Alexander GardenRussian: Aleksandrovsky sad, or Александровский сад and Manege SquareRussian: Manezhnaya ploshchad, or Манежная площадь are both near the Kremlin and are great places to go for a stroll. The history of both is closely linked to the capital’s past; they hold memories of war victories, emperors, outstanding military commanders and heroes, and feature quite a few remarkable architectural and sculptural landmarks. Alexander Garden is a perfect place to relax in a beautiful green oasis in the middle of a noisy metropolitan city.
The Manege building and sculptures at Manege Square
Walking from Theatre SquareRussian: Teatralnaya ploschad or Театральная площадь towards the State Historical MuseumRussian: Gosudarstvennyi istoricheskiy muzey or Государственный исторический музей, you almost immediately find yourself in Manege Square. It got its name from the Moscow Manege building, one of the sides of which faces the square. Manege Square first came into being in the 1930s when it was separated from the existing buildings and Hotel MoskvaRussian: gostinitsa «Moskva» or гостиница «Москва» by architect A. Shchusevan acclaimed Russian and Soviet architect. Unfortunately, both these buildings were reconstructed at the start of this century, which, according to many experts, made them look significantly worse. Moreover, Manege Square was obliged to change its appearance as the result of the 1990s construction of Okhotny RyadRussian: Охотный ряд underground shopping mall and a series of fountains intended to imitate the Neglinka Rivera 7.5-km long underground river in the central part of Moscow and a tributary of the Moskva River and decorated with sculptures by Z. Tseretelia Georgian-Russian painter, sculptor and architect known for large-scale and at times controversial monuments. Many Muscovites find these creations of Tsereteli to be unsightly and not at all flattering to the image of Manege Square and Alexander Garden. However, there are also those who like these sculptures, and there are always people crowded around them.
The sightseengs of Manege Square
Manege Square includes an equestrian statue of Marshal Georgy Zhukovthe most important Soviet military commander during World War II. Sculptor V. Klykov aimed to portray Zhukov in the middle of the anti-fascist parade that Zhukov commanded while on horseback.
Another point of interest on Manege Square, especially popular among tourists, is Kilometre ZeroRussian: nulevoy kilometr or нулевой километр. This is the point from which travel distances from Moscow are measured. Kilometre Zero is located in front of the Iberian ChapelRussian: Iverskaya chasovnya, or Иверская часовня near the Resurrection GateRussian: Voskresenskie vorota, or Воскресенские ворота; both were destroyed by the Bolsheviksmembers of a wing of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, which, led by Lenin, seized control of the government in Russia (October 1917) and became the dominant political power and restored only in the 1990s.
War victories memorials of Alexander Garden
After passing the Historical Museum you get to Alexander Garden. This garden was laid out at the beginning of the 19th century on an area where the Neglinka River used to flow. The river was eventually confined to a pipe and driven underground, where it’s been flowing ever since. Meanwhile, its former riverbed was turned into a park with trees and alleys. The plan for the Garden was drawn up in the 1820s by architect Joseph Bové, who worked on restoring Moscow after the Fire of 1812during the war between the Russian Empire and Napoleonic France on the territory of Russia in 1812. Emperor Alexander Ireigned as Emperor of Russia from 1801 to 1825 personally ordered the garden to be created – hence the name. Today the Garden has many trees (including a two-hundred-year-old oak), bushes and flowers, which makes it a lovely place for walking. Alexander Garden also has many monuments erected in memory of the two major Russian wars: the one in 1812 (against France) and World War II.
Alexander Garden is divided into three parts: the Upper, Middle and Lower (the latter is closed to the public). The Upper GardenRussian: Verkhniy sad or Верхний сад is situated between the Uglovaya Arsenalnaya TowerRussian: Uglovaya Arsenalnaya bashnya or Угловая Арсенальная башня of the Kremlin and the Troitsky BridgeRussian: Troitskiy most or Троицкий мост that connects the Kutafya and Troitskaya TowersRussian: Kutafia i Troitskaya bashni or Кутафья и Троицкая башни. You can get into the Upper Garden from the Historical Museum side by walking through a cast iron gate designed by Y. Paskal and adorned with the symbols of victory and military triumph. On the left-hand side – by the Kremlin Wall – is the Tomb of the Unknown SoldierRussian: Mogila Neizvestnogo Soldata or Могила Неизвестного Солдата. This memorial opened in 1967 when the remains of an unidentified soldier who died defending Moscow near the city of ZelenogradRussian: Зеленоград, just forty kilometres away from the capital, were relocated to the Kremlin. Set up next to the Eternal FlameRussian: Vechnyi ogon' or Вечный огонь is the main post of the Guard of HonourRussian: pochetnyi karaul or почетный караул (ceremonial duties are performed by members of the Kremlin RegimentRussian: Prezidentskiy polk or Президентский полк). The Alley of GloryRussian: Alleya Slavy or Аллея Славы to the side of the Tomb is paved with 13 granite blocks with the names of Hero Cities etched into them. Each block encapsulates some soil brought from a battlefield. There’s also a stele bearing the names of 40 Cities of Military Glory.
The Upper Garden has a war memorial in honour of the war of 1812. This is the Italian GrottoRussian: Italianskiy grot or Итальянский грот, also known as The Ruins, constructed between 1820 and 1823 per the design of the aforementioned Joseph Bové. The grotto stands at the foot of the Srednyaya Arsenalnaya TowerRussian: Srednyaya Arsenalnaya bashnya or Средняя Арсенальная башня and represents a small cave built from rough rocks with a white Doric colonnade inside. At first sight, you may struggle to see any connection between the war and this grotto, but it’s there: the rough, rustic stone walls are made from the fragments of buildings destroyed by the French. You can walk to the top of the grotto and from there enjoy the view of the Garden and Manege Square.
Monuments of the Romanov tsar dinasty
Another monument to the past located in the Upper Garden is the so-called Romanov ObeliskRussian: Romanovskiy obelisk or Романовский обелиск. It was erected in 1914 for the tercentenary of the Romanov dynastythe second dynasty to rule Russia, after the House of Rurik, reigning from 1613 until the February Revolution of 1917. In Soviet times, however, the royal names etched on it were replaced by the names of philosophers and activists of the Great October Socialist Revolution (1917). In 2013, the original inscription was restored and the obelisk looked just as it did before the Soviet era. Close to the obelisk is a statue of Patriarch Hermogenesthe Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia from 1606 by Y. Shcherbakov, unveiled in 2013. Hermogenes was the head of the Russian church during the Time of Troubles period of political crisis in Russia that followed the demise of the Rurik dynasty (1598) and ended with the establishment of the Romanov dynasty (1613)(17th century). During the Polish intervention, he was incarcerated by the Poles, but continued sending out letters from his prison to all cities, urging them to fight against the aggressor. Unfazed by any threats or promises, he refused to cooperate with the invaders and starved to death before Moscow’s liberation.
Next, we get to the Middle GardenRussian: Sredniy sad or Средний сад, where you’ll see a statue of Emperor Alexander I, which was unveiled in 2014 (another work by Y. Shcherbakov). The monument was created for the bicentenary of the victory in the war against Napoleon, and is particularly symbolic because the Garden bears the name of this very emperor.