A Travel Guide for Literature Lovers: Moscow

Yihan Sun invites you to walk through Moscow's literature corners.

A Travel Guide for Literature Lovers: Moscow

Photo by Yihan Sun

Russia's artistic creations are famous on the international stage, and it is undoubtedly excellent.  But it is its literature that Russians express themselves through most successfully, and Russian literature can be regarded as one of the greatest literary heritages in the world's literary world. I am talking about Pushkin, Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, and such.

Serious literature is usually sad, it depicts the suffering of reality. However, the sadness of Russian literature is different. Russian classic literature opposes the emptiness and pessimism caused by absurd life experience, rejects the distinction between good and evil, and firmly believes that truth, goodness and beauty must prevail.  This is a kind of powerful sadness. The longing for life and unwillingness to fate permeate from the paper on which the words are written. Nutrients from the deepest part of the deep earth, this is literature that grows from the depths of the permafrost.

For more than two hundred years, Russian literature has influenced and inspired countless foreign youths, attracting them to come to this land and appreciate the place where literature was born. Moscow is one of the cities with these literatures. It is described tenderly and sadly by writers and constantly inspires writers.

True lovers of Russian literature should visit Moscow at least once. No one can tell how many literary masters have lived in this city. Their works have shaped Moscow, and they themselves cannot be separated from Moscow.  If you want to understand the city, it is not enough to just appreciate the pictures and literary works. You have to stand in the city and walk around the streets and alleys.  The literary temperament belonging to Moscow has long permeated every pedestrian on the street and every building on the street.

Perhaps the first stop on your trip is the Pushkin Monument. Alexander Pushkin spent his childhood in Moscow, and the house where he lived first has not survived, but the Yelokhov Church, where the poet was baptized, has survived to this day. The poet has lived in Vladimir Khalitoniyev Lane for a long time, and the Larin family in the novel "Evgeny Onegin" later moved to this place. The most famous place in Moscow associated with Pushkin is 53 Arbat Street, where the poet lived after his marriage to the beautiful young Natalya Goncharova. Today, it has become one of the most popular attractions for tourists.  When you stand here and look up at the sky, can you also appreciate the feeling of "there is no happiness, only freedom and peace" in Pushkin's works?

From Pushkin Square to the direction of Red Square, go to No. 14 Tverskaya Street, you can see the former residence of Soviet writer Nikolai Ostrovsky, the author of the famous novel "How the Steel Was Tempered".  This book has a wide spread and reputation, and the thoughts and power contained in the text have infected many people through paper.  After visiting the Ostrovsky House, it is recommended that you visit the "Eliseyev" food store located in the same building.  Yeliseev, a businessman, owned the building from 1898 to 1917.  For more than 100 years, Yeliseyev Food Store is not only famous for selling a wide variety of food, but also its gorgeous and unique interior decoration will definitely make you regret visiting here.

In 1884, a young doctor Anton Chekhov, who had just graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of Moscow State University, moved to live in the center of Moscow.  A few years later, Chekhov, who had become an outstanding writer and playwright, moved to 6 Sadov-Kudrin Street.  Today, it has become the Chekhov House Museum. The museum reproduces the original appearance of Chekhov's life in that year, and the writer's personal items, early works and manuscripts are displayed inside.

Continue along Tverskaya Street and turn into Kamelgor Lane, where the Moscow Chekhov Art Theater and the Chekhov Monument are built.  Moscow theater lovers will tell you that only in this theater can you see adaptations of Chekhov's famous works "The Cherry Orchard", "The Duel" and other works of the author. Chekov, who lived here from 1886 to 1890, once described it as "the house is painted in the color of freedom, red."

Leaving Carmel Gore Lane, you will reach the Lubyanka district and the "China Town" district.  It is inextricably linked with the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and the writer Maxim Gorky.  Lovers of Mayakovsky's extraordinary and vivid poetry will love this house-museum.  Today, the stairs leading to the 4-story community apartment are still preserved here, and Mayakovsky lived and worked here for 11 years until his assassination in April 1930. The layout of the museum is as unusual as the life of the poet, and the ordinary glass case in an empty room feels like an intimate conversation with the poet.

One step away from the Mayakovsky Museum is Biblio-Globus, one of the most famous bookstores in Moscow. It is located in Building 1, No. 6 Myasnitz Street. Literature lovers can find their favorite literary works here.  There are not only original Russian editions, but also Russian books published in many languages ​​of the world. Lubyanka Street leads to Kitay-Gorod, the name, at first glance, has something to do with China, but actually comes from the word "Kitay", which refers to the bundled wooden poles used in the construction of forts, but literally just  Translates to "Chinatown".

In the 19th century, the area became famous for its shops and labor markets.  Every day, stonemasons, masons, carpenters, doormen and various handymen from the countryside gathered in Hitrovka looking for work.  It was here that Maxim Gorky personally experienced the life of the people at the bottom, and the materials he collected became the basis for the creation of the drama "The Bottom".  

In 1923, the Hitrovka ghetto was demolished. Hitrovka still retains the atmosphere of old Moscow, and it is definitely a good place worth visiting.

Finally you can visit the former residence of Leo Tolstoy in Moscow, where he lived in the 1880s and 1890s. It is still not as famous and large as Leo Tolstoy's birthplace, but it still shows his life very well. There is also a Leo Tolstoy Museum nearby. Of course, you can also choose the Ryabushinsky Mansion. In 1931, this new vertical style building was given to Gorky.  In addition to his study and works, the building itself is full of artistic ideas, and its murals and sculptures are worth seeing.

After visiting the former residences of the great literary masters, there is no need to leave in a hurry, you might as well go to Sparrow Hills for a walk. This is a green hill on the southern outskirts of Moscow, where Moscow State University is located. Taking advantage of the afterglow, you can walk along the hiking trail from the river bank through the woods, and you can reach the observation deck, overlooking the entire Moscow city. This introverted and dense city is quietly located in front of your eyes. It is hidden in the surrounding greenery and looks at you gently. Maybe you can have a dialogue with it at this time.

Modern Moscow attracts tourists from all over with its colorful shop windows and city squares with different styles.  However, as it was hundreds of years ago, the city's real secrets are hidden in the streets of the old town.  While there, be sure to visit the museums of famous Russian poets and writers, you will have a more intuitive understanding of them and a more real touch. That is definitely not the same as the beauty on the screen.

A guide by

Yihan Sun