Moscow’s Des Res Districts.  Chistye Prudy

By Ross Hunter, Headmaster ESS Lefortovo; and with additional research by David Gilmartin, Troika Relocations. Illustrations by John Harrison.

Editor’s Welcome: RK launches a new series of articles about Moscow’s most treasured central places to live. Expats, and locals, have several options, nay, lifestyle choices when selecting where to live. Some like the organisation and newness of suburban estates; others want to make the most of an exotic city, by living close to the centre. In Moscow, there are eight easily defined inner areas, all around or between the Garden and Boulevard Ring roads. RK is looking forward to exploring them with you. Good news: there has been a drop in the number of expats over the last decade, so rental prices have come down, and queues for the best places are shorter. The rate of refurbishment and modernization has also slowed, but there is an abundance of choice. We start in one of the most unique and iconic central areas, just NE of the city centre.  – JH

Chistye Prudy (the North East) in Cameo:

A  Feels like a village, but sits on the Boulevard ring; only 2 Metro stops from the centre 

B  Lovely green spaces and strolling locations

C  Packed with history, culture and eye-catching architecture & sculpture

D  Don’t miss The Mayakovsky museum, the Hotel Leningradskaya, Kazansky station, Shukov, the Polytechnical museum, Sovremennik Theatre

E  And tea shops, atmospheric pubs, bookshops, French and Japanese culture; 

Z   But: it is expensive, traffic and parking are ‘cauchemars’ in any language.

Chistye Prudy Metro Station

This is one of Moscow’s most historical, atmospheric, kaleidoscopically varied and civilised inner districts. Somehow, it feels like a village, despite being tightly packed, full of business and jobs, and hemmed in by overcrowded roads. Most striking is of course the eponymous pond, and next to it, the triple central Metro station. Note: this series of real estate guides covers eight main districts, roughly matching the compass directions and around the Boulevard-Garden Rings. To make it simple, each area is expanded to meet the edge of the next.  So ‘Greater Chistye Prudy’ is here defined as from Lubyanka, right on the edge of the city, out to the Three Railway Termini; and round towards Prospect Mira to the west and Kitai Gorod to the southeast.  I have stretched the district boundaries, the better for you to have a clear and simple mental map.

The ‘Pond’ with some ice still on the surface in late April

The New York Times, no less, describes the area as “a quirky neighborhood, … full of historical buildings and increasingly of elite apartment blocks”.  But don’t read about Chistye Prudy, better: to visit is to be persuaded. Get there along the Boulevard Ring*, or by ambling along historic Myasnitskaya or on the Red (1), Orange (6) or Light Green (11) Metro lines. (*Parking is your problem, not mine – I don’t keep a car in Moscow). When there, get lost in time and tea in the great emporium, or enjoy a snug winter coffee inside, or a cool summer glass outside the many excellent cafes, bars and restaurants – including of course the one overlooking the Pond.

Chistye Prudy has stories galore to explore. Myasnitsakya of long ago was the butchers’ district, and the pond their dumping hole. Once the meat trade moved, the area was scrubbed up, and the name ‘Clean Pond’ became a fair label. Below ground runs the Red Metro line, route no.1. In English, the station names make an appealing list: Beautiful Gate, here, and citywards to Kuznetsky’s Bridge, Hunter’s Row, Lenin’s Library, Kropotkin’s place and Culture Park. Opened in 1937, this was, and is, Moscow’s showpiece. For a contrast, enjoy the elegant modernist stations on the Pale Green line (Sretensky Bulvar, Turgenevskaya), or zoom up the Orange to the cheerful chaos of VDNKh, or down it to Kitai Gorod and Tretyakovskaya.

Back on the surface, culture abounds, in statues and bookshops. Nadya Krupskaya, Mrs Lenin to you and me, the brilliant engineer Vladimir Shukov, of Radio Tower and the roof of GUM fame, and much more – Nikolai Chernishevsky (1828-89) revolutionary thinker and writer, Abay Kunanbaev (1845-1904), Kazak poet and philosopher, and Alexander Griboyedov (1795-1829) playwright. Unencumbered by the weight of history above them, there is a motley melange of younger music lovers, among them punks, goths, metalheads and successor tribes… but if you are lucky, a baritone saxophonist too.

‘Egg House’ in Mashkova Street

Architecturally, the area is bourgeois, solid and sedate, so not generally striking or bold. Two notable exceptions confirm the rule. The Lukoil HQ is overbearing, brash intrusive and damages the (visual) environment. So very appropriate. By contrast, tucked away on Mashkova Street is ‘The Egg House’. This little gem was designed for Patriashy Ponds, with Bulgakov in mind, or Bethlehem (really!), belongs on the Arbat, facing the radical Melnikov House of a century ago. The Egg House arrived just in 2002. Styled like a giant Faberge egg, it is unique, exquisite … and extremely expensive! With four storeys and over 340 sq m, you’d get value for your huge money. A gem.

Heading away from the city, Krasnye Vorota is named after a ‘beautiful gate’ built for Empress Elizabeth’s arrival in Moscow in the mid 1700s. Pushkin lived for a while in the area, at the Yusupov house on Kharitonevsky Pereulok: how about you?

If you like this area but can’t find what you want … check with the real-estate experts, such as Troika. The feel of Chistye Prudy seeps in all directions, especially Kitai Gorod. Or go further west and up the price range to Patriarshy Pond or south and better value to Taganska. Each will be subjected to RK’s beady eye over the coming weeks.