History and Architecture

History and Architecture
Moscow’s architecture is utterly eclectic. Medieval historical and architectural monuments are side by side with flamboyant buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and orderly 19th-century mansions emphasizing the regularity of parts. Those interested in the Soviet period can visit the celebrated Stalin’s high-rises and other Stalinist buildings. Interestingly, Moscow features three buildings included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, namely, the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, the Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye and the Novodevichy Convent.

Of special interest are visits to various Russian Orthodox churches and cathedrals in Moscow. These include the Kremlin’s cathedrals erected in the 15th and 16th centuries, the world-renowned St. Basil’s Cathedral and the more recent magnificent Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Many Moscow churches are built in the impressive Russian Baroque style. Sergiyev Posad, a city 70 km from Moscow, boasts beautiful and historical churches that are well worth a visit. Modern architecture lovers will enjoy taking in the high-rises in the Moscow International Business Centre or unconventional buildings scattered around the luxurious Golden Mile district, a stone’s throw from the Kremlin.
Built in the so-called Moscow Baroque style, Novodevichy Convent is a cloister of exceptional beauty that was also part of the defence system of old Moscow. Its oldest cathedral – the Smolensk Cathedral – dates back to the 16th century. The three-tiered Church of the Transfiguration features a belfry and a refectory with lovely architraves and consoles. The convent is steeped in history, and visitors will learn a lot about notable personalities of the past at the local necropolis.
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Considered as one of the most beautiful metro systems in the world, the Moscow Metro is a unique chapter in the history of Soviet and post-Soviet architecture. Visiting it is a must for all those coming to Moscow. Each of its stations has a unique design, and this tradition has survived to this day. Of particular interest are central metro stations such as Komsomolskaya, Kiyevskaya-koltsevaya, Ploshchad Revolutsii, Novoslobodskaya and Mayakovskaya. The Moscow Metro features an impressive architectural design, a well-pronounced concept idea and special meanings hidden in every details: all of this shows how high the demands imposed on metro designers were back in Stalin’s times.
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Russian Art Nouveau and Neo-Russian style

Art Nouveau trends in Moscow architecture emerged in the late 19th-early 20th century. Russian architects used the Western style as a model, enriching it with features typical of medieval Russian architecture and art. The very first Art Nouveau building in Moscow is the List Mansion in Glazovsky Lane, designed by L. Kekushev. Many lovely mansions built in this style have survived in the area between Arbat and Ostozhenka.

Martha and Mary Convent.

The Convent, built in 1909, is located on Bolshaya Ordynka Street in Zamoskvorechye. Designed by A. Shchusev, the convent’s Neo-Russian central cathedral looks like a snow-white medieval castle representative of both early Novgorod and Art Nouveau architectural styles.
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Ryabushinsky Mansion.

Built between 1900 and 1903, this mansion on Malaya Nikitskaya Street is one of O. Shekhtel’s best architectural creations. This building, now accommodating the Maxim Gorky Memorial Museum, is an early Art Nouveau landmark, with English Gothic and Moorish design elements.
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Derozhinskaya Mansion.

This mansion, located in Kropotkinsky Lane and designed by O. Shekhtel, is now a national cultural heritage site. It was O. Shekhtel who put forward design solutions for the mansion’s interiors, including a fireplace, furniture, doors, window casing mouldings and lamps.
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Architectural Landmarks in the Centre of Moscow

The heart of Moscow - the Kremlin and Red Square – is a perfect place to start your discovery of Moscow architecture. The Kremlin is the symbol of Moscow and of centralized state power. Its redbrick wall, designed by Italian architects in the 15th and 16th centuries and recognizable by the characteristic sparrow-tailed notches, and scenic, steeple-roofed towers are incredibly popular among tourists. In fact, every building on Red Square is a unique architectural masterpiece.

Historical Museum Building.

On Red Square stands a redbrick building adorned with countless turrets, now the State Historical Museum. The building was designed in the Neo-Russian style to fit into the architectural ensemble of Red Square. The museum building was built in 1875.
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Moscow Kremlin Architecture.

The walls of the Moscow Kremlin replaced the white stone ones between 1485 and 1515. The Kremlin’s architectural ensemble comprises eight cathedrals and churches, the mid-19th-century Grand Kremlin Palace and other monuments.
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St. Basil’s Cathedral.

St. Basil’s Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of the Intercession, was erected between 1555 and 1561 on orders from Tsar Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the Russian victory over the Khanate of Kazan. The Cathedral’s dazzling exterior made it one of Russia’s symbols internationally.
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GUM Building.

GUM, known as State Department Store in Soviet times, faces Red Square. It was built in 1893 in the so-called Pseudo-Russian architectural style. Later, some of its structures were replaced with modern ones, while retaining all original features and elements.
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In Moscow only: Naryshkin Baroque

Naryshkin Baroque, also called Moscow Baroque, is a unique style of architecture that was popular in Russia from the early 18th into the early 19th centuries. Its typical features include petal-shaped church design, superimposed décor elements and centric compositions. Some of the finest examples of Naryshkin Baroque architecture are St. Clement’s Church, Novodevichy Convent, Vysoko-Petrovsky Monastery and the Church of the Intercession at Fili.

Vysoko-Petrovsky Monastery

Many architectural monuments are situated on the territory of this monastery, the oldest of them being the Cathedral of St. Peter of Moscow. Built in the early 16th century, it was partially reconstructed in Naryshkin Baroque style in 1689-1690. The Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh is just a few steps from it. The church features a white stone exterior and highly intricate décor elements. Highly unusual are the friar cells as well as the painted iconostasis in the Church of the Theotokos of Tolga.
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Church of the Intercession at Fili

This lovely church in the west of Moscow is a classical sample of Naryshkin Baroque architecture. Interestingly, its brick walls are plastered and covered with exterior painted brickwork. Funded by L. Naryshkin, the church was built between 1690 and 1694 in the centre of his estate, hence the name of this architectural style. No documentary evidence has survived of the church’s designers. The Church is the Intercession at Fili is an active church.
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Soviet Architecture in Moscow

Soviet architecture can be loosely divided into three stages. Industrial construction and constructivism characterize the first stage (until the 1930s), exemplified by the Shukhov Tower and Rusakov House of Culture. The second stage (1930s to 1950s) is dominated by monumental and expressly luxurious Stalinist architecture. Stalin’s high-rises are the finest examples Stalinist architecture. Large-scale low-cost panel building is typical of the third stage (from the 1950s onwards).

Stalin's Seven Sisters.

In total, there are seven Stalin’s high-rises: the main building of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hotel Ukraina and others. They were all built in the late 1940s and the early 1950s. It is believed that these high-rises were the start of a major construction project. The plan was to erect similar buildings throughout Moscow in later years.
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Stalinist Empire Architecture.

The so-called Stalinist architecture combines pomposity and majesty with other architectural styles. Among the outstanding examples of this style are the building of the Russian Army Theatre and most buildings at the VDNKh, a giant exhibition venue, whose construction started in 1939.
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House on the Embankment.

A visit to the celebrated House on the Embankment, built in 1931 and officially known as the House of the Government, is a must for all those interested in Soviet architecture. The residents of this apartment building included party members, scientists, writers and high-rankings military officials, many of whom were detained during the purge.
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Orthodox Architecture

Religious monuments - remarkable churches, cathedrals and large monastery ensembles - are always part of countless excursions to Moscow and Moscow Region. These include the well-known Novodevichy Convent, the Danilov Monastery, the Art Nouveau Martha and Mary Convent built in 1909, and the Krutitsy Metochion, to name but a few. The Cathedrals of the Assumption and of the Archagel in the Kremlin are among the outstanding Russian Orthodox churches.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

This church is a reconstruction of the original church, built in the 19th century and blown up in 1931 to make room for the Palace of the Soviet. The plan was never realized, however. As of today the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is the largest active Russian Orthodox church.
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Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye.

Visiting the imperial estate of Kolomenskoye is a mandatory point of any excursion program. On the premises of the estate stands the unique Church of the Ascension, which is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Built between 1528 and 1532, this is the first stone tent-roofed church in Russia.
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Danilov Monastery.

Founded in the 13th century by Prince Daniil of Moscow, Danilov Monastery is an ensemble of buildings dating back to the 16th and later centuries, including the Church of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Trinity Cathedral and the Church of St. Simeon the Stylite.
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Resurrection Church in Kadashi.

This architectural pearl was built in the 17th century by residents of Kadashi Sloboda. Its picturesque exterior is a fusion of traditional Russian architecture with stylish and elaborate Baroque elements.
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Modern Moscow Architecture

Modern Moscow architecture is highly eclectic. As an example, the Arbat area boasts the surprising Pompeii House, sometimes considered as Moscow’s loveliest modern building. In Zamoskvorechye there is the Neo-Classic Roman House Residential Building, built in 2002-2005. A small four-storey mansion near Clear Ponds, commonly called the Egg House or the Faberge House, is also worth a visit.

Moscow House of Music.

Built in 2001, the Moscow International Music House is the centerpiece of the architectural ensemble of the Kosmodamianskaya Embankment. This amazing goblet-shaped glass building is crowned with a 9.5-meter treble clef that blows around like a weather vane.
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The Russian Academy of Sciences Building.

The 22-storey building of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, built in the 1990s, is located on Leninsky Avenue, on Sparrow Hills. Its roof is topped with an extravagant metallic structure, which is commonly known as ‘Golden Brains’.
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Moscow City.

The Moscow International Business Center, located in the west of Moscow, is designed after the world’s major business centers. It was built under the supervision of architect G. Sirota in the constructivist style, with the exception of the Tower on the Embankment that is representative of the high-tech style.
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Visiting Architectural Monuments on an Individual Basis

You need not be fluent in Russian to explore Moscow’s architectural landmarks. Central streets are well marked in English, and all central metro stations are announced in both Russian and English, so foreigners should not have trouble finding their way around the center of Moscow. Many sightseeing tour agencies offer guided tours of Moscow in English and other languages.

Moscow’s Loveliest Buildings

There are many beautiful buildings in Moscow and it is hard to name them all. Of exceptional beauty is the Krutitsy Metochion, which flourished in the 17th century. The Neo-Gothic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, Russia’s largest Catholic cathedral, is equally mind-boggling. Another impressive building is Pertsova’s tenement house on Prechistenskaya Embankment opposite the Kremlin, often called the Fairytale House.
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Strolling Around Moscow

Tverskoy District boasts most of Moscow’s architectural landmarks, including the Kremlin, the Bolshoi Theatre, the State Duma, numerous historical buildings and a wide array of first-class hotels and shops. Zamoskvorechye is another area featuring many architectural monuments. Unlike the grand Tverskaya Street, its main distinguishing feature is a large number of historical mansions and churches. Some of Zamoskvorechye’s highlights are the Tretyakov Gallery, the Resurrection Church in Kadashi, St. Clement’s Church, Marfo-Mariinsky Convent, the Church of St. Nicholas in Kuznetsi and many more.
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Novospassky Monastery at night
Moscow Kremlin. Sobornaya Square
Marfo-Mariinsky Convent
Garden ring
Danilov Monastery. Bell
Church of St. Nicholas in Khamovniki
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Moscow
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Sculptures
Belorusskaya Metro Station
Apartment Building on Kudrinskaya Square. View from above
Administrative and Residential Building at Red Gate
1, Leningradsky Highway
Vysoko-Petrovsky Monastery
Taganskaya Metro Station
Sunday school on the grounds of the Church of the Intercession at Fili
Stalin's high-rise. Interior
St. Basil's Cathedral
St. Basil's Cathedral. Interior
Soviet Army Theatre. Colonnade
Saviour depicted on the main dome of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Левая стрелка Правая стрелка