Find out more about 7 locations around New Moscow where history meets modernity, the Golden Age intertwines with the 21st Century, and ultra-modern structures stand side by side with nobles’ manors.
A popular summer retreat for famous writers, with a modern House of Creativity
Things to do: drop by at Pasternak’s and have a glass of lemonade at a writers’ bar
It is commonly believed that the idea to create this creative countryside community in the 1930s came from Maxim Gorky: inspired by the country residences in Europe, he shared his enthusiasm with Stalin. This resulted in a writers’ village where the Soviet intelligentsia went to recharge. It was here that Boris Pasternak wrote his Doctor Zhivago, Konstantin Simonov wrote Wait for Me, and Korney Chukovsky worked on translations and put on plays for the local children. Each writer had a separate cottage. Today, some of these wooden buildings have been converted into museums. You can visit Pasternak’s house, explore his library, and stand at the desk where he wrote his letters to Tsvetaeva and Rilke. You can see the tree next to Chukovsky’s house that inspired his Magic Tree poem, and take a look at Bulat Okudzhava’s residence, particularly its “singing exhibit” — the famous collection of bells that began with a gift from Bella Akhmadulina.
Aside from these small museums, the community also has a writers’ club called House of Creativity, which occupies two neighboring buildings: the former Stalin-Era Recreation House, and an art nouveau manor with an intricate winding staircase. The club stood abandoned for a very long time, until its rebirth two years ago. Today, it is a state-of-the-art culture hub, with exhibitions, creative gatherings, and film screenings. Modern writers, poets, translators and playwrights still do residencies here. But even if you are not one of them, you can still stay here: the club also functions as a hotel for Peredelkino’s guests. Stay here for a couple of nights, take a walk around the village, read some books from the local library, play a game of pool in the evenings (the table is in the hall of the House of Creativity, they say that Vysotsky himself was quite fond of coming here for a game or two), and have lunch and dinner at the Buffet Bar on the basement level. This is the same bar where the local writers and their guests would once enjoy a drink and a bite to eat. Today, being a writer is not a requirement to having a good time here!
The history of Russian aviation and a collection of model airplanes
Things to do: check out the Vnukovo District History Museum
There are many things to do in Vnukovo even if you are not here to catch a flight at the airport. For example, Vnukovo has a unique museum that explores the history of Russian aviation, as well as the history of the neighborhood that formed around the legendary airport starting from the 1930s. Museum visitors can learn more about the history of aircraft construction and the most important design bureaus in the USSR, discover facts about the first aircraft, and see how their pilots were trained and what equipment they had. Some of the exhibits celebrate the heroism of civilian pilots from Vnukovo during World War II. A good way to keep track of the history of aviation is to examine different plane models, from the first wooden airplanes to replicas of modern liners. The collection also features original photographs, documents, and personal belongings of pilots, navigators, and radio operators who worked and lived in Vnukovo.
Russian Silicon Valley with the best modern architecture
Things to do: get inspired by groundbreaking technology, ride a scooter
The village of Skolkovo in Odintsovo District rose to nationwide renown in 2010, when an Innovation Center was created here, for experts the field of IT, modern technologies, and entrepreneurship. The surrounding area, lying not too far from the Moscow Ring Road, was developed from scratch in the high tech style. All the buildings here are unique, and designed by the world’s best architects. The campus of the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management was created by the famous British architect David Adjaye, who was inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism, which is why the building has such a complex shape. Whereas the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology is the brainchild of the Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, winners of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, which is sometimes referred to as the Oscar for architects. Not far from the Institute, you will find Sber’s technopark, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, one of the most in-demand bureaus in the world. Its construction has been going on since 2016. You can spend forever listing all the celebrities that have left their mark on Skolkovo’s landscape, but we believe that a better idea would be to come here at least once and ride past futuristic buildings on a rented electric scooter. There is a 5-kilometer walking and cycling path running through Skolkovo, with a family and children’s park en route, where you will find playgrounds and a pond.
For lunch, come up to the 9th floor of the Matrex conference center and find the Matryoshka Restaurant. It offers an incredible panoramic view of the Innovation Center’s grounds.
Experimental residential neighborhoods, former execution site, and lots of greenery
Things to do: honor the memory of those lost, then take a stroll through the parks and first-class courtyards
The lush greenery and experimental new neighborhoods make Kommunarka Moscow’s calling card. This suburban area in the southwest of Moscow began to actively take shape during the modern period of Russian history. Initially, Kommunarka was the name of a small group of farm buildings near the village of Fitarevo. Eventually, in 1929, a large kolkhoz state farm under the same name was built in the area, encompassing Fitarevo and several other villages. Counted among the most innovative state farms during the Soviet era, the kolkhoz remained active up to the early 1990s. The modern history of the neighborhood, specifically active residential development, dates back to the 2000s.
What makes the Kommunarka residential complexes so special is that they have been inspired not by Soviet or post-Soviet architecture, but rather by modern European projects: it looks as if parts of suburbs from Stockholm, Milan, or Berlin have been magically transplanted here. Associations with Berlin specifically are invoked by the color palette, geometry, and carefully arranged public spaces of the Bunin Meadows complex. Its courtyards resemble miniature parks or gardens and have a wealth of functions, from sports to games. They are considered some of the best examples of urban space design in the country. Another landmark that makes the Kommunarka residents proud and everyone else jealous, is the Pyramids playground at the entrance to the complex. This vast open-air space accommodates both children and adults. The playground has a variety of elements: pyramids, a brook, a ramp that links play areas for different ages, and a large awning. The smallest children will enjoy playhouses, swings, sandboxes and slides, while older age groups can use the towers, climbing ropes, a net bridge and trampoline. There is even a water cascade where you can play with toy ships. Adults can join children in their games or relax under the awning near the open-air cafe. Kommunarka’s main eatery is called Chestnaya Ryba (Honest Fish) and serves seafood from around the globe for very appealing prices. At Chestnaya Ryba, fish is smoked, boiled, and grilled. The cafe also boils crayfish and makes Tartar sauces and salads.
But as we talk about this area, we cannot ignore the tragic parts of its history. In the late 1920s, part of the farm’s territory became property of the NKVD, which converted it into a restricted area where the “enemies of the people” would be shot. Genrikh Yagoda, Chairman of the OGPU and eventually People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs, had a summer cottage in the Kommunarka woodlands. 1937 saw the start of mass repressions, which went down in history as the “Great Terror”. Eventually, Yagoda himself was arrested, and his country home was turned into mass burial grounds for the executed. Kommunarka remained a high-security secret police facility until the dissolution of the USSR. The burial site was not discovered until 1991. There were 6,609 people in total buried in Kommunarka. Their names are now recorded on the Memorial Wall. In 2021, the Gulag History Museum and the Memory Foundation opened an information center in Kommunarka, with a personal database, research results, and copies of documents and materials relevant to the restricted area’s history. The center’s employees also hold guided tours once a week, explaining the meaning behind the memorial landmarks.
A museum created by scientists for everyone curious about various phenomena
Things to do: Check out the Physical Kunstkamera Museum
The Physical Kunstkamera Museum was founded by a team from the House of Scientists at the Troitsk Research Center. Inspired by science museums around the world, they decided to follow the “Teach by entertaining, entertain by teaching” principle.
The collection includes a variety of physical curios, historical exhibits, and fully functional interactive models that allow any and all guests to participate in experiments and gain a better understanding of the laws of physics. You can sit down on a chair with nails sticking out of it, or walk over light bulbs without crushing any. The strobe effect will let you to look at a drop of water suspended in mid-air. Or how about launching a gravity-defying spinning top into a magnetic field?
A remnant of the Russian aristocracy’s aesthetic, once frequented by Karamzin, Gogol and Pushkin
Things to do: Stroll in the park where the great poet Pushkin once walked
Starting from the late 18th century, Ostafyevo Estate used to be property of the Princes Vyazemsky: Andrey Vyazemsky, a state official and a writer, bought the land to celebrate birth of his son Pyotr, building a two-story palatial residence with wings connected by a colonnade gallery that was designed by architect Ivan Starov. This classical building soon became the beating heart of Russian culture. For example, Nikolai Karamzin worked on the History of the Russian State within these very walls, and Vasily Zhukovsky was a guest here as well.
After the death of Andrei Vyazemsky, the estate went to his son Pyotr Vyazemsky, essayist, poet, and statesman. From that point on, Ostafyevo became known as the Parnassus of Russia. The most influential authors of the Golden Age would gather here. For example, Pushkin once recited an excerpt from his Eugene Onegin at the estate, while Griboedov presented his Woe from Wit, reading it out loud and even putting on a production at the household theater. Adam Mickiewicz and Nikolai Gogol were also frequent guests here. Pyotr Vyazemsky himself dedicated several poems to his estate. While Andrey and Pyotr left behind a magnificent library, the next owner of the estate, Pavel Vyazemsky, contributed a collection of paintings. He used the Gothic Chamber at Ostafyevo to display the “early boards” – paintings by medieval German artists that he’d brought from Germany. The last owner of the estate was Count Sergey Sheremetev, who opened one of the first publicly accessible museums here in 1899, to mark the centenary of Alexander Pushkin’s birth, and also installed several monuments to Russian writers in the park.
Today, Ostafyevo grounds include the owners’ mansion, hence converted into a museum, the Trinity Church, and the old park with a pond. One of the estate’s oldest landmarks, the linden grove, is still called the Parnassus of Russia. The museum is dedicated to the famous owners and guests of Ostafyevo and features a replica of Karamzin’s study, a separate building known as the Medals Cabinet, and restored historical interiors, both everyday and ceremonial, which were lost in Soviet times. The estate regularly hosts new exhibitions, concerts, and themed events. But you can come here without any special occasion: just to stroll through the park and the grove, take a boat ride, and have a coffee at the museum cafe.
Historical interiors and New Moscow’s only organ
Things to do: take a walk, learn more about the daily life of Russian nobles, and listen to organ music
Linden park with ponds, century-old oaks and maples, Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a manor house with a turret, carved window frames and interior paintings inspired by the murals in Pompeii: you will find all of this in Aleksandrovo-Shchapovo Estate. It is believed to be one of the very few Russian-style estates that have survived in Moscow Region.
The first mention of the estate goes back to the Scribe Records of 1627, but if we take into account the patterns adorning the tombstones at the village cemetery, we can conclude that Aleksandrovo existed even earlier, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. These lands initially belonged to the boyar Vasily Petrovich Morozov, an official at Boris Godunov’s court; later, they passed on to the boyar Andrei Vasilyevich Golitsyn, who remained the landowner for a very short time only. Eventually, the estate became property of the Grushevsky family, who built a new manor house and a stone bridge. But even the Grushevsky family was not the final owners. After them, the estate continued to change hands: for example, at one point, it belonged to Ivan Muravyov-Apostol – the father of the future Decembrists Matvey, Sergei and Ippolit. At the end of the 19th century, Aleksandrovo was purchased by Ilya Shchapov, a textile factory owner from Moscow. He did not just renovate the manor house, but also built an almshouse on the estate premises, along with a parish school for boys and a lace-making school for girls. The exact identity of the manor’s architect remains unknown, but historians theorize that it was likely Fyodor Shekhtel. In Soviet times, the estate housed the Timiryazev Academy, and after that, it was converted into an experimental (and quite successful) farm and agricultural firm under the All-Union Research Institute of Animal Husbandry. Thanks to this, the architectural complex survived. And it even gained an organ music hall, the only such venue in Moscow Region.
You can listen to organ music and learn new things about the estate’s history and the people that used to live here during your tour of the museum. The exhibition also spotlights archaeological finds (the most ancient among them date back to the 4th millennium BC), fragments of tombstones from the cemetery near the wooden church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, exhibits potraying the War of 1812 and the Great Patriotic War, and various everyday objects and toys revealing more about peasant life. There also are archival documents that reveal more about the estate’s owners: family trees, certificates of nobility, service records and personal items, such as drapery cloth, a dowry chest, and custom porcelain. The interior design replicates the manor’s 19th century living room, including an antique oak dining set and custom porcelain tableware, which Pyotr Shchapov ordered for himself England in 1890.
Photo: Admagazine, mos.ru, Vnukovo District History Museum, Physical Kunstkamera Museum, PR department of the Troitsk and Novomoskovsk administrative districts.
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