If you already had your Red Square tour and looking for non-touristy Moscow, off the beaten path and local gems of Moscow, then it’s time for “the Third Circle”.
Let’s leave Kremlin and Kitay Gorod fortresses and head to more local, authentic part of Moscow – the White City.
Moscow White City
What is “White City”?
The White City of Moscow was a historical area between the walls of the Kremlin & Kitay Gorod and the third defensive ring which was situated at the site of the modern Boulevard Ring.
It was the third fortification of Moscow after Kremlin and Kitay Gorod, and included areas such as Zaneglimene, Kuchkovo field and Kulishki.
By the way, for “white” experience try white nights in the Capital of the North on our summer tours of St Petersburg.
Origin of the name “White City”
One version of the origin of the name “White City” is that those nobles didn’t pay any land taxes, so their lands were called “white”, in contrast to the “black” lands of artisans and merchants.
Another version is more prosaic: the walls of the White City were built of limestone.
White City had some other names: Tsarev City or Tsar-Grad (City of the Tsar). It was where the nobility and court officials settled, and the tsar often visited this neighborhood.
History of the White City of Moscow
In the 15th century the territory of the White City was full of blooming gardens, and that gave the name to Starosadsky (Old Gardens) lane.
Till the middle of the XVI century the line of the Boulevard Ring was an earthen embankment, covered with turf and ground for greater strength and constructed as a fortification to protect the city from the raids.
However, the defensive structure did a bad job of protecting citizens. In 1571 wooden buildings were completely burned after the raid of Davlet Giray.
During the reign of Tsar Fedor Ioanovich it was decided to put the stone walls, and in 1585 the first work began here.
The building was called the “White City” because “City” at the time was the name for the settlement itself.
Not yet completed, the new frontier helped to prevent an attack on Moscow. This happened in 1591, when troops of the Crimean Horde with the Khan Kazi Giray did not dare to storm the formidable wall and had to retreat.
The construction work was completed by 1593.
Pride of Moscow
The White City was not only an important defensive (one of the most powerful and reliable in Europe), but also an architectural masterpiece, which decorated ancient Moscow.
The wall of the White City had 27 towers, ten of which had the gates at the intersections with the streets: Trehsvyatskie, Chertolskaya (Prechistenskie) Arbat, Nikita, Tver, Peter Sretensky, Myasnitskaya, Pokrovsky, Yauzskie and Vasilevsky. The total length of the walls of the White City was 10 kilometers with the height of 10 meters and the width of 4-6 meters.
During the Time of Troubles the fortification was severely damaged, and by the middle of the XVIII century it completely lost its defensive significance: the gate was no longer guarded and was not locked at night.
Muscovites started taking away the bricks of the walls for their needs, and in 1760 the authorities allowed to use the materials for urban buildings. The house of Governor-General of Moscow on Tverskaya Street (the present building of the Moscow City Hall) was built exactly from the materials of the White City fortification.
No happy ending
In June 1774 it was decided to completely dismantle the walls of the White City.
Noticeably dilapidated structure gradually began to disassemble, and in its place were planted alleys as had long been fashionable in Europe. Funny enough – the word “boulevard” in a literal translation from French means “fortification”.
But happy beginning – New historical sight of Moscow
It was time for the White City to give way to the Boulevard Ring.
Boulevard Ring is a continuous chain of squares and boulevards in the city center. But actually, it does not physically form a closed circle.
The length of the ring is more than 9 km.
Boulevards of Moscow
The famous Boulevard Ring is formed by ten boulevards and is shaped like a horseshoe leading to the embankment of the Moscow River.
The first Moscow boulevard was Tverskoy, which became the founder of the Boulevard Ring in 1796. Tverskoy boulevard is also the longest of all the streets that make up the Boulevard Ring – it stretches for 857 meters. The widest of these boulevards is Strastnoy, or “Holy” in English (123 meters), the shortest was Sretensky, or “Candlemas” (214 meters), and the youngest – Pokrovsky Boulevard, which appeared in Moscow in 1891, almost one hundred years after the first one.
History of the Boulevard Ring of Moscow
In 1880 Boulevard Ring got its first tram route – the legendary “A”, which is called “Annushka”. Nowadays “Anna” covers all the Ring in about an hour.
Boulevard Ring survived the barricades of 1901 and 1905, and the revolution of 1917. During the years of the Great Patriotic war – WWII – the Boulevard turned into its former defensive role and got occupied with anti-aircraft guns and air defense balloons.
Soviet time in Moscow
Immediately after the war boulevards again became a favorite place for walking. 4000 trees and 130,000 shrubs were planted along the Boulevard Ring. To celebrate the 800th anniversary of Moscow, the Ring was adorned with a new patterned iron barrier and wooden sofas. In 1978, the Boulevard Ring was declared a monument of landscape art, and has been constantly improved since then.
Off the beaten path
Ideal idea for a Moscow city tour.
If you stroll through this historic boulevards of Moscow, you will see a lot of interesting, original, very local places and buildings that would never discover on a typical Moscow tour or read in a typical guide book.
In the old days Tverskoy Boulevard was a favorite walking place of aristocrats and the ordinary people were not allowed to walk here. Tverskoy preserved the 19th-century mansion, where lived outstanding personalities of a bygone era: Alexander Pushkin, Alexander Griboedov, Alexander Herzen, Nickolay Ogarev and others. Bulgakov included a lot of places from Tverskoy Boulevard in his novel ” Master and Margarita.” Here are also located the mansions of professor Nickolay Sklifosovsky and prominent Russian actress Maria Yermolova.
No less interesting is the history and architecture of yet another boulevard of Moscow – Gogolevsky Boulevard. Almost every building on Gogolevsky Boulevard is a monument of architecture that keeps the memory of many famous figures of the past. For example, the building of the current Chess Club once was the center of musical life in Moscow, where you could meet Feodor Chaliapin, Sergey Rachmaninoff, Alexander Glazunov.
Every boulevard had its own manners
Leo Tolstoy shared his memories of different culture and nature of Moscow boulevards. Thus, on Prechistensky Boulevard he could feel free, relax, talk Russian and call his sister simply “Masha” (typical Russian name). On Nikitsky boulevard he used French, demonstrated refined manners, and his sister had the name “Marie”. Finally, on Tverskoy boulevard he used to prim, stood on ceremony with accented stiffness, spoke English and called his sister “Mary.”
In 1845 Vissarion Belinsky called Boulevard zone of Moscow “the best jewelry that St Petersburg has every right to be jealous of”.
During the 20th century Moscow got 20 new boulevards, located outside the Ring, which is residential area, and where tourists give way to locals.
Tour of the Boulevard Ring
Boulevard Ring is one of the attractions of the capital.
Lots of greenery, beautiful lighting at night, the location in the historic center of the city – all this makes the Boulevard Ring an amazing destination for joyful walks.
Let’s take a ride along the legendary Boulevard Ring and explore its mysteries, secrets, hidden gems and most popular local places among Muscovites.
On the tour you will find out:
- How the ramparts turned into boulevards;
- Why Dirty Ponds became Clean Ponds;
- What secrets are Chistoprudniy, Pokrovsky and Yauza Boulevards hiding;
- What is unusual about the bridges across the main water artery of the capital;
- How Zamoskvorechye area of Moscow looked like 100 years ago;
- Why there are no more gardens on the Garden Ring;
- Why Danilov Monastery is unique;
- And of course, learn fun facts from the history of the first Moscow tram “Annushka”.
Lovely spot of Moscow, hiden from tourists
On the tour you will see:
- The only in Moscow “House with the beasts”;
- Mysterious and majestic Stalin skyscraper, one of seven “sisters”;
- The building where Russian money is “created”;
- A very special house built specially for the nuclear physicists;
- Masterpieces of Soviet avant-garde;
- The engineering miracle – the Shukhov Tower;
- Finally, one of the oldest tram depots of Moscow.
Sources: travel2moscow.com, liveinmsk.ru, tramvay-annushka.ru
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