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The building with stucco decoration and sculptural figures on the even-numbered side of Ilyinka street is the Federal Archives Agency. Prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution the building housed the Russian and Siberian Trade Banks. If you look to the centre of the facade you see three arched windows, each two storeys high.
The core of what's now the Federal Archive Agency is a former C18th mansion residence, substantially rebuilt in the C19th. To add a more impressive nature to the building they added an eight-columned portico, modelled around the ground floor arches. By 1838 the building had passed into the hands of a merchant named Vargin from Serpukhov, whose story is worth mentioning. He made his fortune supply uniforms to regiments of the line in the 1812 Napoleonic Wars. He refused to pay backhanders, leading disgruntled officers to have him accused of acting illegally. As usual, the trial ran on for ages with no verdict, but it had the desired effect – Vargin was left penniless. Vargin's brother later donated the house to the Town Council of Serpukhov – a small town 90 kilometres South of Moscow. For a long while after this the house was known as the Serpukhov Courtyards. Towards the end of the C19th the house was again rebuilt, assuming its present-day appearance.
The building now housing the Federal Archives Agency was owned – before the Russian Revolution – by two banks, The Russian Trade Bank and the Siberian Trade Bank. The building acquired its hammer-and-sickle emblems in the soviet era. After the collapse of the USSR the building was converted into a document store, where archive materials were preserved – especially those concerning the Communist Party. The building has its own distinctively elegant style, with a facade set out in the so-called “eclectic” style. There are a number of baroque elements – stucco, mascaroni decorative masks, an elegant frieze with masks of lions, numerous gryphons, two domes with elaborate decoration – and all carefully balanced by the small tilework which borders the entire facade.
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.