It is one of the oldest and most well-known squares of the Russian capital. The square changed its name only once: in 1909 Moscow held the one hundredth anniversary of N.V. Gogol’s birth, a monument to the writer was erected on Prechistenka, and Arbat was renamed into Gogolevskaya Square. But the previous name that had been popularly known for centuries was returned soon. Here, on the boundary of Bely Gorod and Zemlyanoy Gorod lots of craftsmen slobodas and monastery lands were located, merchants settled down. Merchants from eastern countries brought an Arabic word “Arbat” that became the name of the street and the square. The translation thereof is “suburb”.
Till the end of the XVI century this district stayed beyond the city boundary — beyond the defense walls of Bely Gorod. It was the third (after the Kremlin and Kitay-gorod) rampart constructed importunately after Moscow was burnt down by the Crimean Khan Devlet Giray troops in 1571. The Arbat Gates were located at the place of the present Arbat tunnel. The roads to Smolensk and Novgorod started at this square. Through the Arbat Gates reigning tsars Vasili III, his son — Ivan Vasilyevich the Terrible, and his son — Fyodor Ioannovich came back after their military campaigns; people stopped there to pray. At the gates — to the opposite of the contemporary Vozdvizhenka Street — the Saints Boris and Gleb Church had been located since the XV century. It was demolished in 1930 and restored in summer of 1997. Unfortunately, the size and structure of the new square did not allow to restore the church according to its original structure and at the original place. Nowadays the Saints Boris and Gleb Chapel is located at the place of another Arbat church — that of Tikhon Amafuntsky the Sanctifier known since 1620, that was also demolished in 1930.
In those years, in the 30s, several efforts were made to clear up and asphalt the whole square. The rampant had not been there for a long time already: it lost its defense significance in the middle of the XVIII century. The bricks of the rampant were used while erecting public buildings. The wooden buildings were gradually substituted by stone houses. Luxurious mansions belonging to Moscow grand people, hotels, restaurants, shops and a theatre were situated in the district. At the beginning of the XIX century the contemporary boulevards — Gogolevsky and Nikitsky — appeared on the opposite sides of the square, and a horse-tram line was laid along Arbat; at the beginning of the XX century a tram line was laid. On May 15, 1935, the overground entrance hall of the Arbatskaya Metro Station (architect L.S. Teplitskiy) was opened: an unusual building in the form of a five-point star reflected the atmosphere of that time. Grey houses built in the constructivism style that replaced the patrician Arbat mansions with attics preserved the traces of the proletary austerity.
After a large-scale reconstruction, the transport tunnel erection in 1964 and transformation of the Arbat Street into a pedestrian one in 1985 the square lost practically all historical buildings. Only the building of Khudozhestvenny Cinema (it was among the first cinemas in the capital, A.A. Khanzhonkov opened it in 1909) and Praga Restaurant are an exception. The history of the latter is interesting enough. In 1899 some adventurous merchant Semen Tatarykin bought out a corner house the ground floor of which hosted a tavern already, ordered the overall reconstruction of the building at the fashionable Moscow architects Lev Kekushev and Adolph Erichson and opened a first-class cuisine restaurant in sophisticated interiors. After the 1917 revolution a “Mosselprom” — a well known Moscow food organization — public dining hall was opened in the Praga Restaurant. Mosselprom House (architect D. Kogan) called the first Soviet sky-scraper was built nearby in the Kalashny Lane in 1923. The house was famous for its ingenious mural made on an unplastered wall: it contains advertisements of sweets, milk and beer, as well as the famous slogan by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky that is often recollected nowadays — “Nowhere except Mosselprom”.
Today the historical Arbat Square is still peculiarly attractive to the Muscovites and guests of the capital.
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