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Your Moscow

The Turgenev house in Moscow
Marina Kashpar

Today we will visit one more literary museum in the central part of Moscow, on Ostozhenka Ulitsa, Dom 37.

The mother of the famous Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, Varvara Turgeneva, rented this building from 1839 till 1851. The building has been reconstructed and only the main hall remains as it was then. In 2009 the state museum of Turgenev was opened here.

Ostozhenka was named after the place Ostozhe, which means meadows in Russian, a place of haymaking and haystacks. In ancient times, the road from Kiev to Vladimir-Suzdal passsed through here, with a ferry crossing the Moscow River. In the XVIIth century a royal stable was built here and gradually houses started to be constructed. One side of the street was occupied by ordinary people, but the other, near Prechistenka, was settled by rich citizens.

Aristocratic estates appeared here only in XVIIIth century. Ostozhenka in the XVII-XVIIIth centuries, looked rather unpretentious, with small lodgings, taverns and pigeon lofts. The favourite entertainment was watching cock fights. It is hard to believe that this ordinary street has become the most expensive street in Moscow. The house at number 37 Ostozhenka was built right after the great fire of 1812.

Young Ivan Turgenev did not stay very long when he arrived in Moscow, but he did always visit his mother here on the way to his estate at Spasskoe, near Orlov. He lived here twice for two months; in 1844 he stayed even longer due to illness.

It was at this time that he got closely involved in literary and theatrical circles in Moscow. Here, in this house, he met with Nikolai Gogol, Sergei Aksakov, Mihail Schepkin, Fedor Dostoevsky. His rather eccentric mother, Varvara Petrovna, did not really respect his son’s guests, and called them “learned monkeys” in her letters.

While staying at his mother’s house, Turgenev lived in the attic rooms. Many of his literary projects were conceived here. In 1850 a quarrel between Varvara and her sons took place here, after which they broke off their relations. Here, in this house she died in 1851. Before her death she forgave her sons, but they did not manage to say goodbye to their mother.

Varvara Petrovna was a rather self-centreed and hard person, sometimes very severe, but she loved her children very much. It is said that while looking through his mother’s archives, reading her letters and memories, Turgenev wept with sorrow and said: “What a great woman! God, what a great woman she was!”

Ulitsa Ostozhenka, Dom 37, became the prototype of a Moscow estate, as described in Turgenev’s novel, Mumu. His description is almost historically accurate. “In one of the outlying streets of Moscow, in a gray building with white columns, with a mezzanine and a twisted balcony there once lived a lady, a widow, surrounded by a numerous household of serfs.”

By the middle of XIXth century only the main building of the whole estate remained. In 200 years, the house has changed owners and has been reconstructed several times. After the revolution, Turgenev’s home was reconstructed to house factory workers. One of its famous owners was the well-known priest, the Right Reverend Serafim, who was shot in 1937, and canonized in 1997. From 1974, the house was rented by The State (USSR) Chief Department of Sports Goods Production! Forty years later the lease expired and the Moscow government made the property over The State Pushkin Museum.

The Turgenev Museum was opened here on the 9th of October 2009. There is an exhibition called “Moscow.

Museum address:
Ul. Ostozchenka, 37, building #1
(M. Park Kultura)
Working hours: Wednesday,
Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
Sunday – from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.

Ostozchenka. Turgenev” in the main suite of rooms. The exhibition introduces the art and creativity of Turgenev, his epoch, his literary and friendship circles, his family, his Moscow life and events connected with this house.

There are a lot of other interesting exhibits in this house, but it is better to see everything with your own eyes. So let me invite you to visit Turgenev at Ostozhenka, 37

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