The mythical Arbat street
I think I will not be wrong if I say that Arbat is the oldest street in Moscow. And if I’m wrong, not much. Arbat is the same symbol of the capital as the Kremlin, Red Square or St. Basil’s Cathedral. The name of the street comes from the Arabic word “arbad” (“rabad”), which is translated as “suburb, suburb”. Under Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in the 17th century they tried to change the name of this street to Smolenskaya, but the name did not take root.
Why did Arbat become so famous? Previously, artisans and merchants settled in this street, but at the end of the 18th century they were displaced by nobles. Gradually, living here becomes elegant and prestigious. Representatives of the Moscow intelligentsia bought apartments here, rebuilt small mansions. Many names known to us, such as Pushkin, Rakhmaninov, Scriabin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Saltykov-Shchedrin, Chekhov, Blok, once lived here.
At the end of the 19th century. Arbat began to build multi-storey buildings, there are more stores. Arbat began to look more and more like what we see now. After the revolution, the Bolsheviks, with their characteristic indifference to the historical heritage of Russia, placed New Arbat near Stary Arbat, destroying many architectural monuments. In the 70-80 years. 20th century in the Arbat create a pedestrian zone. Many shops and cafes appear here.
Street musicians sing songs, artists offer their canvases and merchants sell souvenirs to foreign tourists. Arbat is becoming very popular among tourists. But Muscovites did not like this innovation. Even Bulat Okudzhava, seeing a street full of flashlight groups, said: “Arbat, I had searched Google.”
We have been to Arbat twice. The first time they just wanted to see what this famous street is. The second time, when they were looking for where to buy a silver bracelet, there are many jewelry stores in the Arbat. To be honest, Arbat did not impress me or my girlfriend. What attracts foreign tourists, I do not understand. However, I don’t know what I expected to see here. In my opinion, this is the usual central street of the city, along which only cars do not drive. Because of this, street musicians and artists can act calmly in the Arbat. We also saw switches. Apparently, for them this place has also developed for a long time.
There are solid shops and cafes. Contrary to expectations, prices on them do not differ much from their competitors from other streets in Moscow. I remember coffee on the bus. I wonder who was the original idea of making coffee in the back of a bus, decorating it and receiving visitors. Coffee, sure, is popular. Nothing special is remembered. Yes, there are antique stores. And how are they different from Vernissage in the Izmailovsky Kremlin? In Vernissage, the reach is much greater. Yes, here the artists offer to draw my portrait or cartoon.
But for that kind of money, do I need it? Yes, here you can listen to live music and songs. And that? Remember the subway, there are these singers in each passage. Although … In Arbat you really listen to them, but in the subway, you only listen. Well, good good. But traveling throughout the city to listen to live music is, I’m sorry, some kind of perversion.
There are also museums in Arbat: A.S. Pushkin, M. Tsvetaeva, M.Yu. Lermontov But for those who read their poems and are fans of their work, it is a sin not to go here. There is also a theater for them. Vakhtangov and the hotel “Prague”, existing since 1872. In winter, Santa Claus stood near him, with whom I failed to take a picture :-).
In general, let me throw myself slippers, but in the Arbat I do not see something so extraordinary that it is not found in other areas and streets of Moscow. And although this story is in the section “The main attractions of Moscow”, it is more a tribute to the past of Arbat than its present. And it is the past of Arbat that attracts tourists here, and in no way jewelers and coffee shops. Foreigners come here for history, and Arbat can give it to him.
Arbat is interesting, perhaps, because it is not a frozen monument of history, but a living and constantly changing space. Since 1986, the street has been completely pedestrian. Traditionally, street performers act on it, artists draw cartoons, paintings for sale and “Russian” souvenirs in abundance.
In the 18th century, the most famous noble families settled in Arbat: Tolstoy, Sheremetevs, Golitsyns, Kropotkins. At the end of the 19th century, aristocrats were replaced by intellectuals, shops, hotels, restaurants appeared on the street. In 1908, an electric tram was launched along Arbat, in 1909 the Khudozhestvenny cinema appeared in Arbat Square, and in 1921 the theater is named after Kh. Vakhtangov. At different times, Marina Tsvetaeva, Andrey Bely, Mikhail Derzhavin, Sergey Aksakov, Konstantin Balmont lived here.
A walk along the Arbat will require consideration, attention, only the multifaceted Arbat will open to an interested audience, and the rest, most likely, will not consider anything behind the multicolored signs of the new coffees. But in the Arbat there is much that is remarkable, with history! Here is the Prague restaurant, in which Leo Tolstoy organized public readings of the Resurrection, but near the house with lion masks on the facade (Arbat 11), the two upper floors are different from the lower ones, obviously more were completed late; in one of the alleys there is a “haunted house”, and in the other, the house where Bulat Okudzhava spent his childhood.
By the way, a monument to Bulat Okudzhava was erected in Arbat, these are already signs of the present, such as Hard Rock Cafe, the sculpture “Pushkin and Natalie”, in memory of the fact that the newly married couple lived in the house of opposite for several months, and the Wall Tsoi – scribbled with quotes from songs of the Kino group and declarations of love for the musician, the wall of house No. 37 overlooking Krivoarbatsky Lane.
In a word, the old Arbat can be explored without stopping, noticing new details, learning more and more about native history.