Secret Moscow: curious stories behind curved streets

RT sheds light on unusual storylines behind Moscow’s numerous lanes and avenues.

In an ever-growing metropolis like Moscow, keeping tabs on all the streets is a challenge. It is thought the city has about 4,000 of them. Some have names that are enough to baffle even born-and-bred Muscovites, let alone tourists.

Take the downtown side-street called Babyegorodsky, literally Women’s Town Lane. The street got its name in the 18th century because the whole area was indeed called Women’s Town. But if you thought about a whole town without men, you would be wrong.

There is a legend that during a Tatar invasion in 1382, several hundred women from the nearby villages gathered there and successfully defended the area for several days. Whether the story is true or not, there has never been a Moscow suburb populated exclusively by women.

There seems to be a street, though, where only idlers live – if its name is anything to go by. Lenivka Street sounds like it has come from “leniviy” – the Russian for “lazy”. Yet, in the 17th century this was a bustling market quarter – surely not a place for lazybones.

In fact, “lazy” was the name for markets that had no stalls and where the goods were sold right off the carts. No special street for the loafers, then.

When you are walking along the street called Golden, glitz and big money may spring to mind. Far from being an elite neighborhood or a business district, the street is located in the city’s industrial outer east – where is the gold, then?

Quite bizarrely, until the beginning of the 20th century the Russian word for “goldsmith” had another meaning: “cesspool cleaner”. They used this road to take sewage out of the city, hence the name. Not very glamorous, is it?

Finally, Moscow’s north-east has two roads close to each other called Children’s Street and Playing Street. Both were named in 1922 because of a nearby public playground set up by the Bolshevik authorities. A rarity in a city still going through revolutionary aftershocks, the playground not only inspired the creation of children’s summer camps in Moscow, but also provided names for both streets.

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