- As early as the 14th century, heavy rains or melting snow used to turn this entire territory into a real swamp.
- In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Tsar’s garden was planted on Bolotnaya Square, and the first stone bridge across the Moskva River was built here too.
- Starting from the 17th century, major festivities and fairs used to be held here, along with public executions, the best-known being that of Yemelian Pugachev in 1775.
- The area surrounding Bolotnaya Square became a high-end neighbourhood in 1929 when the residential Government House, now the House on the Embankment, was erected here on the site of former wine and salt warehouses.
- The new Bolshoy Kamenny (“Big Stone”) Bridge was built here in 1937: the public garden was embellished with trees, banks and Moscow’s first musical fountain.
- The garden’s best-known monument is Children, Victims of the Adults’ Vices, a sculptural group by M. Shemyakin.
Bolotnaya SquareRussian: Bolotnaya ploschad or Болотная площадь (“Swamp Square”) situated close to the Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Tretyakovskaya galereya or Третьяковская галерея has become a symbol of contemporary liberal opposition in Russia. This place has great cultural and historical value. It hosted imperial gardens in the 16th–17th centuries, and it was also where the first stone bridge over the Moskva RiverRussian: Moskva-reka or Москва-река was built. Mass folk celebrations and public executions took place in this square. As time went on, the square became surrounded with trading sites, business districts, and even a governmental residential area that can still be visited today. The House on the EmbankmentRussian: Dom na naberezhnoy or Дом на набережной, a unique museum located in the square, tells the story of the house and the lives of its 700 residents who were repressed in the Stalin era. The square also features a public garden with the famous Children Are the Victims of Adult VicesRussian: Deti zhertvy porokov vzroslyih or Дети ‒ жертвы пороков взрослых sculptures.
AT THE ORIGINS OF HISTORY OF BOLOTNAYA SQUARE
Bolotnaya Square received its name as early as in the 14th century due to lowlands lying opposite the Kremlin, between the Moskva River and the modern Vodootvodny CanalRussian: Водоотводной канал. In springtime, rainfalls and melted snow flooded the whole territory, turning it into a swamp (boloto means ‘swamp’ in Russian). A dreadful fire broke out in 1493 in Moscow, destroying the (then wooden) Kremlin and all the surrounding facilities. Tsar Ivan IIIknown as the "gatherer of the Rus' lands" ordered the demolition of all the buildings within a radius of 110 fathoms (about 243 m), and soon Tsar’s GardenRussian: Gosudarev sad or Государев сад (Tsarine’s MeadowRussian: Tsaritsyn lug or Царицын луг) was created, existing for nearly 200 years.
Bolshoy Kamenny BridgeRussian: Bolshoy Kamennyi most or Большой Каменный мост (the Large Stone Bridge) over the Moskva River was built in the late 17th century, and since then, the role of Bolotnaya Square has never been the same. From then on, it was the silent eyewitness of all significant celebrations and executions. It became a tradition to erect triumphal arches in the square to honour the victories of the Russian army, to use it as a venue for folk celebrations and fairs, and to display fireworks on the occasion of imperial coronations. At the same time, the square served as the site for public executions. Stepan Razinled a major uprising against the nobility and tsarist bureaucracy in southern Russia in 1670-1671, the famous cruel Cossacka group of predominantly East Slavic-speaking people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities leader of a major peasant uprising, was quartered in Bolotnaya Square on 6 June 1671. During the reign of Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725, Andrey Bezobrazov, accused of conspiring against the tsar, was burned at the Swamp. But the most remembered execution was that of Yemelyan Pugacheva pretender to the Russian throne who led a great popular insurrection during the reign of Catherine II and his associate Afanasy Perfilyev. They were executed in 1775 in front of a crowd of thousands. Pugachev was guilty of leading the Cossack Rebellion that shattered the foundations of the Russian Empire in 1773–1775.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, this lively spot became home to the Cloth HallRussian: Sukonny dvor or Суконный двор, the Stone Bridge TavernRussian: Kamennomostsky piteyny dvor or Каменномостский питейный двор, the Cloth Hall BathsRussian: Sukonnye torgovye bani or Суконные торговые бани, and shops of merchants who came to Moscow to sell their goods. The square was sometimes referred to as Labaznaya SquareRussian: Labaznaya ploshchad' or Лабазная площадь (old Russian labaz meaning ‘trading premises’). Soon, there was a whole new district of business and industrial buildings nearby, along with the Wine and Salt HallRussian: Vinno-Solyanoy dvor or Винно-Соляной двор and a power station that produced electricity for the Kremlin and the tramway network.
THE GOVERNMENT HOUSE
In 1929, the area around Bolotnaya Square became an elite neighbourhood: the former wine and salt warehouses were replaced with the residential Government HouseRussian: Dom pravitelstva or Дом правительства designed by Boris Iofana Jewish Soviet architect, known for his Stalinist architecture buildings (2 Serafimovicha StRussian: ulitsa Serafimovicha or улица Серафимовича). Its 500 apartments were fitted out in keeping with state-of-the-art technology. The residential compound had all the necessary infrastructure, including a kindergarten, a cinema, a club (currently Estrada TheatreRussian: Teatr Estrady or Театр Эстрады, and even a bomb shelter. The story of this house and its inhabitants was perpetuated by Yury Trifonova leading representative of the so-called Soviet "Urban Prose" in his novel The House on the Embankment. Thanks ti his book the residential compound got its second, more popular name. However, there is a sad page in the story of this house, too: about 700 of its residents fell victims to Stalin’s political repression.
At present, the House on the Embankment is still a large residential compound, housing the eponymous branch of the Museum of MoscowRussian: Muzey Moskvy or Музей Москвы in one of its corners. There, you can find authentic objects from the 1930s–1950s and plunge into the atmosphere of the Soviet era. The exhibits include some rare survivals: furniture and household items designed by Boris Iofan specifically for the apartments in this building. The long list of political prisoners deserves special attention as it includes some USSR military officers and statesmen, scientists, and writers.
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BOLOTNAYA SQUARE PUBLIC GARDEN
In 1937, retail pavilions were torn down and the new Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge was constructed. In 1947, the public garden in Bolotnaya Square was transformed to celebrate Moscow’s 800th anniversary: new trees were planted, new benches were installed, and the first animated musical fountain in Moscow was constructed, with its water jets changing colour to the rhythm of the music played by the speakers.
A statue of the world-class artist Ilya Repinthe most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century by sculptor Matvey Manizer was erected here in 1958. Many of Repin’s masterpieces have been stored at the Tretyakov Gallery nearby. Back then, the square even bore the name of Repin.
Next to the statue, there’s a small bridge built across the Vodootvodny Canal in 1994. Being often referred to as the Bridge of LoveRussian: Most lyubvi or Мост любви, it is a popular place for newlyweds, who attach padlocks with their names and vows written on them to the specifically installed metal trees as a symbol of their unbreakable love. A huge building with a green dome can be seen in Faleev LaneRussian: Faleevskiy pereulok or Фалеевский переулок leading to the public garden. This is the former House of Free Apartments of the Bakhrushin BrothersRussian: dom besplatnyih kvartir imeni bratev Bahrushinyih or дом бесплатных квартир имени братьев Бахрушиных. Built in 1903 by architect Nikolay Blagoveshchensky, it was a major charity project in old Moscow. The philanthropist Bakhrushins organised it for the poor, spending over a million rubles. The building had two kindergartens, a boys’ vocational school, a girls’ school of needlework, and a dormitory for female students. The building is currently home to the headquarters of RosneftRussian: Роснефть, one of Russia’s major oil companies.
The most famous monument in the square is Mikhail Shemyakina Russian painter, stage designer, sculptor and publisher, and a controversial representative of the nonconformist art tradition of St. Petersburg’s Children Are the Victims of Adult Vices. The sculptures were installed in the eastern part of the square in September 2001, and they are instantly striking. The central part is the figures of two playing children, books stacked at their feet; the children are encircled by monstrous statues embodying the vices of the adult world (Drug Addiction, Prostitution, Theft, Alcoholism, Ignorance, Pseudoscience, Indifference, Propaganda of Violence, Sadism, Exploitation of Child Labour, Poverty, and War).
In summer, Muscovites and tourists enjoy relaxing by the Vodootvodny Canal: jets of fountains are shot many metres high into the air, illuminated with different colours. In the evenings, the square itself is also bustling, often being a place of gathering for drummers, fire dancers and musicians, who are happy to demonstrate their talents.
Within walking distance from the square, you can find the Tretyakov Gallery, the Estrada (Variety) Theatre, the Cathedral of Christ the SaviourRussian: hram Hrista Spasitelya or храм Христа Спасителя, and the Kremlin Museums.