Taganka - one of central Moscow’s most famous and historic neighborhoods. Home to the Novospassky and Spaso-Andronikovsky monasteries, the Taganka Theater, Krutitskoye podvorie and many other noteworthy sights, this unique area has managed to preserve its architecture - from the times of old Moscow up until the era of industrialization.
The district takes its name from the former Taganskaya sloboda, where the copper-smiths lived in the 16th century. “Tagan” is the old Russian word for their product, a trivet to set a pot on (known in English as "brand-iron"). During the Soviet times the area was renamed to Proleterskaya and if we go back to the really olden days, it was referred to as Zayauzye (after Yauza River, which runs past Taganka).
There is no shortage of significant historical events or figures connected to Taganka. It was here that some of the most ancient pre-Muscovite settlements were discovered. Roads leading to the ancient cities or Vladimir and Kolomna ran through this area. This area is where the main streets of Zayauzye - Nikoloyamskaya and Verkhnyaya Radishevskaya - sprang up in the 15th century. Three kilometers south-east of the Kremlin, Krutitsy Metochion ( translated as “steep river banks”), established in the late 13th century by Prince Daniel of Moscow, contains listed historical buildings erected in the late 17th century on the site of earlier 16th century foundations. Dmitry Donskoy led his troops to Kulikovo Pole along Bolvanovskoy Road (present day Verkhnyaya Radishevskaya).
As the center of old Moscow started to really grow and develop at the turn of the 15th century, Zayauzye began to see a population influx. The entrance to the capital was surrounded by fortress monasteries: Simonov, Krutitsy, Novospassky, Pokrovsky and Androniev. In order to supply the monasteries, various crafts- and tradesmen set up shop thus giving a name to the areas: Kotelnaya (boiler), Taganskaya (brand-iron), Goncharnaya (potter), Kuznechnaya (blacksmith), Koshelnaya and so on.
In the 17th century, Taganskaya Square became the center of Zayauzye. The Tagansky market soon made Taganka one of the centers of commerce in Moscow. After the fire of 1812, Taganka was totally rebuilt and this time stone was used instead of wood.
Under the rule of Empress Elizabeth, mansions began to spring up in the western part of Zayauzye and one of the remaining monuments of those times is the Batashov mansion, built in 1798 in a classical style. Towards the end of the 19th century, the district’s rapid industrialization happened thanks to a growth in the number factories and centers of transport: a copper smelter in the center of Alexeevskaya Sloboda, a tobacco factory on Vorontsovskaya Street and the Nizhegorodsky railway station on Rogozhskaya Sloboda, connecting Taganka with the traditional textile areas to Moscow’s east.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Taganka saw the construction of the first housing for workers. The very first residential building to be built in Moscow after the revolution was actually on Taganka: on October 14, 1923 residents moved into the house belonging to the “Dinamo” factory.
The largest post-war building (the so-called “vysotka” - high rise) in Taganka was the residential building on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment. The right wing was constructed before the war and the rest was completed in 1952, reaching a height of 32 meters. However, the process of construction and reconstruction continues in Taganka until today and perhaps this is why people still associate it with being an industrial area.
There are two especially important, must-visit places in Taganka. The Taganka Theater is a theater located in the Art Nouveau building on Taganka Square. It was founded in 1964 by Yuri Lyubimov and continued the traditions of his alma mater, the Vakhtangov Theatre, while also exploring the possibilities of Bertolt Brecht’s “epic theatre”. Under Lyubimov, the theatre rose to popularity in Moscow, with Vladimir Vysotsky and Alla Demidova as the leading actors. Nowadays, the Taganka Theater is well-known all over the world as it gives a lot of performances on tour abroad. Many performances performed here were real reflections of the times. Some of the best performers of the country call the Taganka Theater their artistic home. Today, the theater group continues to create principally new, non-standard performances.
Bunker 42 was a top secret bunker located 18 floors beneath Moscow in the Taganskaya area. So close to the metro, there are not only adjoining tunnels but carriages rattling past fill the concrete passageways with a whole lot of groaning noisy sound. Decommissioned and sold off at auction, this ex-military communications post is now a museum dedicated to the Cold War. Complete with KGB rooms (now rehearsal space for heavy metal bands), raid sirens, and kilometres of tunnels, this is the real experience. Guides play the role of KGB officers and the exhibits are all very hands-on.
As you can see, there’s much exploring to be done around the area and all this can make one really work up and appetite and a thirst. Luckily there are quite a few trendy and hip places within a 10 minute from the Taganskaya Square. Here are just a few of them.