Apple orchards and the ‘factory of happy people’: the history of Moscow parks

October 20
Parks and pedestrian areas

Moscow is one of the greenest cities in the world, almost 50 percent of the territory is occupied by green spaces. Moscow parks have long been the favorite rest areas. Here you can not only walk, socialize and enjoy the beautiful views, but also play sports and even learn something new. Everyone will find something to their liking — from excursions to dancing. And the ‘Ob'edinennaya direktsiya ‘Mosgorpark’make the public spaces, which are subordinated to the capital's Department of Culture, interesting for everyone. This week it celebrates its tenth anniversary. But Moscow's parks have a longer history, some of them have been existing for several centuries. About how the first recreation and entertainment areas looked like and how they changed refer the material of

The first Moscow parks

Initially, parks were not public spaces, they were laid out at manor houses for quiet rest, reading or walking by owners and their guests. During the holidays, large-scale entertainment could be arranged in manor parks, but only for the owners circle of close associates.

The first park in Moscow, designed according to the Western European model, was the Golovinsky (Slobodskoy) Garden in Lefortovo. It was created at the beginning of the XVIII century under Peter I, using the classical layout of French park ensembles. Golovinsky Garden became the prototype of modern public parks of recreation and entertainment.

Sokolniki was also one of the first publicly accessible green areas in Moscow. During the years of his stay in the Staro-Preobrazhensky Palace, Peter I allowed Europeans living in the capital to celebrate the European spring holiday, May 1, in the monarchic Sokolniki Grove. It is believed that Peter I himself ordered to cut through the Maisky glade, which has survived to this day.

Sokolniki Park of Culture and Recreation. In the thoughtful silence of the May Glade. Photo by K. Ivanov. 1989. Glavarchiv of Moscow

In the XVIII and XIX centuries, Muscovites of all social categories gathered for the May Day holidays in Sokolniki — "the best festivities in the whole summer." There were kiosks, tea shops, swings and carousels in the park. Sokolniki was especially crowded in summer, on Sundays and holidays. Families or large companies came here, arranged picnics and bride-show for young people.

Holiday-makers near one of the pavilions in the Sokolniki Park of Culture and Recreation. Photo by B. Ignatovich. 1930s. Glavarchiv of Moscow

In 1830, the former nobleman Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov purchased a manor on Bozhedomka, laid out a garden near it and allowed "anyone nicely dressed to enter" on Sundays. It was the first amusement garden in the city with gazebos, flower beds, a theater, a bandstand, coffee shops and pavilions. Since the middle of the XIX century, the garden was open to everyone and became known as the ‘Hermitage’, but after a while it fell into disrepair.

Its revival began on July 16, 1894, when the merchant Yakov Shchukin opened the garden in another place — Karetny Ryad. This date is considered to be the birthday of the ‘Hermitage’ Garden. On June 18, 1895, at six o'clock in the evening, a brass band gave a concert on the new open stage. The curtain was torn off from the central arch of the entrance — under it the guests saw the golden inscription ‘New Hermitage’. In the same year, electric lighting, plumbing and a swimming pool appeared here, and a year later one of the first film screenings in Russia was held.

Amusement parks for the soviet man

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many gardens and parks were created next to manors on the site of garden lands. Several such gardens became the basis of the future Pryamikov children's park (today it is one of the Tagansky Park territories).

The Bauman Garden has a similar story — at the end of the XVIII century, Prince Mikhail Golitsyn presented Moscow with part of his manor (Staraya Basmannaya Street, 15). In the 1900s, parks of neighboring manors were added to the garden, and since the spring of 1920, its territory has been known to Muscovites as the May 1 Garden. Since 1922, the modern name has been assigned to the garden.

Before the October Revolution of 1917, all manor parks (even public ones) were private properties. After the revolution, they became the property of the Soviet state. Then the so-called parks of culture and recreation began to appear - public institutions that combined several functions: recreation, health improvement and, most importantly, contributed to the cultural and ideological education of the Soviet Man.

On the main alley of the Maxim Gorky Central Park of Culture and Recreation. Photo by J. Berliner. 1953. Glavarchiv of Moscow

The Park of culture and recreation became the first such public space — in March 1928, a decree of the Presidium of the Moscow City Council was adopted to create a park on the site of the former agricultural exhibition. It became central in 1932, simultaneously with receiving the name of M. Gorky. In 1929, Betty Nikolaevna Glan was appointed as a director of the park, under her leadership it turned into one of the symbols of the socialist state. The recreation area was called "The Factory of Remaking Consciousness", "The Factory of Happy People" and "The Propagandist of a New Way of Life", an amusement park, a cinema, a parachute tower worked here, many events were held.

The golden age of Soviet parks

The city was growing, and only new gardens and parks could solve the problem of mass recreation of Muscovites. More than 150 parks have been created since the 1930s.

Among them there is an Izmailovsky Park, which in 1932 was renamed as the Stalin Izmailovsky Park of Culture and Recreation. Then it was considered to be one of the best in the USSR — a parachute tower, a theater, a cinema and much more worked here.

On May 16, 1931, Sokolniki Grove was declared a city park — the territory was cleared, green spaces were got in order. Wooden buildings of the ‘Krug’ concert hall, Sokolniki restaurant, cafes and buffets, a veranda for dancing, concert stages, public library and reading room, exhibitions and attractions are located on its alleys.

Big changes have also occurred in other recreation areas. A concert stage was opened in the Bauman Garden, where Leonid Utesov, Claudia Shulzhenko and other celebrities performed. The “Hermitage” Garden was reconstructed in the summer of 1945, in 1948 a summer concert hall was built there, where Arkady Raikin performed, and puppet theater performances were held.

In a cozy corner of the ‘Hermitage’ Garden. Photo by M. Ozersky. 1953. Glavarchiv of Moscow

Parks began to appear in the regional centers of the Moscow region — later these territories became part of Moscow. Basically, recreation areas were created on the site of former dachas or manors, for example, Perovsky Park (1947, on the territory of the former manor of Perovo), Lianozovsky Park (1951, manor of G.M.Lianozov, then - suburban areas). Previously created public walking areas of the near Moscow region received the status of parks of culture and recreation.

They also created memorial parks — for the Sixth World Festival of Youth and Students, Friendship Park was laid out in 1957, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, the 50th Anniversary of October Park was opened in 1967, and the Olympic Village Park was laid out in 1978 for walks and sports for future participants of the Olympics-80.

During the second half of the twentieth century, parks continued to be built on the site of former manors, and to the end of the century — on the territory of former forest nurseries and gardens. For example, the Fili Park appeared in 1964 on the site of the former Naryshkin manor, the Kuzminki Park — in 1976, in the former country estate of the Princes Golitsyns Vlakhernskoye-Kuzminki, and the Severnoye Tushino Park and the Angarskiye Ponds Park — on the territory of the apple orchards of former state farms.

New parks

10 years ago in Moscow, the ‘Ob'edinennaya direktsiya ‘Mosgorpark’ was created. The main task of the organization was the sustainable development of parks subordinated to the City Department of Culture.

Since 2011, dozens of parks have been transformed in the city, including Gorky Park, Bauman Garden, Olympic Village Park, as well as the Krymskaya Embankment. After landscaping, they have become modern spaces for communication and recreation. And in 2018, another modern public space appeared in Moscow — the Khodynskoye Field Park with artificial hills, a skate park and a mirror maze.

But the main achievement is that over the years the concept of park space has radically changed. Today, parks are beautiful, well-maintained and modern territories, where visitors can find entertainment to meet your every need. At the same time, not only central, but also district parks, where locals like to spend time, have become comfortable.

Parks have also become centers of education — many of them have clubs and sections, Muscovites can practice dancing, drawing, foreign languages, attend master classes and environmental lectures. Moreover, you can work in parks. For example, in 2012, a 24-hour ‘Rabochaya Stantsiya’ coworking center was opened in Neskuchny Sad.


If you continue to use our website, you are agreeing to accept the use of cookies on your device. Cookie files ensure the website’s efficiency and help us provide you with the most interesting and relevant information. Read more about cookie files.
Accept ccokies