Dachas, bicycles, ice-cream: How 19th century Muscovites welcomed summer

June 6

Let’s take a look at 19th century Moscow to find out how life there changed as June began. Find out about the distinctions of a 19th century Moscow summer in this mos.ru article.

Dachas in Perlovka and Sokolniki

When summer began Muscovites hurried to leave the hot city: for example, there were 180 dacha villages in 1888. During the summer, many people, up to 40,000, went to stay out there.

The most prestigious way to move to the country was to rent a house in the village of Perlovka that belonged to entrepreneur Vasily Perlov (today a district in the Moscow Region town of Mytishchi). All 80 houses had a shower and a toilet room. There were swimming houses on the River Yauza, but no fences; fences were considered bad manners. The rent was mostly paid for three years in advance, which was expensive. The rent was enough to buy housing in Moscow. The rent also included leisure activities: twice a week Perlov invited musicians and actors to perform for dacha dwellers.

Dachas were in fashion even earlier. Historian Nikolai Karamzin noted that the streets almost emptied during the summer. Those who had dachas left and the rest stayed home to hide from the heat. In the 1830s, there were dachas in Ostankino, Kuntsevo and Sokolniki. The latter had a special story. The tsar’s hunting grounds and countryside residence were located there in the 17th century, but in 1826 Nicholas I declared that one section be designated for a city park and another section for lease for 48 or even up to 99 years. This is where wealthy dacha residents settled. The house of State Counsellor Ivan Lyamin (1822–1894) still stands.

Photo by Maxim Denisov, mos.ru

Today Sokolniki has many nice dachas that are occupied by the best of Moscow society every summer,” reads an 1867 travel guide. A nice dacha cost about 550 roubles per season: twice as much as most places.

There were places for summer recreation in areas that are now considered the city centre, such as Leningradsky Prospekt. Architect Fyodor Schechtel built a two-storey Neo-Classical house, but the owners, who were traders and manufacturers, changed often.

In the late 19th century dachas began to appear in Tsaritsyno. This was where the intelligentsia – writers, composers and scientists – mostly stayed.

Photo by Tsaritsyno Museum Estate

The first bicyclists

The first bicycles appeared in Moscow in the early 1860s and were not available to everyone. People turned and watched as the lucky few rode this funny machine. Although bicyclists were only allowed to ride in country parks and closed riding halls, they were envied. Sometimes envy inspired misconduct: wheels were damaged and dogs were sicced on careless riders. Horses were scared by cyclists too, which made the cabmen mad. Sometimes they would hit the bicyclists on their backs with their whips to keep them away.

Bicycles. Drawing from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopaedic Dictionary. 1907

The first bicycle race was held at a hippodrome in 1883 with an audience of 25,000. A Muscovite named Fyodor Zhemlichka won the race as well as the title, Best Rider in Russia. Soon, the charter of the Moscow Society of Amateur Cyclists was adopted. Most often, cyclists assembled at Petrovsky Park. There were other communities as well: the Moscow Bicycle Riding Club, the Moskva Cyclist Club, the Rossiya Cyclist Club, the Union of Tourist Cyclists and the Muir & Mirrielees Cycling Club.

Fyodor Zhemlichka. 1892

In time bicycles became more available and more popular. Bicycle riding was allowed in the streets by 1894. By 1902, there only were 5,000-10,000 cyclists in Moscow. Every bicycle had a license plate. The first bicycle path, four metres wide, was designated between Belorussky Railway Station and Petrovsky Park. This recreation area was the most popular riding area for a long time. A special coffee shop, Cyclist, opened there.

Petrovsky Park on a postcard from the Einem Confectionary. 1914

A la parisienne

Another form of entertainment was walking along a boulevard or in a park while donning the latest fashions. The ideas for luxurious dresses were mostly found in magazines. Russian magazines began to write about fashion in the first 30 years of the 19th century, when the phrase “Moscow dandies” appeared.

Prechistenskaya Embankment, Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge and the Kremlin by A.Gavrilov. 1908. Main Archive

Copies of the Moscow Mercury magazine were full of pictures of Paris fashions. For example, it wrote how to wear yellow straw hats. The Moscow Telegraph magazine followed. In the 1820s–1830s, it also had a Paris Fashions section where readers could learn everything about silk in the “colour of the yellow bird of paradise” and which dresses should be worn while walking. Men were taught to make tie knots in a special book of 1829.

Unmarried girls from wealthy families wore modest dresses, and after a wedding they acquired rich silk, silk with wool (sometimes from Persia, Turkey or Italy) as well as bonnets and headdresses they wore even in the summer.

All these things could be purchased in the many shops in Kitai-Gorod, and on Tverskaya, Myasnitskaya and Kuznetsky Most streets. They started to sell fashionable clothes in the 1820s. One of the more famous shops on Kuznetsky Most belonged to a Frenchwoman, Victoire Lebour, who not only retailed but also tailored and provided consultations on fashion.

Tverskaya Street. Unknown photographer. 1888. Main Archive

In 1825, Alexander Griboyedov’s play Woe from Wit was published for the first time, where its character Chatsky said:

The French! With all their fashion shops and streets,

Their books and writers and artists,

They break our hearts, they make our money fly,

I wonder why

God will not save us from their needles, pins,

Their bonnets, hats and all the other things!

Upper Trading Rows (today’s GUM) opened in 1893. Other galleries – Solodovnikov’s, Golofteyev’s and Muir & Mirrielees – opened approximately at the same time. They sold underwear, men’s and women’s hats, scarves, umbrellas, silk ribbons and many other things. More companies tailoring women’s clothes opened in the 1890s. Maria Nadezhina-Cherkasova, Kvadia Muravyova’s Factory and studio and shop of fashion designer Nadezhda Lamanova (Andrutskaya) were the most famous. By the way, famous Moscow actresses, Empress Alexandra and Princess Elisabeth were clients of the last one. Konstantin Stanislavsky asked her to design costumes for his Art Theatre.

Valentin Serov. Portrait of Nadezhda Lamanova. 1911

The variety of publications with sections on fashion also increased at the beginning of the 20th century: Woman, Lady’s World, Woman’s Business, Magazine for Housewives, Woman’s World and Magazine for Women, which all disappeared in 1917–1918. One of the issues of Magazine for Housewives said in 1915: “Skirts are still too shirt…” Skirts that showed ankles were considered short. They came into fashion in 1914.

Walking in Kremlin Gardens and watching kangaroos

Sokolniki Park was among the most popular recreation areas for Muscovites. In 1878, the city bought this area from the tsar’s treasury for the astronomical sum of 300,000 roubles. Philanthropist Sergei Tretyakov helped establish the park.

Lighting was installed and a road laid. A wooden rotunda was erected in the centre where musicians played. Later, an open-air stage was built for concerts and shows, where Feodor Chaliapin and Sergei Prokofyev used to perform. Boats for sailing appeared on the ponds. There also was a restaurant for aristocrats and pavilions with tea and baranki for the common people.

Another favourite park, at Presnenskiye Ponds, opened in 1803, under Tsar Alexander I. Mostly those who didn’t have country dachas used to meet there to walk until late at night. Both those who enjoyed walking and riding in carriages went there. Musicians also performed there.

Those who were interested in botanical cultivation went to Apothecary Garden. In 1805, the gardens were acquired by Moscow University, and various plants, including rare ones, were planted there. There were 3,528 species within three years.

Kremlin Gardens (Alexandrovsky Garden) was established in 1821–1823. A sweet-smelling park was created instead of a dusty dirt patch: another attraction for Muscovites who enjoyed long meditative walks. Patriarshiye Ponds were saved from turning into swamps and cleaned up: two were filled in and the third was beautified. In 1825, a garden with flowerbeds, roads and lemon trees in planters opened on Theatre Square, in the heart of the city. Visitors to Petrovsky Theatre (today’s Bolshoi Theatre) were in the habit of going there long before the performance began to walk.

The Emperor Petrovsky Theatre and the adjacent area in Moscow designed by Joseph Bové. 1820−1824. Copy of lithography by R. Kuryatnikov. 1825. Moscow Main Archive

In 1840, the tsar residence Neskuchny Garden comprised of three bordering park complexes was completed. Mostly traders liked this area. They came with their families to row a boat or enjoy an open-air show at the air theatre.

The famous Moscow Zoo opened in 1864. It was called Zoological Garden, the first in Russia. It had a lot of domestic and wild animals and birds, including bears, wolves, lions, tigers, kangaroos, an alligator, a rhino and parrots. The collection grew thanks to the natural additions and gifts. The ruler of Egypt, Isma'il Pasha presented a zebra, and Ivan Butakov, commander of the Svetlana frigate, brought several creatures from his trip to Australia. It was difficult to get in to Zoological Garden because of the long lines at the ticket booths.

Photo by Moscow Zoo

Sugary ice cream on plates

Muscovites of old times used almost the same methods to protect themselves from heat as we do. They ate ice cream in the scorching heat: the form we know today was created in the 18th century. It was made from milk, egg whites and sugar, with chocolate, currant, raspberries or cherries. This cold dessert was also called lednik. First it was cooked on a stove, then poured into porcelain cups and left to cool. After that, the mass was filtered in an ice cream maker with ice and salt and then frozen.

In the 19th century, other varieties appeared in addition to the usual ice cream, which were quite popular among Muscovites: sorbet (not completely frozen ice cream) and slush ice (a semi-liquid icy fruit juice).

Ice cream was sold on Kuznetsky Most and Arbat streets. There were a lot of street buskers shouting “Sweet ice cream!” Later, this was included in the poem “Ice Cream” by Samuil Marshak. In 1925, it was published as a book illustrated by Vladimir Lebedev:

Sugary ice-cream

Lies on the plates

Thick and sweat,

Come and eat.

Refreshments like kvas were also used to combat the heat. Kvas was brewed everywhere, in rich houses as well as in poor. Sometimes fruit was added to the kvas. The guild of kvas makers sold the drink in the streets. Muscovites also liked lemonade, cranberry honey and other beverages.

To the beach in a jumpsuit

Lounging at city beaches has been another popular entertainment since the end of the 19th century. There were no bikinis as we know them and people used to “sunbathe” in jumpsuits made of thick wool or cotton covering their arms and legs. Women’s bathing suits had short skirts. The suits were adorned with flounces and sailor collars. They often included stockings, gloves and hats or bonnets. Men were strictly forbidden to show their chests so they had to wear modest tank tops. These rules remained in force until the beginning of the 20th century.

Recreation beaches were chosen by the Commission of the Moscow Sanitary Doctor. Sometimes wooden commercial bathhouses were erected in approved areas in the middle of the river, or near bridges, such as Kamenny, Ustinsky, Borodisky and Krymsky bridges. They were divided into aristocrat and peasant sections as well as sections for men and women. There also were family bathhouses for married couples with children.

Most often people just relaxed on the beach looking at the water. Few went swimming: there were discussions that the river water, which was cold at first, could be dangerous to peoples’ health. The bathing suits weren’t comfortable to swim in, and it was forbidden to swim between 11 pm and 8 am.

Source: mos.ru

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