The Old Arbat

The first mention of Arbat dates back to 1493. Chronicles describe a terrible fire that happened in St. Nicolas Cathedral on Peski because of the unextinguished candle left overnight. Peski in Russian means sand, hence the name of the lane where the old church was- Nikolopeskovsky - and where Vstrechi na Arbate guest house is located.

There several theories concerning the origin of the word "Arbat". One states that the Arabian word "orbat" for "outskirts" might inspire the name of the area as, indeed, in ХIV-XVI it was outside the wall of the "White City" and thus bore the suburban status. Other say that the Turkic word "arba" that mean "cart" could have been given to this place by Tatars that arrived to Moscow with their caravans and stayed in this area during their visits. Another possible explanation are the winds that blew through the terrain bloating and enhancing fires making inhabitants try to reduce them by building streets not straight but with some twists. Hence the name "hunchback" which in Russian sound as "Gorbat".

It is interesting that in ancient times Arbat was the name of the whole area and not just one street. It was situated between the boarders of today's Sadovoe Kolco (Garden Ring), Ermolayevski, Vozdvizhenka and Arbat. Since 1974 the Arbat street was turned into a pedestrian zone with nice souvenir shops, cafes, street trade stalls and had gained huge popularity among visitors of the Russian capital. The history of Arbat is closely connected with life of such outstanding Russian poets as Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Bulat Okudzhava, Marina Tsvetaeva and writer Andrey Bely. The Arbat street is located in the center of Moscow, close to Arbatskaya and Smolenskaya Metro stations.

The New Arbat (Novy Arbat) street

The New Arbat street runs from Arbatskiye Vorota (Arbat Gate) square to the Square of Free Russia and lies between Arbat and Povarskaya streets. The numbering of houses starts from Arbatskiye Vorota square.

During Ivan the Terrible reign his guardsmen (known as ruthless "Oprichiniki") had their headquarters here. In the second part of XVII century Streletsky Sloboda (outskirt) of "Stepan Kakovinsky order" and "Trubnikov sloboda" (the village of stove-makers and chimney-sweeps of the royal court) located here. Other villages that supplied tzar table were also located here, hence the names of the lanes: Nozhovy (knives), Stolovy (dining), Skaterny (table-cloth), Khlebny (bread), and also there used be the Chashnikov lane which mean "porcelain cups".
There also was the royal Krechetny yard where "krechets" ("merlins" or falcons) for royal hunting of tzar Alexey Mikhailovich were kept, thus the name of the alleyway - Krechetnikov. Right next to it there was Psarenny (kennel) or Sobachny (canine) yard which had packs of dogs for the royal hound hunting. With reference to this yard the dog's ground, that appeared here later, was named.

Right before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the area where today's Novy Arbat street lies was densely built up with nobility's mansions - estates and apartment houses.

The new look of Novy Arbat highway is defined by the part located between Arbatskiye Vorota square and Sadovoe Koltco street (the Garden Ring). The architectural ensemble of this site was created in 1962-1968 according to the design plan of the team of Soviet architects (M. Posokhin, A. Mdoyantz, V. Makarevich, B. Tkhor, Sh. Airapetov, I. Pokrovski, Y. Popova, A. Zajtzeva), thus a new massive fragment of urban area appeared in Moscow.

On the southern side of the highway the shopping center and administrative buildings are conceived as a single architectural organism. Four 26-storey administrative buildings are facing the highway being literally unfolded towards the street and standing on a two-storey foundation that has 800 meters in length and is almost 50 meters wide. Here, in the first two floors shops and cafes are located.

On the northern side of the avenue shopping and business enterprises are located in two-storey buildings, between five-storey buildings, but all of them - including the movie-theater - have sidewalk canopy.

Another remarkable architectural site on Novy Arbat is the Prague Restaurant building - the two-storey mansion with rounded angles was built in the late XVIII century. For a long period time there used to be apartments for rent, but in the second half of XIX century the Prague Tavern had opened here. Most of the time it was crowed with cabmen who altered the unfamiliar foreign name to the native "Braga" (the old cheap alcohol drink brewed with honey, oat or barley).

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