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The green building with white stucco and Atlantean figures, on the even-numbered side of Ilyinka was once the property of the Volga-Kamsky Commercial Bank. Today it houses the Russian School of Personal Law.
The former premises of the Volga-Kamsky Commercial Bank were built in the late C19th. The building employs numerous pseudo-baroque features, and is crowned by two complex cupolas. The decoration of the main facade, as you might expect with a baroque-inspired building, is extravagant and tends towards being overdone. But everything is crafted by Muscovite artisans on the highest level. The building is a rare case in which the statuary which decorates it is highly asymmetrical. Take a look at the Atlantean figures who seem to be supporting the balcony – they're all different. It seems that one of them is doing more than the others to prop up the weight, supporting it sideways with his arm. The ground floor of the building held the banking hall and offices of the bank branch, but the apartments in the storeys above were rented out as furnished apartments. This set-up was clearly reflected in the appearance of the building as intended by its owners.
The Volga-Kamsky Bank was a Russian commercial bank – one of the most prominent of such banks prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was founded in 1879 by two families of St.Petersburg merchants – the Kokorev and Gubonin families. The bank's Head Offices were in St.Petersburg. The main customers of the bank were corporations in the oil business – and also those in catering and foodstuffs, transportation, insurance, and the Vladikavkaz Railway Company. Only a bank so well-heeled as this could allow itself the luxury of such elegant premises. In 1917, of course, the bank was nationalised and liquidated by the Bolshevik government, and the building was put to other uses. Today the building houses the Russian School of Personal Law.
There were many of Moscow's commercial community who were happy to flaunt their success – but there were also others who seemed remarkably reticent about being Merchants Of The First Guild. Such a man was Vassily Kokarev – founder of the Volga-Kamsky Commercial Bank. He'd come from peasant stock, yet in a remarkably short time he had amassed a personal fortune of over 20 million gold roubles. Other merchants called him “the buy-out King”. Years later in 1930 in London, the personal effects of Mr. Basil Kokarev went under the auctioneer's hammer – including a solid gold full-size boot. Kokarev had been intensely proud of the boot, believing it showed, for all his immense wealth, that he'd always been and remained “just a normal bloke”.
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.