsky opera Charodeika (Enchantress) anno 1887, photographs of the opera's librettist Hippolit Shazinsky, a playwright who also lived on Ostozhenka in the late eighteen-hundreds... We see photos of the performers, Shevelev and Tsvetkova, in the main roles; photos of the Kerzin couple (1900-1901). Also on display are bills of concerts (pay-free as a rule) in the Grand Hall of the Noble Assembly (the Column Hall of the House of the Unions today). Some of the articles were contributed by the Museum of Moscow, and by the Galina Vishnevskaya Center of Opera Singing (stage costumes).

 

Rising next is one of the nicest buildings of the neighborhood with neoclassic elements prominent in its exterior décor (1904, architect Nikolai Zherikov). Its façade is in strict symmetry; and its entrances to both wings placed ahead are bedizened with pilasters (rectangular flat columns projecting slightly from the wall). Contrasting with the blue rustic masonry walls are several belts of white raised reliefs depicting classic

 
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Hellene and Roman motifs and sexed up with pictures of wreaths, flowers and oak-leaves.

 

And here's a model of Nordic Moderne, the early-20th century fad current in St. Petersburg but not common to Moscow. This is the apartment house built in 1905-1906 for lease by Peter Loskov, a newly rich peasant, to Alexander Zelenko's design. Living in one of the apartments there in 1916 to 1926 was Alexei Brus-silov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army in the First World War. During the Bolshevik coup of November 1917 and the shelling of Moscow by the Red Guards a shell burst into the general's apartment, its splinter wounding him gravely in the leg.

 

Today this apartment house is protected as an object of national heritage. Lately it has been renovated back to its original look as imprinted in the old photos. What we can see today is a majestic Scandinavian castle with strict stucco décor on its smooth plastered front and a pointed cylinder turret above. The plinth is finished with roughly wrought granite.

 

Yet another building cannot but catch our eye--the apartment house owned by Jacob Filatov (1909, architects Valentine Dubrovsky, Ernst Richard Nirnsee), one of a kind in Moscow owing to its stucco décor depicting fancy plants, peacock tails, fishes, shells, sea monsters spewing jets of water... The roof of the tower at the corner is quite out of the way--it is done in the shape of a wine glass upturned. Legend has it that the merchant, once a heavy drinker, had this house built on money he saved by kicking the

 
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habit and, free at long last from the "green serpent" (liquor), he had his glass turned bottom up. Quits!

 

Yet another wonder--the "Fairyland House" on the embankment put up between 1906 and 1910 by two Moscow modernists, Boris Schnauberg and Nikolai Zhukov, to the sketches of Sergei Malyutin for Peter Pertsov, an engineer. The owner, desiring to furnish flats and studios to artists there, conceived this house in keeping with homeland art motifs. So built it was in the form of classical Russian palatial chambers-- with porches, attics, cellars, semibasements, indoor passages, house-keeping wings, and all that.

 

The roof is a good match. We recall old solars with their mezzanines, gable and curb roofs, bay windows, balconies and tower chambers. The largest tower chamber is supported by two fantastic dragons having serpentine bodies. Prominent in the front décor are pagan motifs of Old Rus prior to her adoption of Christianity. The large majolica panels picture folklore motifs together with the sun, quaint plants and beasts. The Pertsov House makes us think back to medieval architecture, and it is just as enchanting in its asymmetry, riot of color and a variety of styles and décor. Each and every part of the house is a masterpiece.

 

The fanciful motifs of inventive Moderne take us from Old Rus to America. This is our impression of the apartment house of Alexander Melitin (1911, architect Valentine Dubovsky), a lawyer and philanthropist. One of the nicest in Moscow, the external décor of this house has no peer in Moscow. Originally of three levels and furnished with an exquisite mezzanine and a turret cum cupola on top (conceived in the form of a conquistador's helmet), it was rebuilt in the 1920s, with two "no frills" stories added.

 

Yet a good deal survived. The lower façade is finished with brown imitation brick tiles--rectangular, they were much in favor with the modernist masters. Yet in place of an ornamented belt or a solid overhead cover much common to Silver Age architecture, the builders conjured up a Spanish fortaleza put up by the conquistadors in the New World. No olde-worlde look! The house entrance is below one of the oriels (bay windows) faced with coarse granite slabs. Left from the doorway made of the same rough material is a semicolumn, once the seat of a feline beast couchant, probably a jaguar native to Mexico, Central and South America. Its figure of concrete is gone, and it was not reproduced during the renovation of the 1980s. We can see it only on a photograph.

 

Two balconeys in between the oriels are shielded by a latticework fashioned as snake coils. Below we see a majolica panel depicting lush blossoms on thin stems (Peter Vaulin). Elements of the front stucco décor put

 
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us in mind of antique sculptural designs: rather simple in form and not large, they stand out only if we take a close look. Overall, this décor is admirable. Thus, the capitals of thin composite columns are bedight with three scenes of bull heads, fowls of the air arranged in a circle and pecking at exotic berries, and lizards awriggle. On a smooth wall in between the windows of the second and third levels are elaborate mascheroni (raised facial masks) resembling stone gods of the American Aztecs.

 

Next we come upon a monumental building in the neoclassical style (1915, architect Dmitry Chelishchev). It is a historic place: here Sergei Esenin, a great Russian poet of the early 20th century, spent his last months. In June of 1925 he moved in to Sophia's, his last wife and a granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy. A violent alcoholic, Esenin killed himself later on the same year in Leningrad. This period of the poet's life is illustrated by documents and photos, in particular those together with Sophia, kinsfolk and friends. Also there

 
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we can see Leo Tolstoy and his grandchildren (photographs sent in by the Tolstoy Museum).

 

And last, comes a rather curious exhibit--a Moskvich-400 car manufactured at the Moscow Economy Car-Making Plant. Its first baby car launched into production in 1946 is well known to the older generation. It is placed between a street hydrant and a cast-iron lamplight. In 1935 Ostozhenka changed its name to Metrostroyevskaya--named so for the Moscow metro (subway), its first line built underground. In 1986 the street changed its name again, back to the old Ostozhenka.

 

Today this neighborhood is dubbed a "golden mile" because Moscow's most elite and costly real estate is there. But it is dear to us by its past, historical monuments and the air of old Moscow about it.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 20 ноября 2021 года

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