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Take a look at the orange-brick building in pseudo-Russian style, with high arched first-floor windows. It used to be a Mansion Apartment block owned by merchants named Koznov. Today the building houses the Russian Association for the Blind.
There used to be a teeming market here on Novaya square, along with some mansion apartments – including this block, owned by some merchants named Koznov. Archive photographs show that this part of Moscow was heavily populated. Nowadays almost no-one lives round here, and if you see someone they'll usually be hurrying about their business. These days the building houses the Russian Association For The Blind. Quite recently a chic café named Marzipan opened here too. Pop into the courtyard of the former Mansion Apartments and you'll find a very laid-back cafe called “Neutralnaya Territoriya” or Neutral Territory, where you can get a bite to eat and drink at very reasonable prices... you can also take a break here, or even sit and read the papers.
It's curious to think of all the buildings that when we see here on Staraya (Old) and Novaya (New) squares today, they were once tightly enclosed in the medieval Kitai-Gorod fortified walls. The walls came right up to them. What we see today as the front entrances of these building were in fact the rear entrances. Some people may even say that these houses were just waiting for the moment when the old walls were demolished to display the square in its full glory.
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.