From Pushkin to Rimsky-Korsakov: The history of the Hermitage Garden from the Moscow Archive

August 10
Parks and pedestrian areas

The Hermitage Garden on Karetny Ryad Street was one of the first public gardens in Moscow where people could spend their leisure time and enjoy themselves. Throughout its history, it has seen a number of owners come and go, and for some time suffered from decay and neglect.

Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate holds documents telling the garden’s history since the 18th century. The land plot where it now stands originally belonged to the estate of the Pushkin family on Bozhedomka Street, with Lev Pushkin, the grandfather of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, as the owner. In 1797, his widow, Olga Chicherina, sold the estate to senator Vasily Nelidov. General Alexander Tormasov acquired the property in 1817, followed in the owner’s list by Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov, one of the favourites of Empress Catherine the Great. It was under his ownership that the garden was opened to the public.

In the Hermitage public garden. By Vasily Marinyo. Moscow. 9 December 1998. Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate

By mid-19th century French restaurateur and entrepreneur Jean Morel received the title to the estate. It was then that the garden received the name it holds to this day – the Hermitage. It became a prime location for fireworks, performances by a gypsy choir, as well as by Gunel's orchestra, viewed as the best European ensemble at the time. Crowds flooded the garden at all times.

Actor and theatre director Mikhail Lentovsky became the next owner, transforming the Hermitage into a popular outdoor venue. Eventually, Lentovsky went bankrupt, and the garden fell into ruin. In 1894, merchant Yakov Shchukin took out a lease on the land plot on Karetny Ryad Street, and within a year what was then an uncultivated lot once again turned into a flourishing garden. Shchukin repurposed a factory building into a theatre, and built two open-air stages and canopy roofs for a cafeteria. The new Hermitage opened to the public on 18 June 1895. A year later it became a venue of the first film screening in Moscow. The Popular Art Theatre, later known as the Moscow Art Academic Theatre, regularly staged plays in the garden between 1898 and 1901.

In the Hermitage Garden. By Grigory Korabelnikov. Moscow. 1974. Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate

Trees planted in late 19th and early 20th century can still be found in the Hermitage Garden, including Siberian crabapple, Norway maple, larch, oak, poplar, chestnut, Manchurian cherry and ash tree. On 30 June 2014, Moscow’s Department of Cultural Heritage classified the garden as a regional landscape design site. Today, it is home to Hermitage, Sphera and Novaya Opera theatres; there are workshops and creativity lessons for children and adults. The garden also hosts celebrations, exhibitions, music and theatre performances, festivals and recreational activities.


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