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Ilyinsky Public Garden is wedged in between Slavyanskaya Square and the square of the Ilyinsky Gates, and between two monuments. On the same side as the Polytechnical Museum there's a monument to the Defenders of Plevna – a battle of the Russo-Turkish war – while at the other end there's a statue of St.Kirill & St.Methodius, who devised the Cyrillic alphabet. Worthy events occasionally take place near these two saintly men - but they don't inhibit the flirtatious behaviour of young couples who come here for a cuddle on the grass. It's a popular place for a summer evening's stroll – some bring picnic-blankets, while others improvise seating arrangements on bags or magazines, while they discuss the answers to life, the universe and everything. Or just spend the time nuzzling together.
Ilyinsky Public Garden is a preferred haunt of Moscow's gay community. This fact prompted aggressive groups of Russian orthodox queer-bashers to mount guard on the square several years ago. However, some time has now passed and the situation has once again normalised – there's enough space for everyone on the square. Moscow's city-centre isn't over-supplied with parks and squares of this kind, so Muscovites particularly value the opportunity to relax in this kind of open space.
Ilyinsky Square appeared in 1934 when the Kitai-Gorod Walls were demolished here. In days gone by there was a bustling market right by the walls. The idea of pulling down the old defensive walls and creating public open spaces was first mooted in the C18th by then City Architect Legrand, who also planned to put boulevards through the Old City. Twenty years after he suggested all this, the city authorities began work on the idea – but the plan to create the Boulevard Ring replaced the idea of pulling down the Kitai-Gorod Walls, and the walls were left in place.
The Presidential Administration complex on the Starya (or the Old) Square is easily seen from Ilyinsky Public Garden – although the building looks a little gloomy, to say the least. The grim, grey buildings are in sharp contrast to the light yellow buildings on the other side of the square, on Lyubyansky Proezd road. Here we find all kinds of artists and artisans workshops, different kinds of service industries, along with a number of restaurants and cafes.
Kitay-gorod is one of the oldest parts of Moscow. It appeared nearby the old wooden Kremlin. Although the name translates as “Chinatown,” it probably derives from kita (wattle), referring to the wall that surrounded this early Kremlin suburb. Today, remains of an old city wall and colorful churches are scattered throughout this ancient neighborhood.
The stone walls were erected in the 16th century by an Italian architect known under the name Petrok Maly and originally featured 13 towers and six gates. They were as thick as they were high. The last of the towers were demolished in the 1930s, but small portions of the wall still stand. One of two remaining parts of the wall is located in Zaryadye and the other near the exit from the Okhotny Ryad station of Moscow Metro behind the Hotel Metropol.
Kitay-gorod starts at Red Square. Apart from Red Square, the quarter is bordered by the chain of Central Squares of Moscow, notably Theatre Square (in front of Bolshoi Theatre), Lubyanka Square (in front of the KGB headquarters), and Slavyanskaya Square.
Since time immemorial Kitay-gorod has been developing as a trading area. And for centuries it was known as the most prestigious business area of Moscow. Its three main streets — Varvarka, Ilyinka, and Nikolskaya — are lined with banks, shops, and storehouses. There are also lots of historical buildings that relate to the heritage of the federal and global importance now.
In our tour you will walk along Nikolskaya Street that is famous for being the site of Moscow's first university, the Slavic Greek Latin Academy, housed in extant Zaikonospassky monastery (1660s). Another monastery cathedral, the main church of Epiphany Bogoyavlensky Monastery (1690s), is the oldest male monastery in Moscow, stands in the middle of Kitay-gorod in the eponymous Bogoyavlensky Lane. The 18th century survives in the exterior walls of the otherwise rebuilt Gostiny Dvor (Guest Merchant's Court) by Giacomo Quarenghi.
A whole quarter of Kitay-gorod adjacent to the Moskva River and known as Zaryadye (now just Varvarka Street) was demolished in the 20th century, sparing only those structures that were classified as historic monuments. These include the Cathedral of the Sign (1679–84), the Church of All Saints (1680s), St. George's Church on Pskov Hill (1657), St. Maksim's Church (1698), St. Anna's Church at the Corner (1510s), St. Barbara's Church (1796–1804), the Old English Embassy (1550s), and the 16th century Romanov boyar residence. The two last are the museums. You can visit them to see the life of the first Romanovs in the 16-17th centuries.