March 01, 2007

Exploring the Lower Depths

Few Muscovites are aware that there is a square in! their city named after the writer Maxim Gorky, even though it is located right in the center of Moscow. No famous companies are located there, no trendy stores. In fact, Maxim Gorky Square, as such, does not exist, since a Soviet-era school building stands smack in the middle of it, taking up almost its entire area. 

In contrast, every Muscovite has heard the old name for this tract of land: Khitrovka. This place was the criminal depths of pre-revolutionary Moscow, a place whose dark timbers have inspired the literary imaginations of writers from Gorky to Akunin. 

The disappearance in the 1920s of Khitrov Market – one of the district’s few attractions – is not something we should shed any tears over.  While the annihilation of such legends as the Sukharevsky, Tishinsky or Ptichy Markets can rightly be called a crime against national culture, the liquidation of Khitrov Market was an essential public safety measure. However, only the market is gone. Khitrovka itself is alive and well even today. 

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