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As you can see, Spiridonovka street makes a sharp bend here. One end joins to Malaya Nikitskaya street, while the other eventually meets the Garden Ring Road. This curve in the road has quite a few sights worth mentioning! On the even-numbered side of the street – in the concave part of the curve – we find a number of mansions and homes of Russian and soviet-era authors. On the opposite, odd-numbered side, opposite this hive of literary activity, and sitting considerably lower than the present-day street-level, we find former homes of a much earlier era in so-called Granatny Yard. They were both living and working quarters for the craftsmen who made artillery ordnance for the Tsar's cannonry.
This is the mansion which renowned banking mogul Ryabushinsky built for himself, in characteristic moderne style. In the 1930s it was awarded by Stalin to the prominent author Maxim Gorky, who was obliged to live in it for the rest of his life.
Russian and later soviet writer, poet and play writer grew up in extremely harsh conditions. He lost his father in early childhood and was sent to his grandparents. A hard poor life and violence – those were things young Gorky passed through his early years. At the age of eight, the boy's grandfather forced him to quit school and start to work as an apprentice of a shoemaker and later as a dish washer on a steamer. Finally, at the age of 12, Gorky escaped his grandparents’ home and began to move from one menial job to another, half starving. The bitterness of his teenage years led him to choose his pseudonym – Gorky – which means “bitter” in Russian.
At the age of 24, he started as a reporter for a provincial newspaper. His writer’s career began. By 1900, he was known as a young and enormously talented writer. Later in the 1920s, he became a prominent figure in literature. Disillusioned by post-revolutionary life, he went to Italy where he remained from 1922 to 1930.
Ryabushinsky's Mansion on Malaya Nikitskaya is a prominent example of the early style moderne style. The interiors of the house are astounding. Especially interesting is the sculpted staircase leading to the upper floor – a textbook example of the moderne style which is widely found in art history books. Also of interest is the secret Old Believers Chapel concealed in the attic, although museum staff are very cagey about even admitting it is there. From here in the street you can still admire the pale-pink irises of the external decorations, and the latticework of the balconies.
Old Believers – that’s the name of those, who separated from the official Russian Orthodox Church after church reforms in 1666. Till now Old Believers continue to follow liturgical rules and practices which were from before the reforms.
By the middle of C17th the Church leaders discovered noticeable discrepancies between Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches. They came to the conclusion that such deviations were the result of multiple errors of incompetent copyists. Thus, the aim of the reform was to remove all the deviations with the Greek Church. Those who protested and would never accept the reform became so-called Old Believers. Old Believers communities exist even now, even in Moscow, but there are not many of them.
In the soviet era Ryabushinky's mansion was confiscated by the State, and put to various uses by Party organisation – including even a kindergarten. Then in 1931 Stalin housed the author Maxim Gorky here. To this day it remains officially the Gorky Museum – but in fact nobody bothers with his dull exhibits, and most visitors come to see the extraordinary interiors.
Stepan Ryabushinsky was a prominent Russian businessman and banker, whose passion was collecting old Russian ikons. He was a secret member of the Old Believers sect, and his ikon collection inspired other Old Believers to undertake a systematic study of ikons. After the 1917 Revolution Ryabushinsky fled to Milan, and his house was confiscated by the soviet state.
We would like to offer you a very interesting tour in the centre of Moscow – around Patriarshiye Prudy or Patriarch’s Ponds. For the last 200 years, there has been only one pond known to the public, although, the name of Tryokhprudny Pereulok (lit. Three-Pond Lane) suggests there used to be more. It is known that in 1683-1684 Patriarch Joachim ordered to dig three ponds for drainage of wetlands and fish farming to the patriarchal table. So, such ponds were fishponds.
The area is named after the seventeenth century Patriarch's Goat Sloboda located on the Goat Marsh. This marsh once was connected by a brook to the Presnya River in the west; by 1739, when the first topographic map was compiled, the brook disappeared and the marsh separated from the Presnya. People considered the swamp as an anomalous zone; apparently this caused a proverb ("Thomas has hastened, but made people laugh - he sticked in Patriarshy").
The pond acquired its present shape and was cleaned up in 1830-31 in the frames of the plan to rebuild Moscow after the Fire of 1812.
At the beginning of the XX century the area around the Ponds was actively built up. Among the buildings appeared at this time, you can see the mansion of Tarasov. In 1924, the Soviet government in the fight against religion renamed the Patriarch's Ponds in Pioneer Ponds. In 1945 in Ermolaevsky Lane a house for senior military commanders of the USSR was built.
Near the Ponds you will find a monument to Ivan Krylov. The fabulist sits surrounded by animated characters of his works: a monkey in front of a mirror, barking pug after the elephant, crow with cheese.
This district is, directly or indirectly, connected with Russian poets: Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Pushkin, Gogol, Baratynsky, Krylov. Not far from the Ponds lived Vladimir Mayakovsky. In Tree-Pond Lane Marina Tsvetaeva was born.
The novel by Mikhail Bulgakov “Master and Margarita” begins at Patriarch's Ponds. During the tour you will see the Museum-Theatre "Bulgakov's House". The district has a number of museums: Yermolova Museum, State Museum of Oriental Art, Anton Chekhov’s Museum, Svyatoslav Richter Memorial Apartment, Alexey Tolstoy Memorial Apartment, Maxim Gorky Memorial House, etc.