Moscow parks are known for pleasing Muscovites and tourists with their natural beauty, infrastructure and atmosphere. During a large-scale modernization of the city, it acquired dozens of cosy, safe spaces with beautifully designed landscapes and developed infrastructure. Sokolniki ParkRussian: park ‘Sokol’niki’ or парк «Сокольники» is in the northeastern part of Moscow. It was created in the 19th century and provides the opportunity for year-round sports, fitness and family recreational activities in a carefully preserved natural environment. Two rose gardens are the jewel of this huge park, and the museum of calligraphy is the only one of its kind in the capital.
FAMOUS PEOPLE IN SOKOLNIKI
Artists and writers often found inspiration in the picturesque and diverse natural landscapes of Sokolniki. Landscape painter Ivan Shishkin would often spend his time in the park. Alexei Savrasov created a sketch and a painting called Elk Island in Sokolniki in 1869. Isaac Levitan contributed to the collection of masterpieces with his canvas painting Sokolniki. An Autumn Day in 1879. Both paintings are now displayed in the Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Tretyakovskaya galereya or Третьяковская галерея. Pyotr Chaadayeva Russian philosopher who wrote eight "Philosophical Letters" about Russia in French between 1826-1831 wrote one of his famous Philosophic Letters in Sokolniki, Nikolai Leskova Russian novelist, short-story writer and Vladimir Mayakovskya Soviet poet and a prominent figure of the Russian Futurist movement rented dachas by the park at different times, and Lev Tolstoy made Sokolniki the setting for the infamous duel between his characters, Pierre Bezukhov and Fyodor Dolokhov in War and Peace.
The end of the 19th century saw the first specialised sports clubs in Sokolniki as well as the first musical evenings – a tradition which is still alive. Nikolai Rubinsteina Russian pianist, conductor and composer, the founder of the Moscow ConservatoryRussian: Moskovskaya konservatoriya or Московская консерватория, lived in Sokolniki; actors of Moscow Art TheatreRussian: Moskovskiy Hudozhestvennyi teatr or Московский Художественный театр and of the Maly TheatreRussian: Malyi teatr or Малый театр performed in the famous Tivoli Variety TheatreRussian: teatr-varete «Tivoli» or театр-варьете «Тиволи» located in the park; Arkadiya GardenRussian: sad "Arkadiya" or сад "Аркадия" was the venue for Fyodor Shalyapina Russian opera singer possessing a deep and expressive bass voice’s performances and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s frequent visits. As well as this, Sokolniki is where the first piano concert by Sergei Prokofiev was performed on August 7, 1912.
Sokolniki Park covers nearly 600 ha, half of which is planted densely with coniferous and deciduous trees. It is worth taking a walk around it if only to breathe some fresh air. Don’t be afraid of getting lost – its visitor-friendly design makes it easy to get around. The central alley leads from the main entrance to the Sokolnichesky CircleRussian: Sokol’nicheskiy krug or Сокольнический круг and then forks into eight alleys traversed by the Transverse CrosscutRussian: Poperechny prosek or Поперечный просек, thus dividing the park into nine sectors, each with different tree species.
Sokolniki is a monument of garden art, which boasts, apart from elms and oaks, dozens of diverse plant species on the IUCN Red List as well as various types of roses and lilacs that are grown in specifically arranged areas: the Big and Small Rose GardensRussian: Bol’shoy i maly rozarii or Большой и Малый розарии, which are open in summer, and the Lilac GardenRussian: Sirenevy sad or Сиреневый сад open from April to November. However, visitors must bear in mind that the rose and lilac gardens are silent zones, therefore it is recommended to keep your voice down. Of course, damaging or removing any flora is prohibited in the whole park.
The modern conception of Sokolniki is built around environmental balance, harmony and peaceful coexistence with nature, so visitors are encouraged to sort their waste, take good care of flora and fauna, pick up after their dogs and keep them quiet.
RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THE PARK
It is nice to spend time with your family in Sokolniki, as the park offers all sorts of recreational activities suitable for any age group. Free outdoor gyms can be found in the northern part of the park. The whole territory is equipped with bike lanes and ping-pong tables. Extreme sports clubs available include a skate park, a trampoline park, ski/snowboard simulators, and a school of unicycling. There are also chess and draughts club, a carting centre, a sports centre called ‘LeaderRussian: Лидер’, and a health and fitness complex. Yoga, billiard and Nordic walking are especially enjoyable in this park. In winter, you can benefit from the all-weather skiing piste and the outdoor ice rink ‘IceRussian: Лёд’, where you can try a hand at speed skiing. There is also a figure skating school for children and adults, affiliated with the ice rink.
The Children’s Creative CentreRussian: Dom detskogo tvorchestva or Домдетского творчества has been a feature of the park since 2004 (opening hours: Mo–Sa from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.). It offers a variety of options for children’s leisure and developmental activities. Diverse events, development workshops, concerts and theatrical performances are held for little visitors of Sokolniki. For example, a child can celebrate his or her birthday at the park, see the unusual Robo-Christmas TreeRussian: РобоЁлка, learn about the basic laws of physics and chemistry in the InnoparkRussian: Иннопарк, mount a bird feeder, or have fun on amusement rides with their parents.
Adults won’t be bored in Sokolniki, either—an extensive cultural and recreation program is available for them in the park. You can visit the people’s observatory ‘Starry SkiesRussian: Звёздное небо’, where hi-tech equipment helps bring the Sun within your grasp. In summer, you can spend time in the open-air cinema or in the Symphonic PlatformRussian: Simfonicheskaya Estrada or Симфоническая эстрада, which has held classical music concerts and large-scale cultural events for many years. In winter, you will able to warm up by the fire or by dancing. Dancing is a much-loved activity at Sokolniki; at any time of the year, the platforms ‘RotondaRussian: Ротонда’, ‘Dancing VerandaRussian: Веранда танцев’ and ‘Dancefloor 3+Russian: Танцпол 3+’ welcome visitors aged three and upward whose bodies and souls are ready to dance to retro and contemporary music.
The Contemporary Museum of CalligraphyRussian: Sovremenny muzey kalligrafii or Современный музейкаллиграфии is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays in all weather conditions. This museum is the only one of its kind in Moscow. Its permanent exhibition includes masterpieces and unique examples of Slavic and European writing, fine works of Jewish and Arabic calligraphy schools, the strict patterns of traditional Japanese calligraphy, ancient Chinese scripts, and rare manuscripts and writing supplies of the past and present. The museum also houses themed lectures and workshops.
Fashion shows and exhibitions are held every day in the pavilions of the Cultural and Exhibition CentreRussian: Kul’turno-vystavochny tsentr or Культурно-выставочный центр. Cosy cafés are available for you to have a rest and something to eat.
For those who have fallen in love with Sokolniki and would like to keep a longer memory of it or contribute to the development of the park area, there is the My Park ProgrammeRussian: programma ‘Moy park’ or программа «Мой парк», which offers various activities for loyal visitors. As a program participant, you can take part in diverse competitions, e.g. pick your favourite place in the park, become part of the volunteer project ‘I Am Making a MuseumRussian: Я делаю музей’ (managed by the park museum, which was founded in autumn 2015), learn to select exhibits for an exhibition, try your hand at historical reconstruction, or just buy a souvenir with the Sokolniki logo on it.
THE HISTORY OF THE PARK
Sokolniki is a park with a long and captivating history. The first mention of the Sokolniki district, which occupied a large part at the northeast of Moscow, dates back to the 14th century, when Stromynskaya RoadRussian: Stromyinskaya doroga or Стромынская дорога pierced through the dense woods of Moscow’s suburbs, leading to the rural settlement of StromynRussian: selo Stromyn' or село Стромынь and the city of Suzdala town and the administrative center of Suzdalsky District in Vladimir Oblast located on the Kamenka River. According to historical evidence, this route was used by Prince Dmitry Donskoythe first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in Russia as he led his troops to the north in 1382 in an attempt to capture the foot of Khan Tokhtamysha prominent khan of the Blue Horde. A little bit later, in the 15th century, this forest land became the venue for grand-ducal falconry, which was especially popular among Russian nobles during the rule of Alexis Ithe tsar of Russia from 1645 until his death in 1676. As legend has it, the Tsar had a falcon named Shiryay, which fell to its death during a hunt, after which point the Shiryaevo FieldRussian: Shiryaevo pole or Ширяево поле, Shiryaevskaya streetsRussian: Shiryaevskaya ulitsa or Ширяевская улица and Shiryaevsky passagesRussian: Shiryaevskiy proezd or Ширяевский проезд were named after that very bird. This hunting place has been referred to as Sokolniki ever since.
Another Russian tsar, who later became Emperor Peter the Greatruled from 1682 until 1725, was eternalised in the Mayskaya (May) AlleyRussian: Mayskaya alleya or Майская аллея (or Maysky CrosscutRussian: Mayskiy prosek or Майский просек), which had been cleared of trees by his order. Feasts for foreign artisans were organised there on May 1, the spring holiday, and on summer Sundays. That is why Sokolniki Park came to be referred to as ‘The German TablesRussian: Nemetskie stoly or Немецкие столы’ in the 18th century. In 1801, the park hosted the celebration of Alexander Ireigned as Emperor of Russia from 1801 to 1825’s coronation.
The fundamental layout of the park, which gives it its current look, was conceived in 1848. Curiously, the city administration bought out Sokolnicheskaya and Olenya (Deer) GrovesRussian: Olenya roscha or Оленья роща from the State Treasury with the assistance of Sergey Tretyakova Russian philanthropist and patron of the arts, who co-founded the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in 1879, so the names of the Tretyakov family of philanthropists are associated not only with the main gallery of Russian art in Moscow but also with Sokolniki Park.
During the Soviet era, Sokolnicheskaya GroveRussian: Sokolnicheskaya roscha or Сокольническая роща was formally transformed into a cultural recreation facility and began to be classified as an urban park by the order of the Presidium of the City Executive CommitteeRussian: Prezidium Gorispolkoma or Президиум Горисполкома and Moscow CouncilRussian: Mossovet or Моссовет. The territory of the park, abandoned after the revolution of 1917 and the Civil Wara multi-party war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the Russian Revolutions of 1917, had been completely renovated by the early 1930s, acquiring new sports grounds, a stadium, a cinema, concert platforms, the Pioneer and School Student Training GroundRussian: Gorodok pionera i shkolnika or Городок пионера и школьника, restaurants, diners, and recreation centres.
Sokolniki became a staple of Moscow’s cultural life and preserved this status even throughout the Great Patriotic WarWorld War II. In 1943, the Summer Drama TheatreRussian: Letniy dramaticheskiy teatr or Летний драматический театр reopened its doors, the Sokolniki Cinema TheatreRussian: kinoteatr «Sokolniki» or кинотеатр «Сокольники» was established, and a bed was laid out to produce a number of new elite tree and shrub species for Moscow and other capitals of Soviet republics. The park was assigned the status of the largest Soviet park in the post-war period and served as a venue for Spartakiadsan international sports event sponsored by the Soviet Union, competitions, holidays, concerts and festivals.