Kitai - Gorod

Kitai-gorod is the oldest district in Moscow, almost as old as Kremlin. There are several versions of its name, but the most likely one dates back to 1530 when Petrok Malyi, an Italian architect, who had been building a fortress to save the town from Tatar attacks, named it 'citta'  (which is 'town' in Italian). His Russian apprentices misheard it and pronounced as Kitai, so it has nothing in common with Chinese at all although in modern Russian [Kitay] means China.

Originally it was an artillery fortress with twelve towers so its defensive walls were low and broad to protect Kremlin from invaders. They wonderfully remained untouched by time until the 20th century and were restored only in early twenties but then demolished again in thirties due to the motto of the Soviet epoque 'Destroy the old, give the way to the new'. 

In the 16th century noble families began to move from Kremlin to Kitai-gorod and it grew its borders but in the 18-19th centuries mechants became the main inhabitants (residents) of the prestigious district.

In 1701 there lived 252 families each house had the area about 1100 sq m. The biggest book publishing centre was there as well as one of the first educational institutions Greek Latin Academy opened by the Russian poet and great enlightener Simeon Polozkiy in 1687.

So it's not surprising that in the 19th century it turned, if one may say so, into Moscow business centre: first stocks and banks opened there, trade flourished and it was always crowded and bustling with hundreds of hurrying passers-by. 

Unfortunately, ancient walls of the fortress and many other historical spots are lost today but there are some totally amazing streets like Varvarka or Ilyinka, marvellous Gostinuy yard where tourists may see examples of old Russian architecture before 18th century. Of course, there are lots of museums, beautiful churches, shops, nice eat outs and night clubs too to spend a good time there. 

If you want to feel old Moscow atmosphere, Kitai-gorod is something that it's impossible to do without when you are in the city centre. In spite of a big variety of design styles in Moscow architecture these streets managed to keep its original charm and elegant diminutiveness.