Belyi Gorod

Belyi Gorod


fortification works; the third defense belt around Moscow, joining the Kremlin and Kitai-gorod on the left bank of the Moskva River. It was built between 1585 and 1593 under the direction of the Russian architect Fedor Kon’. The stone walls of a thickness of up to 4.5 m were erected on an elastic foundation made of wooden piles, timbers, and white rubblework designed to resist artillery fire. Above-ground the walls and towers were covered with white stone and brick and, according to certain indications, were covered with plaster, which was responsible for the fortress’ name of Belyi Gorod (White City). Skirting the Kremlin and Kitai-gorod in the form of the letter “C,” Belyi Gorod attained a length of 10 km and had 27 towers, of which ten were gates. From the outside the fortress was protected by a moat filled with water, the Chertora River to the west, and the Iauza River to the east. There was a special mechanism called the “pipe” for controlling the flow of water from the Neglinnaia River, which cut through the territory of Belyi Gorod. Contemporaries considered this fortress to be one of the strongest in Europe. The walls of Belyi Gorod had several rows of loopholes which allowed the defenders to carry on a long and uninterrupted barrage of fire. BelyiGorod was one of the most important architectural structures adorning Moscow. Its high crenellated walls and the ingenious tentlike roofs of its towers (some of the towers had from two to seven upper stories) were very picturesque. The fortification works of Belyi Gorod were important in providing reliable defense for the Moscow settlement in times of grave danger of attacks by external enemies. In the 1770’s and 1780’s the walls and defense works of Belyi Gorod were taken down “because of their extreme decrepitude and awkwardness”; their place was taken by boulevards. Memory of the fortress is preserved in many of the names of the ring of boulevards, for example, Pokrovskie Gates, Sretenskie Gates, and Nikitskie Gates.

The name of Belyi Gorod was also given (mainly in the 17th century) to the whole region of Moscow between the walls of Kitai-gorod and the walls of Belyi Gorod. This region was largely inhabited by artisans and merchants, but it also contained many houses of boyars. Enterprises such as the Cannon “Yard” (foundry and arsenal) and the Carriage “Yard” (factory) were also located in Belyi Gorod. The most important thoroughfares of Moscow, connecting the Kremlin and Kitai-gorod with the roads leading to the great Russian cities, crossed the territory of Belyi Gorod.


Istoriia Moskvy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1952.
Kostochkin, V. V. Gosudarev master Fedor Kon’. Moscow, 1964.