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The elaborately-decorated sky-blue building on Nikolskaya street, ornamented with light fittings and white relief is occupied by RGGU – the Russian State University of the Humanities. It's one of the finest buildings along the street.
RGGU, the Russian State University of the Humanities, is one of the most prestigious educational institutes in the country, specialising in studies in the humanities. This gothic-style buildings is one of several in the capital where the university holds its classes. Take a closer look at the main entrance, decorated in astonishing bas-relief. The unicorn symbolises wisdom, and the lion – strength. While above both of them is the emblem of the USSR, tacked on during the soviet era and not subsequently removed. You'll find one of Moscow's rare sundials on the facia too – in the C17th and C18th they were a popular feature of private houses, cathedrals and monasteries. Today there are only five left in Moscow – of which this is one.
Where the RGGU University building now stands, visitors in the C16th would have found the Printer's Yard – the first bookprinters in Russia. Here in 1564 the first book printed in Russian - “the Apostle” - was published. Not long after a fire consumed the entire premises, but they were rebuilt. As time went on the Printer's Yard became the Synod Publishing House and published only religious works. However, by the early C18th the first Russian newspaper “Vedomosti” (or “The News”) was published here too. One building of the old newspaper has survived in the courtyard here – the Corrector's Office, where the editors worked. It's a small hut in the style of a fairytale baronial hall – one of the oldest civic buildings in the Kitai-Gorod area. You can see it by popping into the Kruzhka beer-tavern, which is now in the basement of the main building. The tavern's outdoors summer beer-garden, (summer months only) is right where the Kitai-Gorod Walls used to be.
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.