Brian Cooper

A lexicological and etymological study
of some Moscow street names

Australian Slavonic and East European Studies Vol. 21, Nos. 1–2 (2007): 124.

The study of toponyms in the broadest sense is well established in etymology, but generally concerns itself with major geographic areas such as the names of towns, villages, states and countries (Bussmann 1998: 488, s.v. toponymic). However, there seems no reason why it should not apply to much smaller geographical areas such as streets. With this in mind, an attempt is made here to elucidate some of the street names of Moscow, which, although they may seem of minor significance in the field of toponymy, can shed interesting light on the development of neighbourhoods. However, before beginning the study, it would be useful to spend a little time clarifying the areas studied. Kitaj-gorod lies to the east of the Kremlin and is an old quarter whose name in modern Russian would appear to mean ‘China town’, but is believed to derive from the old word kita ‘wattle’,1 after the palisades that reinforced the earlier wall erected round this ancient Kremlin suburb. In the fifteenth century, nobles began to settle here, displacing the original artisans and traders. The nobles left the area eventually to rich merchants, and Kitaj-gorod became what it is today, mainly commercial. Belyj gorod is the historic name of the residential district that encircled the Kremlin and Kitaj-gorod. Its name derives from the white stone ramparts erected around it at the end of the sixteenth century. It remains a useful designation of the area within the horseshoe-shaped Boulevard ring (Bulʹvarnoe kolʹco). In medieval times Belyj gorod was encircled by a humbler Zemljanoj gorod or ‘Earth town’, ringed by an earthen rampart 15 kilometres in diameter.2 It is essentially the area between the Boulevard and Garden rings, and also the Zajauzʹe and Zamoskvorečʹe within the Garden ring. Its wooden houses and muddy lanes changed little until its total destruction by fire in 1812. The old ramparts were levelled to form a ring of boulevards where anyone building a house was obliged to plant trees – the origin of the Garden ring (Sadovoe kolʹco), now a misnomer, since all the trees were felled when it was widened in the 1930s.

In studying the streets of these areas, it would seem sensible to take the Kremlin as the starting point. Beneath the Kremlin walls from Borovickaja square runs Manège street via Manège square to Revolution square (ploščadʹ Revoljucii). The street is named after the Manège (Manež), built in 1817 on the orders of Alexander I so that a whole regiment of infantry could be paraded inside, though the building was primarily intended for horse riding (the French word manège denotes a riding ring or school). It is now the Central Exhibition Hall. Parallel to Manège street for most of its way from Borovickaja square runs Moxovaja street, so called in the eighteenth century after Moxovaja square (on the site of the Manège), where peasants came to sell moss (mox) for blocking holes in the wooden walls of houses. It runs into Tverskaja street. Revolution square was named on 1 May 1918 after the October Revolution. A short distance from the Kremlin’s Borovickie gates (near Borovickaja square), in the direction of the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, is Volxonka street, which stretches from Moxovaja street to Prečistenskie gates. For a time it was part of Prečistenka street, into which it runs. It was named Volxonka in 1725, having been earlier called Lenivaja (Lazy) street and Lenivyj toržok (Brockhaus and Efron 1890–: s.v. Volxonka). It got its name from an inn, ‘Volxonka’, so called because this state-owned tavern (kazennoe pitejnoe) was situated in a house belonging to Prince Volkonskij (Kolodnyj 1999: 8). The whole area through which the street passed was called Čertolʹe, by dissimilation from *Čertorʹe after the name of the river Čertoryj, which ‘the devil dug’ čert ryl and which was so christened by Muscovites irritated by its overflowing in spring. Znamenka street (called Frunze street for a while in the Soviet period) also stretches from Borovickaja square, but at right angles to Volxonka, and ends by opening into Arbat square. Before reconstruction that led to the formation of Borovickaja square (so named in 1956), it started at the Borovickie gates of the Kremlin. It takes its name from the Church of the Sign of the Virgin Mary (cerkovʹ Znamenija Bogorodicy). According to legend, during the siege of Novgorod by soldiers of Prince Andrej Bogoljubskij, the archbishop carried the icon of the Virgin out of the church and placed it on the citadel wall. When one of the arrows hit the icon, tears flowed from the Virgin’s eyes and heavenly forces defeated the attackers. The day when this happened is celebrated as the festival of the Sign, and several churches were founded in Moscow in its honour, as well as the Znamenskij monastery on Varvarka street, so called from an ancient church built in 1514 and dedicated to St Barbara (see Brockhaus and Efron 1890–: s.v. Varvarka).

Some streets have changed their names many times. Vozdviženka, stretching from Arbat gates past the Manège to Moxovaja street and the Kremlin, is typical in this respect. Since its beginning in the thirteenth century it has been called Arbat, Smolenskaja, Vozdviženka, Kominterna, Kalinina and now once again Vozdviženka. It used to begin at the Trinity gates of the Kremlin (Troickie vorota), cross the Neglinnaja river by bridge and pass the village of Vaganʹkovo (Staroe Vaganʹkovo)3 – hence the name of the side-street Starovaganʹskij lane (pereulok) – before heading directly west. Along the road grew up the palaces of boyars and princes who lived then na Arbate, i.e. ‘in the suburb’ if Pisani is right that Arbat derives from Arabic rabâd (see Vasmer 1964–73: s.v. Arbat). It was the tsar Aleksej Mixajlovič who altered its name to Smolenskaja because it was along this road that the trading route to Smolensk began, but in the second half of the seventeenth century the name Vozdviženka became established (with a brief interlude during Soviet times when Comintern street and Kalinin street held sway). The current name is also reflected in the side-street Krestovozdviženskij lane. At number 7 Vozdviženka once stood the Vozdviženskij or Krestovozdviženskij monastery (Kolodnyj 1999: 59; Brockhaus and Efron 1890–: s.v. Vozdviženka) after which the street was named. The name comes from Vozdviženie ‘exaltation of the Cross’, celebrated by the Church on 14 September. It is also referred to as Vozdviženie Kresta (hence Krestovozdviženskij). It involves raising and lowering the Cross many times while singing Gospodi, pomiluj ‘Lord, have mercy’. Prince Vladimir Xovrin (Xavrin) founded the monastery on the site where he lived, where there was a small church (Brockhaus and Efron 1890–: s.v. Vozdviženka; Kolodnyj 1999: 59). The Church of the Exaltation on Vozdviženka was demolished in 1934 (Kolodnyj 1999: 60).

In his work The Master and Margarita Bulgakov has a chase through the streets of Moscow that proceeds thus: И двадцать секунд не прошло, как после Никитских ворот Иван Николаевич был уже ослеплен огнями на Арбатской площади… Опять освещенная магистраль – улица Кропоткина, потом переулок, потом Остоженка и еще переулок… И вот здесь-то…. профессор исчез.

The street Ostoženka4 stretches for a kilometre from Prečistenskie gates and was so named because the water meadows once in the vicinity, where the stacks or ricks (stogá) rose after cutting, were called ostožʹe (Kolodnyj 1999: 83). Dalʹ defines the word, which he classes as ‘old’, in this way: ‘луг, пожня, покос такой меры, чтобы давал стожок сена’ (Dalʹ 1912–14: s.v. ostožʹe). The neighbour of Ostoženka is the attractive street Prečistenka,5 which came into being hundreds of years after Ostoženka, because it was never a road between two towns or a passage for trade. It appeared after the foundation of the Novodevičij convent in 1524 and ran to it from the Čertolʹskie (now Prečistenskie) gates of Belyj gorod, which gave it its original name, Bolʹšaja Čertolʹskaja. It now runs only as far as Zubovskaja square and then becomes Zubovskaja street, which becomes Bolʹšaja Pirogovskaja before reaching the convent. The pious tsar Aleksej Mixajlovič, who regularly visited the convent to worship at the icon of Prečistaja Bogomaterʹ (Most Pure Mother of God), changed the name of the street to what it is today. There is also a lane, Prečistenskij pereulok, which leads off Prečistenka.

If the Kremlin is the heart of Moscow, the Arbat is its soul. Bulat Okudžava was right, its name is strange (Kolodnyj 1999: 131): Ты течешь, как река. Странное название!…
Ах, Арбат, мой Арбат, ты – мое призвание.
Ты и радость моя, и моя беда.

As mentioned above, it is believed to derive from an Arabic word meaning ‘suburb’, for it was once a suburb in relation to the Kremlin.6 Arbat is the name given to the whole area between Ostoženka and Povarskaja street (which runs from near Arbat gates to Kudrinskaja square). The Arbat was also the road to the western frontiers,7 whence came many a threat to Moscow. For this reason the tsars settled three regiments of strelʹcy here. Neighbouring the Streleckie slobody were the quarters of carpenters and craftsmen of the Serebrjanyj and Denežnyj dvor. Courts in this sense were evidently enclosed yards containing the houses and workshops of the relevant craftsmen. From these came the names of such side-streets as Serebrjanyj and Denežnyj lane and Carpenters’ lane (Plotnikov pereulok), which all run off Old Arbat street (ulica Staryj Arbat). Okudžava sang inspirationally about this district where he grew up ‘дыша воздухом истории’ (Kolodnyj 1999: 132): Я – дворянин с арбатского двора,
Своим двором введенный во дворянство.

Similarly Jurij Kazakov wrote (Kolodnyj 1999: 132): Господи, как я любил Арбат! Когда я из своей коммуналки переехал в Бескудниково, то понял, что Арбат – это как бы особый город, даже население иное.

Ivan Bunin shares this view of the Arbat in his poem Moskva and waxes lyrical about the churches (Kolodnyj 1999: 132): Здесь в старых переулках за Арбатом
Совсем особый город…
Кресты на древней церковке…
В глубоком небе весело сияют,
Как золотые кованые шлемы, –
Головки мелких куполов.

One such church once stood in Nikolopeskovskij lane; built in the mid-seventeenth century, it was known as cerkovʹ Nikoly na Peskax, after Nikolaj Čudotvorec (St Nicholas the Miracle Worker), to whom a side chapel was dedicated.

Povarskaja street,8 with no shops or restaurants, seems quiet and little populated compared with the Arbat. No tramlines or horse-drawn trams were ever established on this street. It lost its importance as a trade route to Novgorod in the fifteenth century, but Ivan III and Ivan IV made their triumphal entrances to the capital, after their Novgorod campaigns, along this road. Ivan IV took the street into his opričnina (special administrative élite) and settled princes and courtiers there. Their courts began to crowd out the original residents of the Povarskaja sloboda (cooks’ quarter) which gave the street its name. The occupations of other former residents of the street are enshrined in the name of side-streets like Xlebnyj, Skatertnyj, Stolovyj and Nožnoj lane (pereulok), respectively Bread, Tablecloth, Table and Knife lane, the first two of which run parallel to each other, leading off Povarskaja street and eventually joining Merzljakovskij lane, a dead end. When the tsar’s court moved to St Petersburg, the sloboda was abolished and this area, with its mundane name, gradually became one of the most ‘aristocratic’ in Moscow. Until 1917 princes and counts lived in private houses on Povarskaja, along with rich merchant families. A guidebook of 1831 described the street in these words (Kolodnyj 1999: 163): Нет улицы, которая была бы так пряма и ровна, как сия. На ней нет величественных зданий, но она очень красива.

From the end of the nineteenth century it could have been called Unter den Linden, like the street in Berlin, because linden (lime) trees grew on both sides of it. Unfortunately it came under Xruščev’s plan for the New Arbat (1960s). So that a great main road could be built across the Arbat heading directly west, a notable house with a rotunda was demolished on the corner of Bolʹšaja Molčanovka (which runs parallel to New Arbat street, previously called Kalinin prospect), as were many other buildings. This desecration of the Arbat was characterized thus in the press: До объявления района Арбата заповедной зоной в самом центре его была прорезана мощная магистраль – проспект Калинина, – стершая с карты Москвы целиком или частично многие улочки и переулки. При этом на участке от Арбатской площади до Садового кольца – длиной около километра – в новой высотной застройке оказались… только пять жилых домов.

Kalinin prospect has been renamed New Arbat street (ulica Novyj Arbat), in contrast to the now pedestrianized Old Arbat street, which runs down to Smolenskaja-Sennaja square. This same newspaper article ends by urging protection for the Arbat before it is too late: Арбат – это символ старого города, и его надо сохранить таким, каким его знали старожилы Москвы… Не должен конкурировать Арбат с новым городом, расположенным рядом на проспекте Калинина… напротив – должен контрастировать с ним, сохраняя те остатки старины, которые еще можно сохранить.

Now Povarskaja street runs, not from Arbat gates, but from Merzljakovskij lane, from which it is separated by the dead end of a house wall.

Bolʹšaja Molčanovka starts from Povarskaja street near Arbat gates and goes on to Trubnikovskij lane. In antiquity it was a big radial road from beyond Arbat gates to Novinskij monastery, the country residence of the Moscow metropolitan and later patriarch. In the seventeenth century, on part of this road between zemljanoj val, the earthen rampart surrounding Zemljanoj gorod, and Trubnikovskij lane, the tsar’s Krečetnyj dvor was built, which is recalled in the name Krečetnikovskij lane. Alongside krečetniki ‘gerfalconers’ lived trubniki (that is, pečniki ‘stove makers’ and trubočisty ‘chimney sweeps’) of the tsar’s court; hence the name Trubnikovskij lane. The name Molčanovka comes from the court of M. A. Molčanov, which was on this street from the start of the seventeenth century, and from other Molčanovs, like Danila and Sidor Molčanov (early eighteenth-century courtiers and nobles) and college assessor V. I. Molčanov (early nineteenth century). Gagarinskij lane runs from Gogolevskij boulevard to Plotnikov (Carpenters’) lane, and Sivcev Vražek lane runs from the same boulevard to Denežnyj lane. The former was originally Starokonjušennaja street (seventeenth–eighteenth century) but in the nineteenth century was named after Prince B. I. Gagarin, who owned several courts in the lane. As for Sivcev Vražek, in antiquity there was here a vražek, i.e. a small ravine (ovrag), along which flowed the small river Sivka, which joined the Čertoryj river near the modern Gogolevskij boulevard. In the eighteenth century the ravine was filled in and the Sivka flowed in an open ditch along the southern side of the lane. In the nineteenth century the Sivka and Čertoryj were enclosed in underground pipes (Sytin 2000: 228, 230, 234).

Bolʹšaja Nikitskaja street, which was renamed Herzen street in Soviet days after the writer Aleksandr Gercen (Herzen) but has reverted to its original name, is notably long (one kilometre 700 metres according to Kolodnyj 1999: 185). It runs from Manège square to Kudrinskaja square (in Soviet times Uprising square, ploščadʹ Vosstanija) and is now divided by the Nikita gates into two parts which originally had different names, the passage to the gates of Belyj gorod being once called Novgorodskaja and Volockaja street (the so-called Volockaja doroga to Novgorod via Volokolamsk). There is also a Malaja Nikitskaja street,9 stretching from the Nikita gates to Sadovaja-Kudrinskaja street and running almost parallel to the section of Bolʹšaja Nikitskaja street from Nikita gates to Kudrinskaja square. Ivan IV removed the Opričnyj dvor from the Kremlin and positioned it between Vozdviženka and Bolʹšaja Nikitskaja. Nikitskij convent, from which Bolʹšaja Nikitskaja took its name, was behind the Opričnyj dvor (Kolodnyj 1999: 185). The convent was founded by the nobleman Nikita Romanovič Jurʹev, father of Patriarch Filaret and grandfather of the first Romanov tsar, Mixail Fedorovič. The court of the Romanovs was close to the convent and is reflected in Romanov lane, which runs between Vozdviženka and Bolʹšaja Nikitskaja. In 1626, seven years before his death, Patriarch Filaret founded the stone church of Smolenskaja Bogomaterʹ beyond the gates of Zemljanoj gorod. Before becoming patriarch, Filaret was the nobleman Fedor Nikitič Romanov who fought at the walls of Smolensk, held peace talks with the Poles, was imprisoned in Poland for eight years for refusing to accept unfavourable peace terms and finally returned to Moscow in triumph as patriarch. It is perhaps not surprising that so many streets in the vicinity of Smolenskaja Bogomaterʹ church have names such as Smolenskaja street, Smolenskaja square, Smolenskaja embankment, Smolenskaja-Sennaja square, First Smolenskij lane and Smolenskij boulevard (Kolodnyj 1999: 186–187). Vozdviženka, of course, was earlier called Smolenskaja because the trading route to Smolensk began along this road.

Spiridonovka (briefly called Aleksej Tolstoj street in Soviet times after the writer A. N. Tolstoj) runs from Sadovaja-Kudrinskaja street to Malaja Nikitskaja street. There is also a Spiridonovskij lane that runs off Spiridonovka. Both were named after the Church of Spiridon, which stood at the corner of Spiridonovskij lane and Spiridonovka (Sytin 2000: 243). Leading off Spiridonovka as far as Vspolʹnyj lane runs Granatnyj lane. It is parallel with Malaja Nikitskaja street and was renamed Ščusev street in 1949, after a Russian architect, but has reverted to the name it was given in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries because here was the tsar’s Granatnyj dvor, where artillery shells and grenades were manufactured (Sytin 2000: 240). Malaja Bronnaja street runs from Tverskoj boulevard on the Boulevard ring about a kilometre to Sadovaja-Kudrinskaja street on the Garden ring. It is in fact 200 metres longer that Bolʹšaja Bronnaja street, which stretches from Tverskaja street to Malaja Bronnaja. The streets’ name comes from the seventeenth century: between Malaja Nikitskaja and Tverskaja in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lay the court (dvorcovaja) Bronnaja sloboda, which was under control of the Oružejnaja palata and in 1632 numbered 103 courts. In it lived bronniki, craftsmen who made bronja ‘armour’ and cold weaponry (xolodnoe oružie) for the troops (Sytin 2000: 243).

Along the road from St Petersburg (now called Leningrad prospect), and then along Tverskaja-Jamskaja street, troikas would come rushing into Tverskaja street (called Gorʹkij street in Soviet days after the writer Maxim Gorʹkij), the main street of the city (Kolodnyj 1999: 209). Tverskaja, the road to Tverʹ and then to Novgorod, did not immediately become the city’s main street. It was originally occupied by many people from Tverʹ and Novgorod who lived in their own sloboda (quarter) and built houses, shops, churches and smithies. The stone houses of noblemen soon ousted the sloboda buildings and in the eighteenth century the street became the main one of the old capital. As it was said, ‘город Тверь – в Москву дверь’. It also opened the way to St Petersburg, the new capital of the empire. Along it came important foreign guests to the Posolʹskij dvor and also victory parades and the triumphal entrance of emperors. On the site of the demolished Tverʹ gates an arch was erected to Peter I in 1722. A triumphal arch also marked the victory over Napoleon in 1812. Belinskij wrote of the street in 1845 (Kolodnyj 1999: 211): Въезжая в первый раз в Москву, наш петербуржец въедет в новый для него мир. Тщетно будет он искать главной или лучшей московской улицы, которую мог бы он сравнить с Невским проспектом. Ему покажут Тверскую улицу, – и он с изумлением увидит себя посреди кривой и узкой, по горе тянущейся улицы,… на которой самый огромный и самый красивый дом считался бы в Петербурге весьма скромным со стороны огромности и изящества домом.

Yet this street had six of the seven hotels in the city, and it was here that Puškin often stayed. He frequented the English club on Tverskaja and wrote of the street in Eugene Onegin (chapter 7, stanza 38): Прощай, свидетель падшей славы,
Петровский замок. Ну! не стой,
Пошел! Уже столпы, заставы
Белеют; вот уж по Тверской
Возок несется чрез ухабы.
Мелкают мимо будки, бабы,
Мальчишки, лавки, фонари,
Дворцы, сады, монастыри,
Бухарцы, сани, огороды,
Купцы, лачужки, мужики,
Бульвары, башни, казаки,
Аптеки, магазины моды,
Балконы, львы на воротах10
И стая галок на крестах.

Parallel with Tverskaja from the Boulevard ring to Oxotnyj rjad street and Theatre square (Teatralʹnaja ploščadʹ) runs Bolʹšaja Dmitrovka, not to be confused with Malaja Dmitrovka, which stretches from the Garden ring to the Boulevard ring (Puškin square). For a time during the Soviet period it was called Puškin street, just as Malaja Dmitrovka was called Čexov street. It is one of the oldest streets in Moscow and already in the fourteenth century a big trading route passed along here to Dmitrov, the nearest Moscow port to the Volga on its tributary the Jaxroma. Near this road at the end of the fourteenth and start of the fifteenth century was the quarter of dmitrovcy who moved to live permanently in Moscow. The Malaja Dmitrovskaja sloboda separated from it in the sixteenth century as did the Novaja Dmitrovskaja sloboda in the seventeenth century, resulting in the current Dolgorukovskaja and Novoslobodskaja streets respectively, both being continuations of Malaja Dmitrovka beyond the Garden ring (Sytin 2000: 135). As for Malaja Dmitrovka, on this site up to the sixteenth century was a field through which passed the trade route from Moscow to Dmitrov, the nearest port to Moscow, which linked it via the rivers Jaxroma, Sestra and Dubna with the Volga. On the left of the road in the sixteenth century stood the vorotniki, guards of the gates of the Kremlin and Kitaj-gorod. On this site now stand Staropimenovskij, Vorotnikovskij and Degtjarnyj11 lanes. On the right of the road in the sixteenth century were the courts of the vyxodcy who came from the Dmitrovskaja sloboda.

Oxotnyj rjad (literally Hunters’ row), between Tverskaja and Theatre square (which is in front of the Bolʹšoj theatre), was occupied in the seventeenth century by three main rows of trading stalls (mučnoj, žitnoj and solodovennyj) which ran parallel to the river Neglinnaja (compare Neglinnaja street) where this river flowed before it was enclosed in underground pipes. In the eighteenth century several wooden stalls bore the name Oxotnyj rjad, though the main part of it was on the present Manège square. It was called by this name because wild and domesticated birds were sold here (Sytin 2000: 87-89, 141). Kuzneckij bridge street, which runs behind the Bolʹšoj theatre from Bolʹšaja Dmitrovka to Bolʹšaja Lubjanka street, hides beneath it the Neglinka or Neglina river that once flowed into the heart of Moscow, encircling the Kremlin and Kitaj-gorod. In Catherine II’s reign it was channelled into a pipe running under what is now Neglinnaja street (literally ‘without clay’)12 but continued to flood owing to its infrequent cleaning and the locals’ habit of dumping rubbish into the storm drains. It was finally hidden successfully underground in 1819. When the river was hidden, the 120-metre stone bridge linking its banks (the right bank where Petrovka street is now and the left bank where Neglinnaja street is) was no longer needed (Kolodnyj 1999: 259). It was united with Kuzneckij lane and the united street was called Kuzneckij bridge street (ulica Kuzneckij most). It was named after the blacksmiths (kuznecy) who from the time of Ivan III lived in that vicinity, where stood also the sovereign’s Pušečnyj dvor or cannon foundry. The northern parapet of the bridge was used as the foundation for a long building containing shops (still in existence today at number 7).

Stolešnikov lane is a now pedestrianized roadway 416 metres long that stretches between Petrovka street and Tverskaja square; it runs parallel to Tverskoj passage (proezd) for part of its length. Its name immortalizes the craftsmen who wove stolešniki-skaterti (tablecloths) for the tsar’s court. Stolešnik (Dalʹ gives the variant spelling stolečnik) is an old and dialectal word for a tablecloth, presumably related to stol (table), the modern equivalent being skatertʹ. The lane achieved its present length in 1922 when the Soviet authorities in Moscow renamed and sometimes amalgamated many old streets. Stolešnikov lane was united with Kosmodamianskij lane and in the process another name associated with religion was abolished; for the latter lane was so called after the Church of Kosʹma and Damian, the lower storey of which survived (Kolodnyj 1999: 287). The church was on a hill from which brooks flowed into the Neglinka, but now Stolešnikov lane slopes to Bolʹšaja Dmitrovka and stretches to Petrovka. A continuation of Petrovka from Petrovskie gates to the Garden ring is Karetnyj rjad. The many reforms introduced by Peter I included the use of French carriages (karety) instead of the old kolymagi, kibitki and vozki. Fit for riding in town and in the country, they gave rise to Karetnyj rjad beyond the Petrovskie gates, where there had long been a Teležnyj rjad (Sytin 2000: 249). Leading off Karetnyj rjad are Malyj Karetnyj lane and Srednij Karetnyj lane, and off these Bolʹšoj Karetnyj lane (see also Kolymažnyj lane from Gogolevskij boulevard to Volxonka street).

Petrovka street now stretches from Petrovskie gates to Theatre square and the Bolʹšoj theatre. It ends at Petrovka 38, headquarters of the police and CID and as famous in Russia as Scotland Yard is in Britain. It once ran from the Kremlin’s Trinity tower along the Neglinka (beginning like all the oldest streets at the citadel itself) and rose along the slope of the hill to the village of Vysokoe and the Petrovskij monastery, which is ‘na Vysokom’. The Petrovskij or Vysokopetrovskij monastery has six churches and was established by Ivan Kalita and metropolitan Peter in honour of the apostles Peter and Paul (Kolodnyj 1999: 313). The elevation of this monastery above all other fortress-monasteries that surrounded Moscow in the Middle Ages occurred in the reign of Peter the Great. It is the oldest building on Petrovka street. The oldest structures date from the seventeenth century, while the name of the monastery and the street remind us not only of metropolitan Peter and the apostle Peter but also of Peter I (Kolodnyj 1999: 315).

One of the rivers to which Moscow owes its development (besides the Moskva and Jauza) now flows underground: the Neglinnaja, variously called also Neglimna, Neglinna and Neglinka. It was hidden in an underground pipe (truba) and hence the square through which it passed is Trubnaja square (at the meeting of Neglinnaja street and Roždestvenskij, Petrovskij and Cvetnoj13 boulevards). The passage (proezd) formed on the site of the dried up river bed was called Neglinnyj and was designated a street in 1922 (Kolodnyj 1999: 343). Although the river was small, its right (lower) bank often flooded after heavy rain, while its higher left bank rose in a steep hill. From the end of the fifteenth century, during the ascendancy of Moscow, the Pušečnyj dvor arose in the Neglinka area, because much water was required for the activity of the foundry. The river was therefore dammed to form a pond, which was not very clean and came to be called Poganyj. This all changed in the reign of Catherine II, when the Neglinka was given a more civilized appearance: ‘Быть каналу и бассейнам реки Неглинной с проездами по сторонам’ (Kolodnyj 1999: 343). There appeared a canal with bridges, fountains and a boulevard. A basin replaced the Poganyj pond. The canal was called Kanava (ditch) because of its impassable mud during rains. The Moscow historian Professor Ivan Mixajlovič Snegirev, as a student, walked to university along the canal, recalling in 1866: ‘Канава вела на каменный Кузнецкий мост, на который надобно было всходить ступеней пятнадцать под арками’. Despite all attempts of eighteenth-century engineers this part of Moscow did not turn into an imitation of St Petersburg and so it was decided after the fire of 1812 to fill in the open canal ‘по недостаточному в нем течению воды от накапливающейся нечистоты… перекрыть арками, засыпать’ (Kolodnyj 1999: 344). This was carried out in 1819 and so emerged Neglinnaja street, no longer muddy: ne-glinnaja (glina = clay). The former flooded areas along the banks were sold cheaply on condition that houses no lower than 9.5 metres were built within five years. Two-storey buildings quickly appeared.

Roždestvenka (in Soviet times Ždanov) street runs directly from north to south, from Roždestvenskij boulevard in the north to Theatre passage (Teatralʹnyj proezd) in the south. It is wrongly said to be the shortest radius of the Boulevard ring, but in fact its neighbour, Bolʹšaja Lubjanka street, is shorter. It is a typical old Moscow street that led from the gates of Kitaj-gorod to the Roždestvenskij monastery, to which it owes its name. This came into being in 1386 in honour of the birth of the Virgin Mary, Roždestvo Bogorodicy (Kolodnyj 1999: 363). The word lubjanka, of uncertain origin, forms part of the name of several streets: Bolʹšaja Lubjanka, which stretches from the Boulevard ring to Lubjanskaja square (in Soviet times Dzeržinskaja square and in the early nineteenth century Nikolʹskaja square); Malaja Lubjanka, which almost runs into Bolʹšaja Lubjanka at its northern end and runs down to Furkasovskij lane further south; Lubjanskij passage (proezd), which runs from Lubjanskaja to Slavjanskaja square; and Lubjanskaja square itself. As regards the origin of the name Lubjanka, some suppose that in this area there once grew young larch trees, from which the inner bark or bast (lub) was torn off in strips (lubok). Others think that the name was brought by people of Pskov and Novgorod when they were forcibly moved to Moscow; there is a street in Novgorod called Lubjanica, while in Pskov lubok denotes a basket or punnet (Kolodnyj 1999: 391).

People from Pskov and Novgorod built houses on Kučkovo field, on the summit of one of the hills between the Neglinka and the Jauza, and long before Moscow came into being the rich villages of the nobleman Kučka were situated in this vicinity. They were forfeited to Prince Jurij Dolgorukij, whom Kučka displeased, and the story goes thus (Kolodnyj 1999: 391): Юрий Владимирович [Долгорукий] возходит на гору и обозрев с нея очама своими семо и овамо по обе стороны Москвы-реки и за Неглинною, и возлюби села оны, и повелевает на месте том вскоре соделати мал древян град, и прозвав званием Москва-град по имени реки, текущия под ним.

The new town on Borovickij hill was still known by two names in manuscripts at the end of the twelfth century: ‘…идоша с ним до Кучкова рекше до Москвы’. Through Kučkovo field ran an important road to the capital of the grand princedom of Vladimir, which yielded to the emerging Moscow in the internecine strife between them (Kolodnyj 1999: 392). Muscovites greeted the icon of Vladimirskaja Božʹja Materʹ (the Vladimir Mother of God) on Kučkovo field near the church of Marija Egipetskaja. Na ustretenʹi (at the place of triumphal greeting), a second church was built nearby in honour of the icon, and the Sretenskij monastery was founded (Kolodnyj 1999: 393, see also note 14).

Bolʹšaja Lubjanka runs into Sretenka street beyond the Boulevard ring, on which are Sretenskij boulevard and the Sretenskie gates.14 Not built before the mid-sixteenth century, Sretenka (named after the gates built in 1395) then runs to Malaja Suxarevskaja square,15 which is adjacent to Bolʹšaja Suxarevskaja square on the Garden ring. It runs for 800 metres to the summit of Sretenskij hill, where Kučkovo field extends. Once part of the road to the Troice-Sergiev monastery, Rostov the Great and Suzdalʹ, to the shores of the White sea and the first port of the country, Arxangelʹsk (built in 1584), it passed across the higher bank of the Neglinka. From the odd-numbered left side of Sretenka a steep slope falls to the Neglinka in seven side-streets, namely Bolʹšoj Suxarevskij, Poslednij, Bolʹšoj Golovin, Puškarev, Bolʹšoj Sergievskij, Kolokolʹnikov and Pečatnikov lanes. On the other side of Sretenka there are still more side-streets (nine in all), including Daev, Seliverstov, Malyj Golovin, Prosvirin, Lukov, Aščeulov and Rybnikov lanes. That makes sixteen lanes off one street. Nowhere else in the city does a street have so many side-streets, even in the Arbat (Kolodnyj 1999: 427). Sytin reckons that in one of the Sretenka quarters 32 professions were represented in 60 courts. Passages were required to the shops and workshops. In time these turned into side-streets, forming a unique street plan. The courts included Pečatnyj dvor and midway along the street Pušečnyj dvor. Alongside Sretenka on Bolʹšaja Lubjanka in 1620 were the courts of traders and craftsmen of the Sretenskaja sotnja (sloboda) or Sretenskaja guild. Eventually a New Sretenskaja quarter emerged between Trubnaja street and Kostjanskij lane.

Mjasnickaja street (in Soviet times Kirov street), which runs from Sadovaja-Spasskaja street on the Garden ring via Mjasnickie gates on the Boulevard ring to Lubjanskaja square, is one and a half kilometres long. During the time of Ivan IV it was occupied by butchers (mjasniki) who gravitated to the market at the city gates, where cattle were traded that had been driven to Moscow for sale (Kolodnyj 1999: 441). Off Mjasnickaja runs Malyj Xaritonʹevskij lane, which runs into Bolʹšoj Xaritonʹevskij lane. These were named after the Church of Xaritonij that stood on the corner of the two lanes. Bolʹšoj Xaritonʹevskij runs parallel to Mjasnickaja from the Boulevard ring to Sadovaja Černogrjazskaja street on the Garden ring and till the end of the eighteenth century was called Xomutovka or Xomutovskaja street, then in the 1830s Xomutovskij lane. This is recalled in the name Xomutovskij tupik (dead-end) given to the continuation of the lane on the other side of Sadovaja Černogrjazskaja street on the Garden ring (Sytin 2000: 255).

The small Marosejka street runs from the Ilʹinskie gates of Kitaj-gorod on Lubjanka passage (Lubjanskij proezd) up to Pokrovka street and carries in its name a reminder of a drinking court and inn (podvorʹe) for ‘малороссийских городов казаков и мещан, которые будут к Москве приезжать для всяких своих дел и с товарами’ (Kolodnyj 1999: 513). There traded alongside the inn an establishment nicknamed Marosejka, from which the street took its name. In Soviet times it was renamed Bogdan Xmelʹnickij street, although neither the hetman nor any other high-ranking guests from the Ukraine ever visited it, preferring more prestigious accommodation. In the Middle Ages foreigners (nemcy) who lived on Marosejka were moved to the Nemeckaja sloboda (foreigners’ quarter) on the outskirts of Moscow. Until the accession of Aleksej Mixajlovič, Marosejka was a royal road along which the tsar and his suite travelled to royal residences in Pokrovskoe, Preobraženskoe and Izmajlovo. The ordinary people walked along this road to the Ogorodnaja, Kazennaja and Basmannaja quarters. Before the tsar, the grand princes followed this road to their out-of-town estates, with flowering gardens (sady). Hence one of the side-streets off this road is called Starosadskij lane (Kolodnyj 1999: 513).

Pokrovka street, which runs from the end of Marosejka via Pokrovskie gates to Zemljanoj Val square on the Garden ring, seems patriarchal, with two- and three-storey buildings along the greater part of its length. The twentieth-century writer Jurij Nagibin was born here and has this to say of it (Kolodnyj 1999: 531): Бродя по Маросейке и Покровке и прилегающим переулкам, я переношусь в прошлое. Стоит закрыть глаза, и я слышу протяжные голоса бродячих ремесленников и торговцев… И самые томительно-певучие, как будто с древних степей, высокие голоса старьевщиков… ‘Старые берье-е-о-ом!’

In the Soviet period Pokrovka became Černyševskij street, even though Černyševskij (a native of the Volga) never lived there. As for the origin of the name Pokrovka, it derived from the Church of the Protection (Intercession) of the Virgin in the Gardens (cerkovʹ Pokrova v Sadex), though the gardens were cut down and the church demolished in 1777 on account of dilapidation. Pokrovka was heavily built up during the reigns of Elizabeth and Catherine II in the styles of Baroque and Classicism. In the eighteenth century there were five churches (not counting Virgin in the Gardens) from the Ilʹinskie gates to Zemljanoj gorod (Kolodnyj 1999: 532), including the notable Church of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin v Kotelʹnikax (kotelʹniki was the name given to the quarter where there were craftsmen making cauldrons, kotly), which once stood near Potapovskij lane, previously called Uspenskij (Assumption) lane, a side-street of Pokrovka. The rich merchant Ivan Matveevič Sverčkov, whose house once stood in the side-street now called Sverčkov lane, which runs off Potapovskij lane, decided to build a many-domed church. On one of the columns of the upper church an inscription, after the date 7214 (1705) October 21, said ‘дело рук’ and ‘Петруша Потапов’, so Peter Potapov came to be considered the author of this church, the so-called cerkovʹ Uspenija po Pokrovke, which was pulled down in 1936, supposedly to widen Pokrovka street (Kolodnyj 1999: 533).

Having more or less circled the Garden ring in studying some of the notable streets of Moscow, we come to Soljanka street, which runs from Zabelin street to the Jauzskie (Jauza) gates, where begin streets named after the Jauza river: Jauza street and Jauza boulevard, the former of which crosses that river, while the latter forms part of the Boulevard ring. Soljanka is at the start of the road out of Moscow to the ancient Russian towns of Kolomna, Vladimir and Rjazanʹ. The troops of Dmitrij Donskoj passed along this road in 1380 to Kulikovo field16 and returned along it in triumph. In the seventeenth–eighteenth century on the corner of Soljanka and Bolʹšoj Ivanovskij lane stood the tsar’s Soljanoj dvor (salt court), from which the street takes its name (Sytin 2000: 164). The Denežnyj dvor, where the tsar’s silver money was minted, was on Jauza street (a continuation of Soljanka) in the seventeenth century. Around it lived masters of that court, serebrjaniki (derived from serebrjanyj ‘silver’), whence come the names of Serebrjaničeskij lane, which runs off Jauza street, and (parallel to it and to the Jauza river) Serebrjaničeskaja embankment, which borders the Jauza between Jauza street and the Vysokojauzskij bridge. Serebrjaničeskij lane was the main street of the Serebrjaničeskaja sloboda (Sytin 2000: 165).

Among roads on the Boulevard ring, Strastnoj boulevard got its name from the Strastnoj convent which stood nearby, while Petrovskij boulevard was named after the Petrovskij monastery on it, and Roždestvenskij boulevard after the Roždestvenskij convent built in the fourteenth century on the hill of the river Neglinnaja. Čistoprudnyj boulevard was named after the Čistyj prud (Pure pond) which is near it, while Pokrovskij boulevard got its name from the Pokrovskie gates of Belyj gorod, from which it starts. It finishes near Voroncovo field street (in the Soviet period Obux street, named in 1935 after Dr V. A. Obux, an old Bolshevik (Sytin 2000: 260). Voroncovo field street was named after Voroncovo pole, an area in Moscow where there previously stood a village belonging to the Voroncov family (Brockhaus and Efron 1890–: s.v. Voroncovo pole). Jauzskij (Jauza) boulevard, the last link in the chain of the Boulevard ring,17 begins at Voroncovo field street and finishes near the Jauza gates, from which it took its name (Sytin 2000: 183, 185, 188, 191, 193, 195).

In the Zamoskvorečʹe, the area beyond the Moscow river (over Bolʹšoj Moskvoreckij bridge), Sadovničeskaja street, which is parallel with Sadovničeskaja embankment, was named Osipenko street for a time under the Soviets after the pilot Polina Osipenko, but has reverted to its original name, derived from the designation of this whole area, once known as Sadovniki because the tsar’s sadovniki ‘gardeners’ tended the Gosudarev sad (Sovereign’s garden) which stood on the modern Bolotnaja (Marsh) square. Pjatnickaja street was named after the Church of Paraskeva Pjatnica,18 which stood on the site of the current metro station Novokuzneckaja. Bolʹšaja Ordynka street, stretching from Bolʹšoj Moskvoreckij bridge (Great Moscow river bridge) to Serpuxovskaja square, shows the great age of Moscow, for here passed the road from the Golden Horde (orda) to the Kremlin and the posad (centre of trade), which up to 1367 was on the eastern side of the current Kremlin. Along this street lived ordyncy (Tatars) and Russian court servants who carried documents (gramoty) from the Grand Prince to the Orda. Balčug street, a small but very old street just across the Great Moscow river bridge, is a quarter of a kilometre long from the Moscow river to the Vodootvodnyj canal. Its name comes from Tatar Bal-čex meaning mud or marsh (see Sytin 2000: 205-210); compare Kazax balqaš ‘marshy land’.

Sofijskaja embankment, opposite the Kremlin (where the former British embassy stood), stretches from Bolʹšoj Kamennyj bridge (Great Stone bridge) to Bolʹšoj Moskvoreckij bridge. It gets its name from the Church of Sofia. During 1862–68 N. I. Kozlovskij the architect built on the embankment a large bell tower for this church in Byzantine style. The tower still survives. Bolʹšaja Poljanka street reminds one of the fields (polja) that were here in the past. At the start of the seventeenth century the street ran only to its exit onto Staromonetnyj lane (less than half its current length), after which came vspolʹe,19 the start of fields between which ran Serpuxovskaja doroga, which in turn ran to the old road from Novgorod to Rjazanʹ. The current road runs from the Vodootvodnyj canal to Dobryninskaja (Serpuxovskaja) square. Bolʹšaja Jakimanka street,20 into which Jakimanka lane and Malaja Jakimanka street both run, was called Kalužskaja in the seventeenth century because the road to Moscow from Kaluga had run here since the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It was later called Jakimanka because the Church of Joachim (Joakim) and Anna stood here. Serafimovič street (near Bolotnaja square) was named in the 1930s after the writer A. S. Popov (pseudonym Serafimovič), who lived on it. Its former name Vsexsvjatskaja was after the nearby Vsexsvjatskij (Bolʹšoj Kamennyj) bridge.21 It is one of the oldest streets in Moscow and along it ran the road from Novgorod to Rjazanʹ and other towns near the river Oka, even before Moscow existed. It was a military and trade route. To the east of this street was the Gosudarev sad and to the west the courts of the sadovniki and clergy of the Church of Nikola v Bersenevke. The street was separated from Bersenevskaja embankment by the Berseneva rešetka named after the nobleman I. N. Bersenʹ-Beklemišev. At the end of the fifteenth century Bersenevka was occupied by the courts of gardeners and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was called Verxnjaja Sadovaja sloboda. Some think the name of this area, Bersenevka, came from bersenʹ, an old and dialectal word for gooseberry (Filin 2002: s.v. bersenʹ), of which there were many in the Gosudarev sad, but others think it came from the Berseneva rešetka (Sytin 2000: 211–220).

Nikolojamskaja street runs off Jauza street and across Zemljanoj Val street to Andronʹevskaja square. It was given this name in the eighteenth century from the Church of Nikola v Jamax which stood on it (in the seventeenth century it was simply called Nikolaevskaja after the same church). For a time in the Soviet period it was named Ulʹjanovskaja street after V. I. Ulʹjanov (Lenin). Verxnjaja Radiščevskaja street, which runs from Jauza street to Taganka square, was named in honour of A. N. Radiščev, the eighteenth-century writer. Until 1922 it was called Verxnjaja Bolvanovka because here in the seventeenth century there was a quarter of craftsmen making bolvanki (blocks or moulds for shaping headgear). The Church of Nikola v Bolvanovke stood on this street. Taganskaja street (in the Soviet period called Internacionalʹnaja street in 1922 after the First International) is the main road of the whole district called Taganka, between the rivers Moscow and Jauza as far as the zastavy (boundaries or gates of the city), e.g. Abelʹmanovskaja zastava and Krestʹjanskaja zastava. The name comes from the seventeenth century when on the street ‘идучи от Яузского моста направо’ was the Tagannaja Remeslennaja sloboda, whose inhabitants made tagany, iron cauldrons for cooking food. In 1632 this quarter had 93 courts. The street is even older; already in the fourteenth century it was part of the road to Kolomna, Rjazanʹ and other towns.

Gončarnaja street, named Volodarskij street (ulica Volodarskogo) in 1922 after the Bolshevik M. M. Volodarskij, has reverted to its original name, which came from the quarter of gončary ‘potters’ that was there in the seventeenth century. The name is recalled in the Church of the Assumption (Uspenija) na Gončarax built in 1654 at the end of the street. Originally Gončarnaja consisted of two streets, Všivaja Gorka and Gončarnaja (which ran from Taganka square to Svešnikov lane near the Jauza). The name všivaja ‘lousy’ was felt to be so unpleasant that it was altered to the meaningless Švivaja gorka. Academician A. I. Sobolevskij plausibly connected it with the old word ušʹ ‘thorny plant, thistle’, with which the gorka was covered. In time this was forgotten and Ušivaja gorka became Všivaja gorka. Stretching from the Jauza to Gončarnaja embankment, Kotelʹničeskaja embankment was so called from a small (seven-court) quarter of kotelʹniki or cauldron makers that stood here in 1632. Zacepskij Val and Valovaja street are both parts of the Garden ring. The former got its name in the 1820s from a nearby older street called Zacep, which had been cut off from it by a large area unbuilt on. At the end of the sixteenth century the area was cut asunder by the zemljanoj val and its ditch (hence Valovaja). Already in the fourteenth–sixteenth centuries there were Tatar quarters to the north (now there are streets there like Bolʹšaja Tatarskaja street, Bolʹšoj Tatarskij lane and Tatarskaja street), while to the south there was the quarter of koževniki ‘tanners’ (now the Koževničeskie streets and lanes). At the end of the sixteenth century Boris Godunov moved near the latter quarter the Kolomenskaja Jamskaja sloboda, reflected in Kolomenskaja-Jamskaja street, now renamed Dubininskaja street, running from Zacepskaja square to the Svjato-Danilov monastery (Sytin 2000: 261, 263–66, 268).

Sadovaja-Spasskaja street, from Bolʹšaja Spasskaja street to Lermontov square, also known as Krasnye vorota (Red gates) square, takes its name from the various Spasskie streets leading onto it. It was formed in the 1820s after the elimination of the zemljanoj val (earthen rampart) and ditch. Krasnaja vorota square was called Lermontov square after the poet Mixail Lermontov in 1941 to mark 100 years since the poet’s death, because he was born in 1814 in a house on the site. Until the eighteenth century there was no square or gates, only a val with little population. On the occasion of the defeat of the Swedes in 1709 and 1712, at a break in the zemljanoj val, were built krasivye derevjannye arki (beautiful wooden arches) – triumphal gates. These were replaced by new ones for Elizabeth’s coronation in 1742, and eventually in 1753–55 by stone ones that lasted until 1928. Up to the mid-eighteenth century they were called triumfalʹnye but then became regularly known as krasnye vorota, because through them passed traffic from the centre of town to Krasnoe selo (Sytin 2000: 295, 297–98).

Sadovaja-Černogrjazskaja street, between Novaja Basmannaja street and Staraja Basmannaja street, got its name from the small river Černogrjazka that flowed here and is now in an underground pipe (to the west of the street and parallel with it). Zemljanoj Val street, for a time after 1939 called Čkalov street after the outstanding pilot V. P. Čkalov who lived at number 14–16, runs from Staraja Basmannaja street (and Zemljanoj Val square) to Taganka square. Its name recalls the zemljanoj val. The whole area was once called Voroncovo field (for which see Voroncovo field street above) after the nobleman F. V. Voroncov-Venʹjaminov, whose country court was here (Sytin 2000: 298, 300). Taganka square took its name from the Taganka gates (Taganskie vorota) of the zemljanoj val that stood here from the end of the sixteenth century. It is the central square of the whole Zajauzʹe, the area in the south-east of Moscow between the river Jauza and the Moscow river. Many streets fan out from it. In the seventeenth century the area beyond the Taganskie (or Jauzskie) gates was sparsely populated (Sytin 2000: 303).

Kosmodamianskaja embankment,22 from 1935 renamed for a time Gorʹkij embankment after the writer Maxim Gorʹkij, stretches between the Bolʹšoj Ustʹinskij and the Bolʹšoj Krasnoxolmskij bridges. The latter bridge across the river leads to Nižnjaja Krasnoxolmskaja street, the last link in the Garden ring. Raušskaja embankment, between Bolʹšoj Moskvoreckij and Bolʹšoj Ustʹinskij bridges, first appears with this name on a map of 1874–77 but should properly be Roušskaja, as on a map of 1886–99, since its name comes from the rovuški (small ditches) along which water from the Moscow river would flow during polovodʹe (high water, flood time). These rovuški ran along the eastern side of the current Balčug street (for which see above). They were filled in during 1836 (Sytin 2000: 201, 204).

An attempt has been made here to examine some of the main streets of and within the Garden ring and Boulevard ring, including the Zamoskvorečʹe and Zajauzʹe. Evidence has been found for the great antiquity of some streets and therefore street names. One has only to consider Bolʹšaja Ordynka in the Zamoskvorečʹe district to detect echoes going back to the Golden Horde and the Tatar yoke. Many of the names, of course, reflect trades and tradesmen who occupied various quarters and courts of the city. Others reflect the religious life of the city, the churches and monasteries or convents that stood on the streets concerned. Numerous streets were also named after notable people. This seems to have been particularly common in Soviet times, but many of the streets renamed in the Soviet period have since reverted to their earlier names, including the main street of the capital, Tverskaja street (the erstwhile Gorʹkij street). This phenomenon is reflected in Bulgakov’s work, such as Master i Margarita: ‘Иван увидел серый берет в гуще, в начале Большой Никитской, или улицы Герцена’. The Soviet period was in fact marked by a desire to change names associated with religion and the monarchy. This influence in present-day Moscow, however, seems to a great extent to have waned since the Soviet Union came to an end.


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