‘’At the sunset hour of one warm spring day two men were to be seen at Patriarch’s Ponds” – everyone familiar with the works of Mikhail Bulgakov is sure recognise this quote as the opening sentence of “The Master and Margarita” novel. Patriarch’s Ponds (Russian: Patriarshiye Prudy or Патриаршие пруды) were the starting point of Woland’s incredible adventures in Moscow. It was close by that Annushka spilled some oil on the tram tracks – the “sinister apartment” was located nearby. For Muscovites, Patriarch’s Ponds will always be associated with this timeless novel and its creator. This is where lovers of Bulgakov’s quiet, peaceful, yet mysterious, Moscow come for a stroll in the evening. Every building here has its own history. This place in the city is associated not only with Mikhail Bulgakov; different epochs and personalities are interwoven throughout the streets. Not only literature lovers but also architecture connoisseurs, those who frequent fine dining establishments, and those who simply enjoy a nice walk will find a visit here worthwhile.
PAST AND PRESENT
The history of this place can be traced back to Ancient Rus when there were only a goat yard (a place where sheep and goats are bred) and a Goat marsh (Russian: Koziye boloto or Козье болото) situated here. The marsh might have remained there indefinitely were it not for patriarch Germogen, who built his residence here in the early 17th century. In this way, Patriarshaya Sloboda (a kind of historic Russian settlement) emerged. Later, the marsh was dried and the water gathered in three specially dug cavities which made up three ponds used for fish-farming for the Patriarch. The sloboda stopped being maintained when the patriarchy was abolished in the 18th century; the ponds silted up and the area became deserted. It was only in the course of the reconstruction of Moscow after the fire of 1812 that the place was put right; the only remaining pond was cleaned and trees were planted around it to create a garden square.
Interestingly, the old name “Partriach’s Ponds” has remained in the plural since the 17th century. This is despite the fact that today, there is only one pond left. In Soviet times, the city authorities tried to give it another name – Pioneer’s Ponds – but this failed. People continued to use the name that they were used to. Currently, the Patriarch’s Ponds are a quiet green hideaway in the very centre of the noisy capital. The total area of the small park is slightly over two hectares. The pond itself takes up less than half of the area, while the rest of the space is occupied by the garden square and numerous walkways.
The pond is very picturesque in summer, when it is surrounded by green trees and in winter it is used as a skating rink. Beside it, there is a pavilion built using some elements of the building that used to stand in its place in the 19th century. There is also a monument to the famous Russian fabulist Ivan Krylov (by A. Chaltykiyan and A. Drevin). Ivan Krylov often visited poet Ivan Dementiev, who lived in this area.
Some houses in the nearby side streets are of particular interest; for example, the Tarasov’s house (11, Bolshoy Patriarshy side street). It is a famous monument of 20th century neoclassical architecture that mirrors the shapes of Palazzo Thiene in Vicenza by Andrea Palladio. There is also the so-called “House with Lions” (9, Ermolayevsky side street). Its other name is “The General’s House”, as it was built for the heroes of the 1812 Patriotic War. Both buildings are remarkable; they are magnificent and abound in elements of classical architecture. There is also a monument in honour of a recent epoch – the “Patriarch” apartment block topped by a shape that mirrors the famous Tatlin’s Tower (the Monument to the Third International).
BULGAKOV AT PATRIARCH’S PONDS
Not far from here (at 10, Bolshaya Sadovaya street) is the “Sinister apartment” from the famous novel – the prototype of the one where Woland’s party stayed and which was set on fire by the cat Behemoth who overthrew the primus heater. The apartment is now a museum dedicated to Bulgakov, while it used to be a kommunalka (a communal apartment shared by several families during the Soviet era), where Mikhail Bulgakov himself lived with his wife for some time. A woman who became the prototype of Annushka (the one who spilled some sunflower-seed oil on the tram tracks) lived in one of the rooms in the apartment. In the same house in Bolshaya Sadovaya street, fans of Bulgakov’s work established Bulgakov’s House Museum Theatre.
Many people coming to Patriarch’s Ponds look for the tram tracks where poor Berlioz, a character from Bulgakov’s novel, was killed. Alas, this search is in vain: they do not exist! The author drew inspiration from the cityscape around him, but did not copy every element. You will not see any monuments to characters in the novel here, either. A sculptural ensemble dedicated to “The Master and Margarita” was intended to be installed here. However, local residents were against the idea and the authorities have since abandoned it.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com