Category Archives: Moscow Architecture

World War One Memorial Park In Moscow

Until recently Russia celebrated the victory in the Patriotic War against Napoleon in 1812 and in the Great Patriotic War against Hitler in 1945. I spent 7 years in the country that faithfully celebrates the Armistice Day on November 11 that marks the end of one of the most tragic conflicts in world history in the 20th c., the First World War.

Although the Second World War was by many accounts more devastating, it is generally regarded as the outcome of the World War One and as such it was not unexpected. World War One also did not come out of the blue, being the consequence of the collapse of the Viennese system established in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. And yet, whereas the nations tried to prevent the Second World War, the World War One was received with cheers, as if Europe was one huge playground where kids with rifles were going to enjoy themselves. Sadly, it immediately became obvious that there would be no quick results, and Europe slid down into one long killing spree.

European, British in paritcular, cities and towns are planted with cenotaphs commemorating the war effort, the victims, and the eventual victory of the Entente powers in the World War One. The victory was ridden with ambiguity, as all countries, France in particular, attempted to get the better out of Germany to solve their own post-war problems – forgetting along the way that Germany was just as penniless and devasted by war, as the rest of Europe. Nonetheless, Germany remained to be seen as an aggressor and a war-wager, and the  World War One continues to be regarded as a glorious page in European history, rather than a story of human folly.

Russia withdrew from the war following the Bolshevik Revolution, with a separate peace treaty signed by Russia and Germany in Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Since the World War One was imperialist by nature, it is little wonder that in Soviet times it was given by a passing mention. The novels like And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov detailed the Russian part in the war, along with the growing disdain for the imperial power and the obligation to fight. But even then ordinary soldiers who fought in the war were barely remembered, as the war belonged to the tsarist, pre-Socialist part that had to be forgotten, and the sooner the better.

Now the situation has changed. The park dedicated to World War One in Moscow is located in the territory of 11,5 hectares in a walking distance from Sokol metro station. Presently there are many green stretches, and commemorative monuments have been pleasantly incorporated into the landscape. There is a small chapel on a hill and a few cenotaphs. A monument at the park’s entry (from Sokol metro station) reminds us that in the park’s grounds the first common cemetery to the soldiers and medical sisters who died in the war had been created as early  as 1915. Those graves had been subsequently moved to another cemetery, but the present park is located in the cemetery grounds. It is a peaceful and solemn place where one can’t help but meditate on life and death, war and peace.

World War One Park in Moscow – Entry Memorial


World War One Park in Moscow –
To the Victims of the World War 1914-1919


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Memorial Close-Up


World War One Park in Moscow –
Aviators Memorial
World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs


World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs


World War One Park in Moscow – A Chapel


World War One Park in Moscow –
Moscow To the Dead Russian Soldiers


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Second World War Memorial


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Church Monument


World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs, featuring the symbols
of principal military awards
World War One Park in Moscow –
A commemorative stone on the former location
of the common cemetery for soldiers and
medical sisters from Moscow communities
who died in the World War One

My Most Musical Week

I suppose I could recall a week when I visited a few Art events, but I don’t remember a single week when I’d attend three musical events. On Monday I went to the Yauza Theatre, to listen to a program dedicated to the Four Seasons. The recordings included Il Inverno (Winter), Concerto no. 4 in F Minor, RV 297 by Antonio Vivaldi (the famous 1st movement), Winter in Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzola, a couple of extracts from Haydn’s Four Seasons oratory, which were followed by the witty commentary and brilliant performance of Tchaikovsky’s Four Seasons by a well-known pianist Alexei Skanavi.

The Yauza Theatre celebrates 100th anniversary next year. Erected in 1903, the building used to house the Mossovet Theatre when it was headed by Yuri Zavadsky. Then it changed the hands and for several decades belonged to the Electric Factory located in the vicinity. The legends of Russian rock music performed there, including Viktor Tsoi and Boris Grebenschikov, and the film director Sergei Solovyov filmed bits of ASSA movie there. In 1992 I visited this “house of culture” with my Dad on the occasion of celebrating Paul McCartney’s birthday. The event included a screening of Let It Be, followed by a concert. Towards the ends thereof a hard rock group jumped on stage, and die-hard Beatles fans moved outside, into a mellow summer evening, where young guys played and sang the songs, some of which I’d already known by heart. Obviously, being a child, I doubt I took much notice of the outside decor or interiors. This time it was different, and the best I could describe it to myself was a “working class Bolshoi Theatre”.

Yauza Theatre, facade
Yauza Theatre, detail

On Wednesday I went to Moscow’s oldest cinema, Khudozhestvenny (Artistic), near the Old and New Arbat Streets and Arbatskaya metro station. A young composer Arseny Trofim, originally from Nenets Autonomous Region and now based in St. Petersburg, has composed a new score to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.

Yauza Theatre, foyer

And on Saturday I went to the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin, to listen to the first in a series of concerts by Alexei Skanavi. I came across this wonderful pianist in 2003. Apart from all the good things he does to promote classical music, I appreciate and enjoy his performance manner. The impression I often gather from pianists is that they’re trying either to destroy an instrument, or to showcase their “emotional integrity”. With Skanavi, there’s nothing like this, he doesn’t wriggle excessively at the piano, make faces, but produces the exact tempo and level of sound with seemingly little effort. Needless to say, a lot of hard graft remains behind the curtains, but each time his performance is pleasure to heart, ear, and eye. The first concert was focused on the music of the fin de siècle. Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Sans, Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky…


Yauza Theatre, ceiling
Yauza Theatre, hall

Next week promises to be slightly less eventful. From this, I took with me not just new music, but new ideas, a half translated book, and inspiration.

Moscow State University in the Fog

The missing part
Full view

You already know that I adore the Moscow State University building. If I ever get the chance to live nearby so as to see it from my windows regularly, I’ll grab it with both hands. And it’s not just because the MSU building is so majestic; you see, it hides so perfectly in the fog that each time it is as if the entire upper part of the imposing edifice has disappeared completely. And then it slowly emerges through the fog. Nothing beats the MSU building on a day when its upper part vanishes in blizzard. I don’t have the photo of that now, so let’s hope I can update this post in the course of winter.

La Vie en Jaune: Ivan Bunin’s Cursed Days and the Christ Saviour Cathedral in Moscow

Christ the Saviour Cathedral


Christ the Saviour Cathedral

I am reading Cursed Days by Ivan Bunin, the Russian 1933 Nobel Laureate in Literature. In the 1917-18 Diary that precedes the narrative there are many remarks about the advance of autumn season. First, Bunin notes the slight chill of August mornings. As September wears on, he painstakingly jots down the changes in colour: maple burn red, while many more trees turn different shades of yellow. “Life in the yellow colour“, he says at one point.

As someone who’s always loved autumn, I was touched by this sentence – all the more so that it could so perfectly be translated into French and to become a paraphrase of a famous song by Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose.

A chapel by the cathedral

Жизнь в желтом цвете. Life in the yellow colour. La vie en jaune. Naturally, when I was walking from one venue of the Moscow Design Week to another, passing the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the cathedral’s dome seen through the leaves was something I instantly knew I had to photograph.


Moscow State University – Main Building

The main building of the Lomonosov Moscow State University (and I’m its graduate, yes!)

Moscow State University – Main Building, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

The Moscow sky is somewhat like the one you see in the picture. It’s very chilly, too, and I feel pretty much like when I came to England for the first time in 2002. I didn’t bring a single sweater with me and only had light footwear. I’m only wearing a sleeveless dress and light shoes today, and I already wish I had a cardigan with me. Nay, I shall brave it till I am home where I’ll cosy up in bed, with a book.

The Views of Moscow from the River

Surviving the Moscow summer is no small feat, although this year it is bearable, compared to 2010 when there were forest fires, and the smog was penetrating every pore of any living creature. During the week I try to do as much as possible, so that at the weekend I could go to the park or even to another town. But sometimes you feel you’ve got to take a walk, so you go somewhere serene where you can unwind. On Thursday I walked around the Vorobyovy Gory a lot where my University is situated. And on Friday I had a wonderful time on board of one of those yachts that offer Moskva-River cruises. I have to say, it was absolutely amazing, but you can see for yourself: below are a few photos from Thursday and Friday.



St Basil’s Cathedral Marks 450th Anniversary

One of Moscow’s celebrated monuments, The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat, otherwise known as St Basil’s Cathedral, marks its 450th anniversary today. The celebrations will be held until October 14, the Russian holiday of Intercession.

The cathedral was built by two Russian master-masons whose names were only discovered in the 19th c. The cathedral commemorated the victory over Kazan in 1552 and was finished by 1561. The legend states that Ivan had ordered the masons to be blinded, lest they created anything similarly beautiful.

The cathedral indeed stands on the site where St Basil (Vassily), the ‘holy fool’, was buried, and hence bears his name as an alternative. In front of the cathedral, as well, is a statue to the heroes of the Civil War against the Polish invaders of the 17th c. – Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky.

Amazing as it may sound, the cathedral nearly perished during the Soviet times when its location interfered with Stalin’s plans for military parades. The architect Pyotr Baranovsky categorically stood up for this gem of Russian architecture and saved it.

Moscow: Architecture, Graffiti, Old Cars, and Park Scenes

Moscow State University
Lomonosov Moscow State University

This week I had two lengthy walks around Moscow, one starting in the vicinity of the so-called Three Railway Stations Square and going to the city centre from there; another on the Moscow State University grounds. Once again I realised just how much I loved my native city, the Vorobyovy Gory in particular. The imposing and inspiring building of the MSU overlooking two parks flowing towards the banks of the Moskva river – you can’t beat that.

Leningradsky Railway Station
Yaroslavsky Railway Station
Kazansky Railway Station, Leningraskaya Hotel

To share a few impressions, let’s start with the architecture of the Three Railway Stations Square. This is a what-you-read-is-what-you-get kind of name: there are three railways stations, two on one side of the road – Leningradsky and Yaroslavsky, and one more on the opposite side – Kazansky. The names are given after the directions towards the cities (and beyond those) where the train can take you. “Leningradsky” is your point of departure towards St Petersburg, as well as Murmansk, Pskov, Tallinn in Estonia, and Helsinki in Finland. It is also the oldest railway station in Moscow.

“Yaroslavsky” is named after the ancient city of Yaroslavl, this railway takes you in the north-east direction from Moscow, and you would choose this direction to visit Ivanovo, Severodvinsk, Vorkuta, Arkhangelsk, and others, not to mention Yaroslavl. “Kazansky” is also named after the city of Kazan’ in the Republic of Tatarstan, the railway goes to the East takes you to Ryazan’, Kazan’, Murom, and a few cities in the Ural Region and in Siberia. All three stations are reached by the Moscow Underground via Komsomol’skaya Station.

Contemporary Moscow architecture
Lermontov Square

From there I went down Kalanchevskaya Street towards the Lermontov Square and Krasnye Vorota metro station. Off the street there stands one of the buildings that will no doubt will remind my British readers of the similar edifices they can now see in almost every big city in the UK. The glass surfaces exude confidence, transparency, and openness, which often seems like a welcoming change from the solid brick or stone buildings of the past.

Train and Graffiti

And now to something different, just for Londoners. A few times I had to travel on the local trains from London to smaller towns in the vicinity, I was astounded by the colourful graffiti on the houses and walls that divided the railroad from the rest of the town. This is just one example, but here goes: a train arriving to one of the aforementioned railway stations glides past the graffiti on the walls.

A scene in the Chistye Prudy Park
The Chistye Prudy fountain

Next, we are going to move down a few roads, straight to the Chistye Prudy park. This is an old and central part of Moscow, where one usually catches several noteworthy scenes – like the one on the photo. Further towards the eponymous metro station is a fountain that on the day I walked near was besieged by crowds of people.

An old car
Gulsinor was here

A few similarly notable scenes awaited me the day I had a walk on the Moscow State University grounds. First, I was startled by this old car that is rotting beaten by all the elements not far from the main University building. The building deserves a post of its own, but a statue of a woman with a book that sits on one side of the staircase has been given a peculiar look: her lips were painted red, and the book’s cover reads “Gulsinor was here”.

Exercises in Wedding Photography
Bikers and Church

Much farther down, closer to the Observation Point, a wedding was photographed by no less than 5 friends of a newly created family. And the way to the church was guarded by Moscow’s easy riders.

I thought I would end this factual-and-entertainment post with a few tulips that grow beside the church. Have a great weekend, dear friends and readers!