Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev was a 19th-century Russian writer famous for his novels and short fiction stories (Fathers and Sons, A Sportman’s Sketches, Rudin, A Nest of Gentlefolk, First Love). Moscow occupied an important place in Turgenev’s life, having grown up and studied here. His mother’s house has survived to today and is now the site of the Turgenev Museum. It is this house that Turgenev described in his short story, Mumu.
Ivan Turgenev was born into a nobleman’s family in Oryola city located on the Oka River, approximately 360 kilometers south-southwest of Moscow, in 1818. His father Sergey Turgenev married Varvara Lutovinova, when she was about 30 years old. She was six years older than her husband and was not particularly beautiful but was immensely wealthy. They had three sons, Ivan being the second-born.
HIS YOUTH IN MOSCOW
Turgenev spent the first five years of his life at his parents’ country estate of Spasskoye-LutovinoRussian: Спасское-Лутовиново, not far from Oryol. The writer-to-be visited Moscow for the first time in 1822 for a visit with his parents and he moved to Moscow for good in 1824, at the age of six. The family came here with the intention to give the children a decent education.
At first, the Turgenevs did not have their own home in Moscow and, instead, rented a house on Bolshaya Nikitskaya StreeRussian: Bolshaya Nikitskaya ulitsa or Большая Никитская улицаt (present-day Block 1, 57/46, Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street); this is Ivan Turgenev’s first address in Moscow. In the autumn of 1824, his mother Varvara Petrovna purchased a house on Sadovo-Samotyochnaya StreetRussian: Sadovo-Samotechnaya ulitsa or Садово-Самотечная улица, but at the beginning of 1825 the head of the household took the children back to the countryside. Turgenev’s biographers still do not know the reason for this hasty departure.
The Turgenevs came back to Moscow in 1827. Still eager to give their children a good education, Sergey and Varvara Turgenev enrolled them in a private boarding school run by Weidenhammer, located at the corner of Gagarinsky and Starokonyushenny LanesRussian: Gagarinskiy i Starokonyushennyi pereulki or Гагаринский и Староконюшенный переулки (the building has not survived). There were about 30 boarding schools in Moscow, but the Turgenevs chose this one, probably because it admitted only the children of the noblest and wealthiest families, trained them to enroll in military schools and included an in-depth and simultaneous study of several foreign languages. Turgenev conveyed this school’s atmosphere in his short story entitled Yakov Pasynkov, whose eponymous protagonist was loosely based on a classmate of Turgenev’s. Ivan Turgenev attended this boarding school intermittently for three years. A cholera outbreak caused this institution to shut, and starting in 1831 Turgenev was homeschooled. His mother invited the school’s best teachers to give private lessons to her sons, including lessons in the Russian, French and Latin languages, mathematics and dancing.
The Turgenevs lived at 15, Gagarinsky Lane (Kvashnin-Steingel’s mansion) from 1830 to 1831. The house is still standing. Moving from one address to another every year developed into a routine, which was the usual practice for Muscovite aristocrats who went to their countryside residences in summertime and looked for appropriate housing in Moscow for the winter. The Turgenevs preferred to settle in the ArbatRussian: Арбат quarter, then inhabited mostly by aristocrats. From 1831 to 1832, the Turgenevs rented the still surviving mansion at 24, Sivtsev Vrazhek LaneRussian: pereulok Sivtsev Vrazhek or переулок Сивцев Вражек, and later another house in Kislovsky LaneRussian: Kislovskiy pereulok or Кисловский переулок.
In the summer of 1833, while 14-year-old Turgenev was preparing for admission into the Moscow UniversityRussian: Moskovskiy universitet or Московский университет, his parents rented a summer house not far from the Donskoy MonasteryRussian: Donskoy monastyir or Донской монастырь. Turgenev would later give a detailed description of this period of his life in First Love. “The affair took place in the summer of 1833. I was living in Moscow, in my parents’ house. They had hired a villa near the Kaluga barrier, opposite the Neskuchny Park. I was preparing for university, but was working very little and was not in a hurry… Our villa consisted of a wooden manor-house with columns and two tiny outlying wings”.
Ivan showed extraordinary abilities and became – even before he turned 15 – a first-year student at the Language Arts Department of the Moscow University, admitted on an exceptional basis (9, Mokhovaya StreetRussian: ulitsa Mohovaya or улица Моховая, now housing the Faculty of Journalism of the Moscow State UniversityRussian: fakultet zhurnalistiki MGU or факультет журналистики МГУ). The director of all schools of the Moscow GovernorateRussian: Moskovskaya guberniya or Московская губерния saw to it that Ivan was granted admission to the university. He wrote to S. Uvarov, Minister of Education, as follows: “This boy knows so much that he could pass not only this kind of examination, but also the final examinations”. However, Turgenev studied for just one year at the Moscow University, preferring to move to his brother in St. Petersburg, where he enrolled in the History and Philology Department of the St. Petersburg UniversityRussian: Peterburgskiy universitet or Петербургский университет. Upon his graduation in 1838, Turgenev went to Germany for several years.
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The HOUSE ON OSTOZHENKA STREET
While in Berlin, Turgenev received letters from his mother all the time, to which he replied only rarely. In 1840, Varvara Petrovna rented a mansion located on Ostozhenka StreetRussian: ulitsa Ostozhenka or улица Остоженка and lived there until her death ten years later. She had never liked her mansion on Sadovo-Samotyochnaya Street and rented it before selling it in 1844. This building has not survived, and building № 12/2, Sadovo-Samotyochnaya Street is located on its site today.
Turgenev’s mother called Ivan back to Moscow, hoping that her son would live with her, and the young writer set foot in this house on Ostozhenka Street in May 1841. Later, he would often visit his mother’s, but never remained there long. Turgenev’s biographer, N. Chernov estimated that, in ten years, Turgenev stayed at this house one year and a half at most, mainly on his way from St. Petersburg to his family estate of Spasskoye-Lutovino and back. In ten years, Turgenev stayed at his mother’s house two months in a row on two occasions only. His rooms were located in the mezzanine and the private rooms of Varvara Petrovna were one floor below.
Turgenev described this house in his celebrated short story entitled MumuRussian: Муму: “In one of the outlying streets of Moscow, in a gray house with white columns and a balcony, warped all askew, there once lived a lady, a widow, surrounded by a numerous household of serfs…”. It is here that Gerasim lived, and it is here that he brought from the Krymsky fordRussian: Kryimskiy brod or Крымский брод (on the site of the present-day Krymsky, or Crimean, BridgeRussian: Kryimskiy most or Крымский мост) a puppet that he rescued from the mud. The characters in Mumu are all based on Varvara Petrovna’s “household of serfs” and Varvara herself.
A GUEST IN MOSCOW
Turgenev went to St. Petersburg in 1843. He had tried to obtain a Master’s degree in Philosophy and become a professor at the Moscow University, but was denied due to formalities. In St. Petersburg, Turgenev joined the Ministry of the InteriorRussian: Ministerstvo vnutrennih del or Министерство внутренних дел in 1843. One year later, while on leave, he came back to Moscow to visit his mother. He caught a bad cold and had to stay in Moscow until May 1844. Turgenev’s friends in Moscow, whom his mother mockingly called “the learned monkeys”, would often gather in his house, including Yakov Polonskya leading Pushkinist poet, Timofey Granovskya founder of mediaeval studies and others. Turgenev was working on a poem, Andrey, at this time.
One year later, in April 1845, Turgenev came back to Moscow, this time with a view to attend performances by Pauline Viardot, who then became the love of his life. Turgenev attended all three sold-out concerts given by this celebrated opera singer at the Bolshoi TheatreRussian: Большой театр. When the performances were over, Turgenev showed Pauline Viardot and her husband around the Kremlin and Moscow. Turgenev’s mother did not approve of his infatuation with Pauline, although she recognized her talent: “What a good singer, the ruddy Gypsy!”
Turgenev met Pauline Viardot for the first time in St. Petersburg. In October 1843, she went there on tour accompanied by her husband. Turgenev saw her on stage in The Barber of Seville and fell desperately in love with her. He had just turned 25, she was 22, but married. Turgenev met her husband, Louis Viardot, on a hunting trip and, thus, was able to meet Pauline. He might have gone unnoticed among her numerous admirers if it weren’t for his friendship with Louis Viardot, who found it exciting to talk to this Russian intellectual.
In May 1845, Turgenev left his post at the Ministry of the Interior to get more free time and, after a while, followed his love to Europe. He returned to his house on Ostozhenka Street five years later. Turgenev and his brother bitterly quarreled with their mother and came back here only after her death. She died on 16 November 1850 and was buried in the family crypt located at the necropolis of the Donskoy Monastery (1, Donskaya SquareRussian: Donskaya ploschad or Донская площадь), the best-known aristocratic cemetery in Moscow.
Busy with financial inheritance matters after her death, Turgenev spent three months in his mansion and then went back to Europe for some time. Many personalities of Moscow’s literary, artistic and scientific milieus visited Turgenev during his stay in Moscow.
HIS RECOGNITION AND CELEBRITY
While in Moscow, Turgenev made his debut as a playwright. His comedies, A Provincial Lady and A Bachelor, were staged by the Maly TheatreRussian: Малый театр (1, Teatralny DrivewayRussian: Teatralnyi proezd or Театральный проезд) as the M. S. Shchepkinthe most famous Russian Empire actor of the 19th century Special, and Turgenev attended the stage performances of the plays, both of which were warmly applauded by the audience.
Turgenev left the house at Ostozhenka Street forever in June 1851 and headed for his country estate of Spasskoye-Lutovino. Several months later, he returned to Moscow as a guest and stayed at his friends’ and in hotels. During his stay there, he met Nikolai Gogola Russian dramatist of Ukrainian origin in the mansion of Count A. P. Tolstoy on Nikitsky BoulevardRussian: Nikitskiy bulvar or Никитский бульвар (7, Nikitsky Boulevard), where Turgenev was living at that time. Gogol praised his younger colleague thus: “Among all contemporary writers, it is Turgenev who is the most talented”.
After his mother’s death, Turgenev returned to Moscow on many occasions, but only for short visits, staying at the house of I. Maslov, a friend of his and the managing director of a Moscow agency in charge of the property of the Imperial Family. The house was located in Turgenev’s favourite quarter, at 10, Prechistensky BoulevardRussian: Prechistenskiy bulvar or Пречистенский бульвар. In Moscow, Turgenev often used to meet his friends, relatives and publishers, and his complete works were published in five volumes in 1860 (Short Novels and Stories by I. S. Turgene vhad been published in three volumes in 1856).
Turgenev’s brother Nikolai died in 1879, and Ivan Turgenev came to Moscow to arrange his inheritance matters. Numerous celebrations in his honour marked his visit. He was elected Honourary Fellow of the Colloquy of Lovers of the Russian WordRussian: Obschestvo lyubiteley rossiyskoy slovesnosti or Общество любителей российской словесности, whose meetings were held at the Moscow University. In March 1889, Turgenev met the Russian youth on several occasions, and HermitageRussian: Эрмитаж, the most expensive restaurant in Moscow at that time, hosted a dinner in his honour (this building now houses the Moscow Modern School of Dramatic TheatreRussian: teatr «Shkola sovremennoy pesy» or театр «Школа современной пьесы» at Block 1, 29, Neglinnaya StreetRussian: ulitsa Neglinnaya or улица Неглинная).
In summer 1880, Ivan Turgenev participated in the main event of the year in Moscow, the unveiling of the monument to Alexander Pushkin. The ceremony was followed by 3-day festivities held at the Assembly of the NobilityRussian: zal Blagorodnogo sobraniya or зал Благородного собрания (1, Bolshaya Dmitrovka StreetRussian: ulitsa Bolshaya Dmitrovka or улица Большая Дмитровка, renamed House of the UnionsRussian: Dom Soyuzov or Дом Союзов in Soviet times). Turgenev delivered a speech for the inauguration of the Pushkin monument, which he concluded with the words, “This is the monument to my teacher!”
Turgenev made his last visit to Moscow in 1881, two years before his death, en route to his beloved estate of Spasskoye-Lutovino. He died in France and was later buried in Volkovo CemeteryRussian: Волково кладбище or Volkovo kladbische in St. Petersburg.
The TURGENEV MUSEUM
The first and only Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev Museum in Moscow was opened in his house on Ostozhenka Street in 2007. In 1819, architect D. Fyodorov built a wooden house similar to many other houses constructed in Moscow in the aftermath of the Fire of 1812broke out in 1812, when Russian troops and most of the remaining residents abandoned the city of Moscow just ahead of Napoleon's vanguard troops entering the city. This house can still be seen today, with its six-column porch, a mezzanine (invisible from the street) and seven windows decorating its façade. This house has always provided rental accommodation, and its renters have included the Russian writer Aksakova 19th-century Russian literary figure remembered for his semi-autobiographical tales of family life, Pushkin’s aunt and Count F. Tolstoya Russian nobleman from the well-known Tolstoy family nicknamed ‘The American’. This 200-year-old mansion has remained intact despite wars, revolutions and large-scale urban renewal, hence its great value to the city.
In 2015, the I. S. Turgenev Museum was closed for renovation. The plan is to restore the house’s original interior, including the mezzanine floor where Turgenev’s private rooms are located. The mansion will be surrounded by a garden featuring the first monument to Turgenev in Moscow. The museum’s reconstruction is expected to finish in 2018, date which coincides with 200 years since Turgenev’s birth.
The museum exhibition, centered around the role of Moscow in Turgenev’s life, will display items related to his childhood, youth and studies in Moscow. Several rooms will be devoted to the historical realities of the Turgenevs’ life in this house. For example, Ivan Turgenev’s rooms in the mezzanine floor will provide a glimpse into the world of a young man of the 1840s, and the grand suite of rooms on the main floor, where the private rooms of Turgenev’s mother were, will give you an insight into Varvara Petrovna’s outlook and character. A large exhibition complex will be dedicated to Turgenev’s literary career, which spanned a total of 45 years.
A Turgenev-style park will be laid out on the museum’s grounds, which comprise both the former estate of LoshakovskyRussian: usadba Loshakovskogo or усадьба Лошаковского and the nearby I. S. Turgenev Public GardenRussian: skver imeni I.S. Turgeneva or сквер имени И.С. Тургенева. It will be planted with trees and bushes inspired by Turgenev’s literary works and parterres, which were loved by Varvara Petrovna. In short, this area will echo the world of the Russian country estate, a real nest of gentlefolk, so to speak, in memory of the great Russian writer, who so reverently and with such care conveyed the images and mannerisms of that exciting epoch of the 19th century.
- 37, Ostozhenka Street: I. S. Turgenev Museum.
- Block 1, 57/46, Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street: Turgenev’s first address in Moscow.
- 15, Gagarinsky Lane: Kvashnin-Steingel’s Mansion.
- 24, Sivtsev Vrazhek Street.
- 10, Prechistensky Boulevard: Building of a Moscow agency, where I. I. Maslov, a friend of Turgenev’s, lived.
- Bolshoi Theatre: Pauline Viardot performed here.
- Maly Theatre: Turgenev’s plays were staged here.
- 9, Mokhovaya Street: Building of the Moscow University.
- 8, Spasopeskovskaya Lane: Ivan Turgenev’s cousin, S. P. Turgenev, rented this house.
- 7, Nikitsky Boulevard: Count A. N. Tolstoy rented this building owned by Talyzin. Turgenev met Nikolai Gogol here.
- Block 1, 29, Neglinnaya Street: Hermitage Restaurant, where Turgenev was honoured in 1880 (today, Moscow Modern Drama School Theatre).
- 1, Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street: Assembly of the Nobility.
- 1-3, Donskaya Square: Nekropolis of the Donskoy Monastery.
The author would like to express her gratitude to E. V. Polyanskaya, head of the I. S. Turgenev Museum (subdivision of the A. S. Pushkin Museum), for her help in preparing this article.© 2016-2019 moscovery.com