Port to the South: what the second river station in Moscow was and what it will be

May 13

Following the Northern River Station, a large-scale reconstruction awaits its southern counterpart. The Southern River Station will become a fully functional transport hub of the capital and a popular recreation site for its citizens. Read mos.ru about the history of this passenger station, plans for its revival and new cruise routes.

A piece of southern night

The station for river vessels appeared in the south of Moscow in the 1930s. It was established simultaneously with the Northern River Station. Initially, it was located in the Kozhukhovskaya harbor, since the city territory ended there back then. There was a railway line nearby, and one could transfer from the train to a river vessel and travel through Kolomna to the south of the country. Steam vessels went to the Oka, Kama, and Volga Rivers from the Moskva.

Unlike its northern counterpart, which is a magnificent facility built in the Stalinist Empire style, the Southern River Station got only a temporary wooden building. But it retained in Muscovite's memory due to its unusual architecture. The design was developed by an Odessite Roman (Ruvim) Higer, known as an architectural critic and ideologue of constructivism.

“It is thanks to him that we know of constructivism and the avant-garde architecture. He wrote a lot and tried to comprehend the trends, while being an architect and engineer at the same time. One of his most important facilities, the building of the tuberculosis institute shaped as an airplane in the Yauzskaya alley, impresses even today. Higer contributed much to the inner architectural scene of Moscow, which laid down the image of our city,” tells a local history expert and the main editor of the “Moscow Legacy” magazine Philip Smirnov.

When the architect designed the building for the river station, he already had in mind how the southern water area of Moscow should look like. The implementation of plans to supply water to the capital’s rivers started in 1931. Roman Higer understood, what Nagatinsky Backwater would become with the cascade of gates and a ship-building yard. Thus, he embedded the river station into the future ensemble. The building consisted of two pavilions (for local and main routes) united by an overpass.

“The designer implemented a very interesting concept in the building by using deep ultramarine in its design to simulate the southern night. The dome of the building was painted blue-black. Inside there was a hotel, lounges, a baby care room, and the southern night stretched over the central ticket hall,” says Philip Smirnov.

It became a kind of preview for a journey to the south for the passengers.

The Southern River Station was quite a popular place in the 1930-1950s. “When the first vessels departed on their routes, they were packed with passengers. The queues were huge, like to an amusement ride; it caused excitement,” says the local historian.

Improved water supply to Moscow rivers made it possible to develop industrial navigation in the southern direction. There have always been many enterprises that benefited from delivering goods by water. Even before the revolution, there were oil loading terminals in Kapotnya, where tankers from the Caspian Sea arrived. That is why an oil refinery was created here later. According to Philip Smirnov, the Soviet authorities used a previously established system upgrading it and increasing the displacement of ships. And if there is enough water in the reservoir, one can transport very large loads, which is often more profitable and more convenient than by rail.

During the war, barges from the south of Moscow helped defending the center of the capital. They were installed in the Kremlin area: the vessels hid the riverbed, and plywood structures were built on them to imitate the urban landscape. This was aimed to confuse the German pilots who bombed the city.

River station on a landing stage

The Southern River Station moved out of its wooden building only in 1972. By this time, Pererva, Nagatino, Kolomenskoye, and Pechatniki became part of Moscow. The river deepening continued, and a temporary construction on the embankment could no longer receive passenger vessels. The wooden building was dismantled during the reconstruction of the Nagatinskaya Embankment.

However, no permanent site was provided, and the river station was located on a landing stage moored on the right bank of the river. The structure was used for disembarking and boarding passengers.

Thus, the station also changed its address. It was moved downstream to the Nagatinsky Backwater. Vessels still arrive here today, but the place is known as the Maple Boulevard Pier. In 1969, the Kolomenskaya metro station was opened nearby, and it became easier to get to the Southern River Station. However, the flow of passengers could no longer be compared to what it had been in the first years of operation. From the station, the motor vessels went to Gorky, Ryazan and Konstantinovo.

The building of the South River Terminal on the Moskva river. Photo by B. Vdovenko. 1980s. Main Records Office of Moscow

Glass and concrete building

It so happened that the least vivid stages of the history of the Southern River Station came at a time when it finally had a permanent venue. In 1985, a two-story building was built on the opposite bank of the Nagatinskaya Floodplain in the Soviet modernism style with wide windows, a tower and a spire.

“The facade of the building was decorated with five female sculptures symbolizing the Black, Caspian, Azov, White and Baltic Seas, with which the capital is connected. Another sculpture was placed at the end of the building — a large compass with the symbol of Moscow in the center. The building was crowned by a spire with a tip in the form of a sailing vessel,” says Sergey Romazanov, director of the Northern River Station.

In 1986, the first voyage started from here, when the motor vessel “Pavel Yudin” took tourists to Astrakhan. But then the 90s came, the demand for travel fell, and the industry was struck by a crisis. “At some point, it became clear that cruises in these directions are not so popular, and the costs for them need to be large. They began to lease the spaces, and then a market appeared around them,” Philip Smirnov recalls.

River boats near the berth of South River Terminal. Photo by R. Fedotov. April 30, 1986. Main Records Office of Moscow

New urban environment

The “Island of Dreams” theme park opened in the Nagatinskaya Floodplain near the river station in the spring of 2020, and even earlier, the Technopark metro station appeared here. Thus, the Southern River Station again got its chance as a place for recreation of Muscovites and guests of the city. In 2021, a large-scale reconstruction of its territory began. 

The building and the mooring area of the Southern River Station will be restored. The station will have a new recreation area with bike paths. It is planned to complete the work by the City Day in 2022.

“The project stipulates a large-scale renovation of the entire territory of the Southern River Station, which will make the station a center of attraction for Muscovites and guests of the capital. The embankment will landscaped. The plan includes public and business facilities with shopping centers and restaurants, and the gradual renovation of the coastal zones will make the embankment even more attractive and comfortable for walking and family recreation,” said the director of the Northern River Station.

It will be much more convenient to get here, as two pedestrian bridges will be built across the Novinki Backwater. They will connect new houses on the territory of the former ZIL industrial area with the residential complexes under construction on the opposite bank, the technopark and the “Island of Dreams”. The reconstruction of two embankments near the Southern River Station is already underway, i. e. Marc Chagall’s Embankment and the Novinki Backwater. There will be water amusement areas, a park, a floating spa complex, a garden with water plants and water transport rental.

After the renovation, one can travel from here to Nizhny Novgorod, Kalyazin or Kolomna for a weekend, and it will be much more comfortable to do it by river than by car. Further along the Volga, one can reach Volgograd, and all the way to the Black Sea through the Volga-Don Canal.

Starting point

In 2020, the pandemic almost stopped passenger traffic in the south of Moscow. Only about 600 people went from here during the entire navigation season. The Southern River Station received only the “Borodino” motor vessel, which made voyages to Ryazan, Konstantinovo and Murom.

In the new season, it is planned that about 10 thousand people will travel from the Southern River Station. Cruises to different cities will resume. 

 “This year, about 130 cruise vessels belonging to five shipping companies are expected to arrive here. They go on the route “Moscow Circumnavigation”, to Ryazan, Konstantinovo, Murom, Nizhny Novgorod, Kolomna, and Kasimov,” said Sergey Romazanov.

In the future, transport operators plan to open routes from Moscow to Yaroslavl and even to Perm. In addition, it will be possible to take a river cruise to the center of the capital, including on banquet vessels.

Sergey Romazanov tells that the Moscow Circumnavigation is particularly popular with passengers. “When they set to voyage from the Southern River Station, the passengers travel along the Oka, the Volga, and the reservoir system and, passing through the Moscow Canal, finish their cruise at the Northern River Station,” he explains.

Source: mos.ru

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