Mikhail Lermontov was a prominent 19th century Russian poet and novelist. He had a particular affection for Moscow, the city where he was born and raised. The capital with its flavour and vitality featured heavily in many of his works. “Moscow is my motherland, and will remain such for me: I was born there, much did I suffer there, and was too happy there”, – Lermontov wrote. Before his departure from Moscow in 1841, Lermontov said: “If I were allowed to retire from service, how gladly would I settle down here for good”. The main address associated with Lermontov is the house in Malaya MolchanovkaRussian: Малая Молчановка street near the ArbatRussian: Арбат, where he lived for three years and wrote about half of his works. At present, the building houses a museum dedicated to him.
A descendant of an originally Scottish family which then became merged with Russian, Mikhail Lermontov was born in 1814 in Fyodor Tol’s house not far from Krasnye Vorota,Russian: Красные ворота or Red Gates. Sadly, the house no longer exists. Today, the site is occupied by a high-rise building dating back to Stalin’s time (21, Sadovaya-SpasskayaRussian: Садовая-Спасская str.). Its facade features a memorial plaque dedicated to the poet.
On the nearby square, whose name was changed to LermontovskayaRussian: Лермонтовская in 1941 there is a monument by sculptor I. Brodsky. A five-metre high sculpture of the poet was built on a small granite space. Behind it, there is a bar depicting the Demon and the fight of the Novicefrom the poem by Mikhail Lermontov written in 1839 with the panther. Get closer and you will see a quote from the poem “Sashka”: “Moscow, Moscow… I love you like a son, like the Russians do – so much, so flamingly, so gently!” The unveiling of the monument was timed to coincide with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the poet’s birthday in 1965.
On the opposite side of the Garden RingRussian: Sadovoye koltso or Садовое кольцо, there used to be a church called the Three Saints Church by the Red GatesRussian: tserkov' Tryokh Svyatiteley u Krasnykh vorot or церковь Трёх Святителей у Красных ворот, where Lermontov was baptised on 11 October 1814. The church was demolished in the 1930s. At present, there is a tall cross on the site.
Lermontov spent his childhood in TarkhanyRussian: Тарханы (Penza regionRussia: Penzenskaya oblast or Пензенская область) but as a child he frequently visited Moscow with his grandmother (his mother Mariya died in Tarkhany when Mikhail was only 3, and his father left him in his grandmother’s care). The poet lived in Moscow from 1827 to 1832. It was here that he turned his attention to the heroic chapters of Russian history. During his “Moscow period” he wrote “The Turk’s Lament”, “The Prophecy”, “Desire”, “From Andre Chenier”, “My Demon”, “The Two Giants” and other poems.
In his works of prose, Lermontov wrote wonderful descriptions of Moscow. His marvellous work “Panorama of Moscow” was written after his ascent to the Ivan the Great Bell TowerRussian: kolokolnya Ivana Velikogo or колокольня Ивана Великого in the Kremlin. He went up almost 200 steps to enjoy a panoramic view of the capital. In his opinion, Moscow “has its own soul, its own life… Its every stone preserves an inscription abundant in thought, feeling, and inspiration”. Lermontov compares the city to an ocean with its powerful and resounding language. Moscow is shown to be just as colourful and red-blooded in Lermontov’s other works: “A Song about Merchant Kalashnikov”, the drama “The Two Brothers”, and the poem “Sashka”. The lines from the poem Borodino have become proverbial: “Hey lads! Is Moscow not behind? By Moscow then we die. As have our brethren died before!”. The Russians recite these lines every time a conversation drifts to any fight against foreign occupation.
In 1827, the future poet and his grandmother moved to E. Kostomarova’s houseRussian: dom Y. Kostomarovoy or дом Е. Костомаровой (26, PovarskayaRussian: Поварская str.). Before that, they lived in TrubnayaRussian: Трубная street for some time, at their distant relatives, the Meshcherinovs, place. Neither of the buildings exists today. It is known that Lermontov had a good relationship with his neighbours and developed a lifelong friendship with some of them. Maria Lopukhina stood out among them. He often wrote letters to her, sent her poems, and shared his feelings. He dedicated the poem “We Met by Chance” to her sister Varvara. It is a well-known fact that Varvara Lopukhina became the prototype of Vera in the drama, “Two Brothers” and the short novel, “Princess Ligovskaya”. The poet was in love with her. His contemporaries pointed out that “Lermontov’s feelings for her were true, strong and he seemed to have treasured them until his dying day”. Later, Varvara Lopukhina married N. Bakhmetev, which was a bitter blow for Lermontov.
In August 1829, the young Lermontov, together with his grandmother, moved to the merchant F. Chernova’s mansionRussian: osobnyak kupchikhi F. Chernovoy or особняк купчихи Ф. Черновой (M. Lermontov Memorial HouseRussian: Dom-muzey M.Y. Lermontova or Дом-музей М.Ю. Лермонтова, 2, Malaya Molchanovka). It is a typical mansion in the Empire stylethe style was used to celebrate the victory over Napoleon with a mezzanine. Around the house, there were numerous backyard buildings: a house for the cook, servant’s quarters, stables, a coach house, an ice cellar, and a barn. Lermontov lived in this house for almost three years before he moved to Saint Petersburg in the summer of 1832. Lermontov and his father spent some time together in this new city; the poet was inconsolable when his father died in 1831. “The Terrible Fate of Father and Son” was a poem inspired by this event. The mansion in Malaya Molchanovka is the only house in Moscow in which Lermontov set foot which still exists today. Today, it houses the M. Lermontov museum. It was opened in 1981 after lengthy restoration undertaken at the initiative of the famous literary scholar, Irakly Andronikov.
There are numerous memorial exhibits related to the Moscow period of Lermontov’s life in this museum. There are a number of recreated rooms: his grandmother’s room, the large and small drawing rooms, the hall, Lermontov’s mezzanine, the poet and his family members’ portraits and personal possessions. A monument to the poet by sculptor Alexander Burganov was unveiled close to the memorial house (in the garden square near the building, 10, Novy ArbatRussian: Новый Арбат str. in 1994.
IN LERMONTOV‘S FOOTSTEPS
There are several other memorable places in Moscow linked to Lermontov’s name in some way. One of them is the Assembly of the NobilityRussian: Blagorodnoye sobraniye or Благородное собрание, a marvellous classical mansion built by the architect Matvei Kazakovone of the most influential Muscovite architects during the reign of Catherine II (The Pillar Hall of the House of UnionsRussian: Kolonnyi Zal Doma Soyuzov or Колонный зал Дома Союзов, 1, Bolshaya DmitrovkaRussian: Большая Дмитровка street) Mikhail Yuriyevich often visited it. At a New Year fancy dress party on 31 December 1831, the poet dressed in an astrologer’s costume and recited witty epigrams.
The Moscow UniversityRussian: Moskovskiy universitet or Московский университет (the old building of the university, 18, MokhovayaRussian: Моховая str. also preserves the memory of its talented alumni. Lermontov studied at the university at the same time as Alexander Herzen, Vissarion Belinsky, Ivan Goncharov, Nikolai Ogarev, Nikolai Stankevich – all future famous writers and pubic figures. Initially, Lermontov studied at the department of ethics and politics and then moved to the philology department. During his time at university, Lermontov filled several notebooks with poems. He started work on his piece of prose “Demon”. In 1832 he decided to leave the university.
Lermontov loved theatre and frequently went to the Bolshoi TheatreRussian: Bolshoy teatr or Большой театр (1, Teatralnaya squareRussian: Teatralnaya ploschad or Театральная площадь) (called PetrovskyRussian: Петровский at that time). Here, Lermontov watched Verstovskya Russian composer’s opera productions and Shiller’s tragedy “The Robbers”. Impressed by the talent of the architect Bovean Italian-Russian neoclassical architect who supervised reconstruction of Moscow after the Fire of 1812, who designed the new theatre building he wrote the following: “The Petrovsky theatre rises above a large square – a creation of modern art, a huge building made to conform to all the rules of taste: a flat roof and a majestic portico topped with an alabaster Apollo standing on one foot in an alabaster chariot, steering three alabaster horses motionlessly and casting a discontented eye upon the Kremlin wall, which jealously separates him from the ancient Russian sanctities!..”
Lermontov loved visiting salons, too. The Pavlovs’ literary salonRussian: salon Pavlovykh or салон Павловых (14, Rozhdestvensky boulevardRussian: Rozhdestvenskiy bulvar or Рождественский бульвар) was particularly famous at the time. In 1840, before his departure to the CaucasusRussian: Kavkaz or Кавказ, he frequented the place. The owner of the salon was Karolina Pavlovna – a poetess and a translator. Later, she was one of the first translators of Lermontov’s works into German. At present, the building is occupied by offices.
On 9 May 1840 Lermontov was present at the dinner party in honour of Nikolai Gogola Russian dramatist of Ukrainian origin. It took place in the famous Pogodinskaya izbaRussian: Погодинская изба (10-12, PogodinskayaRussian: Погодинская str.). It was at this meeting that Lermontov recited extracts from his poem ‘The Novice”. The house belonged to a well-known historian Mikhail Pogodin Lermontov met at the university. The “Izbaa traditional Russian countryside dwelling” was built in the middle of the 19th century by architect N. Nikitin as a wing of a house in the city in the traditional Russian style and looked like a log-house decorated with carved wooden window surrounds, shutters, and other traditional Russian architectural details.
The building at 10, Strastnoy BoulevardRussian: Strastnoy bulvar or Страстной бульвар where Lermontov used to buy books is still in perfect condition. At the time, it housed Alexander Shiryaev’s university book shopRussian: knizhnaya lavka Aleksandra Shiryaeva or книжная лавка Александра Ширяева.
During his last visit to Moscow on his way to the Caucasus, Lermontov stayed with his comrade-in-arms Baron Dmitry Rozen, who lived in official quarters in Petrovsky palaceRussian: Petrovskiy dvorets or Петровский дворец (40, Leningradsky avenueRussian: Leningradskiy prospekt or Ленинградский проспект. The house was built in 1775-1782 by architect Matvei Kazakov on what used to be the outskirts of Moscow at the time and was intended to accommodate the Emperor and his family.
When Mikhail Lermontov studied at the boarding school and the university, he went to the SerednikovoRussian: Середниково estate frequently with his grandmother. The estate is 40 km from the city down the Leningradskoye highwayRussian: Leningradskoye shosse or Ленинградское шоссе around FirsanovkaRussian: Фирсановка station. It belonged to Dmitry Stolypin, the poet’s great-uncle. It is known that Lermontov spent his summer holidays here from 1829 to 1832, staying in the right wing of the mansion on the first floor. A sculpture of Lermontov by A. Golubkina was installed in front of this wing in 1900.
There was a large and picturesque park on the estate, transected by the River GoretovkaRussian: Горетовка. The main building on the estate is a two-storey house with a belvedere (a small round tower) and wings adjoined to the main building by galleries. In the centre of the estate you’ll find the front court and behind the house there are stone stairs leading down to the pond. The poet’s friends and acquaintances also visited Serednikovo: the Lopukhins, the Bakhmetyevs, E. Sushkova and A. Vereshchagina. The beauty of his surroundings and the company of his friends inspired the poet and are reflected in his works. At present, there is a museum in Serednikovo run by a descendant of Lermontov’s.
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