Kitai-Gorod

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Kitai-Gorod

 

an old district of Moscow, which includes Red Square and borders the Kremlin on the east. Its name, which dates back to the 16th century, was probably derived from the word kita (several poles tied together). Akita was one of the elements used in the construction of the wooden and earthen fortifications that preceded stone walls. The southern part of the Kitai-Gorod was populated as early as the 11th century. By the 14th century a posad (merchants’ and artisans’ quarter), which was known as the Bol’shoi, or Velikii, posad, occupied the entire territory between the Moskva and Neglinaia rivers. The district’s oldest thoroughfare was Velikaia Street, which ran along the bank of the Moskva from the Kremlin to the landing. Other major arteries subsequently developed—Var’skaia (later Varvarka), Il’inskaia, and Nikol’skaia streets (now Razin, Kuibyshev, and October 25 streets).

At the end of the 14th century an earthen wall was built. In 1534, wooden and earthen fortifications and a moat were added, which ran along the course presently marked by Revolution Square, Karl Marx Prospect, Dzerzhinskii Square, New and Old Squares, Kitaiskii Passage, and the embankment of the Moskva River. From 1535 to 1538 a stone wall was erected along this course (architect Petrok Malyi). Fragments of this wall have been preserved. It had 13 towers; six of the towers had gates. The thickness of the walls (6 m) almost equaled the height (6.3 m).

In the late 15th century, construction of residences for the boyars and the clergy was undertaken in the Kitai-Gorod. In the 16th century the buildings of several government prikazy (offices) were erected in the district. Although the artisans gradually began moving to the city’s outskirts, the Kitai-Gorod continued to be Moscow’s principal commercial center. The district became the site of the Solianoi dvor (Salt Market), Kuznetskii dvor (Market for Metal Goods), and Mytnyi dvor (Office for Collecting the myt [a special tax]). A customhouse and gostinye dvory (markets for out-of-town merchants to sell their goods) were also built. In 1563 the Pechatnyi dvor (State Printing Office) was erected on Nikol’skaia Street.

During the Polish occupation of Moscow from 1610 to 1612, the Kitai-Gorod was burned down. In the second quarter of the 17th century, several buildings were constructed, including the Trinity Church (of the Georgian Virgin Mother) in Nikitinki (1628–53; wall paintings, 1652–53), the palaces of the Romanov boyars, the Posol’skii dvor (Office of Foreign Affairs), and the Pechatnyi dvor. In 1664 the new Gostinyi dvor was built. From 1679 to 1689 a cathedral was built by the architects F. Grigor’ev and G. Anisimov for the Znamenskii Monastery, which was founded in 1634. The Kitai-Gorod was also an important cultural center of Moscow. In 1687 the Slavic, Greek, and Latin Academy was opened in Zaikonospasskii Monastery on Nikol’skaia Street.

In the early 18th century the Kitai-Gorod became primarily a commercial district of Moscow. It was also the site of the Moscow office for municipal administration. From 1790 to 1805 the Gostinyi dvor was built on the site of the old (architects S. A. Karin and I. S. Selekhov, according to a plan by G. Quarenghi). In 1812 the area was burned down. After its restoration, stone buildings predominated. In the early 20th century, Kitai-Gorod was a center for banks, trade offices, and warehouses; the district was densely built up. During the October days of 1917, revolutionary units advanced down Nikol’skaia Street toward the Kremlin, which was occupied by White Guards.

During the years of Soviet power, the Kitai-Gorod has been rebuilt. Dilapidated structures have been torn down, narrow streets have been widened (as a result, large sections of the walls were torn down), and subway stations have been constructed.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Moskvy, vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1952–59.
Sytin, P. V. Iz istorii moskovskikh ulits. (Essays.) 3rd ed. Moscow, 1958. Pages 67–114.
Rabinovich, M. G. O drevnei Moskve. Moscow, 1964. Pages 50–55 and 61–146.

M. G. RABINOVICH