A Soviet Theatre Sketch Book

By Joseph MacLeod | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
BEYOND THE MOSCOW RIVER

*

CROSS the river southward at either corner of the Kremlin, and you find yourself in the district known, for that reason, as Zamoskvoreche, Beyond-the-Moscow-River-ton. It extends from the waterside to the south segment of the Sadovaya avenues, and is cut across by a 17th century canal. The Tretyakov Gallery is in it, and the Red October sweet factory, and many other famous places; but till the canal drained it, the damp, unhealthy region was inhabited mainly by Tatars. Since then it has twice changed character.

The one and only edition of Baedeker Russia, published in 1914, says that at the time of publication this district was 'beginning to become fashionable'. But in the looser sense of that word, it was 'fashionable' in Ostrovsky's day; for the merchant class, of which he wrote so many of his plays, though not elegant enough to be called 'modish', was at its most typical there.

The buildings those merchants of the 19th century put up and inhabited, still survive; beautifully shaped, quaintly gay in glazed brick or coloured stucco, pink, yellow, terracotta, orange; with shady trees in well-planned, cobbled streets which in some ways recall the coloured villages of 18th century Eastern England. The master may have had no taste. The architect's taste was good.

To-day their crumbling and patchy outsides do not indicate the crowded eager life they contain, where many families share in discomfort premises designed to keep single ones in luxury. These old houses are out of favour at present; for, as Academician Balinkin says, the rents received from them do not cover the big costs of repair, and local councils have other claims to satisfy. Nor, I fancy, do those who live in them look with quite the same favour upon them as does the aesthetic visitor. Someday, however, the same academician assures him, Moscow will come out gay again in coloured bricks, bricks this time made probably of self-toned cement, with which experiments are being made.

Even in their heyday, though, these gay facades gave no clue to the life lived inside them. Nineteenth century Moscow, like nine-

-73-

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A Soviet Theatre Sketch Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Chapter 1 - Opening Scene 1
  • Chapter 2 - Autumn Mist and Spring Flowers 9
  • Chapter 3 - Dolls' and Other Houses 26
  • Chaptcr 4 - Smoke Across the Neva 36
  • Chapter 5 - Children's Gauze 47
  • Chapter 6 - Poetry in the Past 56
  • Chapter 7 - Beyond the Moscow River 73
  • Chapter 8 - Objections 78
  • Chapter 9 - All-Union 84
  • Chapter 10 - Satire by Puppets 93
  • Chapter 11 - Stereoscopic 101
  • Chapter 12 - Trick Gauze 106
  • Chapter 13 - Gauze Plain 118
  • Chapter 14 - Gauze Opaque 126
  • Chapter 15 - A Farmers' Theatre 134
  • Chapter 16 - Weddings, Gipsy and Jewish 142
  • Chapter 17 - American Press Transparency 152
  • Chapter 18 - Shakespeare with the Body 157
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