Domestic Architecture of Pre-Revolutionary Moscow 6

This series of posts comprises a few loosely translated extracts from Bolshoi Gorod, a fine Russian magazine of art and culture. In April last year, they did a small series on pre-Revolutionary private dwellings in Moscow, and these seemed of artistic interest in this blog. The tragedy is that it’s impossible for the average man-on-the-street to enter these residences, which are closed to the public even on the two days of the year (April 18, May 18) that are named Days of Culture, and it took nearly half a year of attrition and persuasion for Bolshoi Gorod to obtain access.

The Lazarev Institute

Armenian embassy, Armenian pereulok, 2.

In 1750, the Lazarev (Egiazaryan) family emigrated from Persia to Astrakhan, and afterwards came to Moscow, where they purchased from the merchant Sherimanyan a parcel of land with a house between Myasnitska and Maroseika streets. Since then, for nearly 300 years, this region has become the paramount centre of Armenian life in Moscow.

At the end of the 18th century, the Lazarevs were among the wealthiest families in the empire. A courtier of Catherine II, Ivan Lazarev, owned sixteen thousand serfs and craftsmen assigned to his factories. In 1782, in the neighbouring property at No 3, Armenian pereulok, began the construction of the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross (this was demolished in the 1930s), while in 1815, replacing the old house, a neo-classical edifice was built under the architects Timofei Prostakov and Ivan Podyachev. The Lazarev school was established in this building, which twelve years later became the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages. Arabic, Persian, Tatar, Turkish, Armenian, Georgian and other languages were taught there, to which at the end of the 19th century was added Sanskrit. Students obtained a gymnasium and high school education here; the majority of the students were Armenians (e.g. in 1905, out of 148 students, 89 were Armenian), but students of other nationalities studied here as well. For instance, Konstantin Stanislavsky graduated from the Lazarev Institute – his father believed that knowledge of Oriental languages would help him in his family mercantile activity.

Suren Khachaturov established the Armenian theatre studio in the Lazarev building in 1919. Khachaturov was the elder brother of the composer Aram Khachaturyan. An auditorium with 300 seats was situated in the former assembly hall. In 1921, the building was converted for the House of Culture of Soviet Armenia, while the Lazarev institute was combined with other centres of Oriental studies in the city to form the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies. In 1953, one of the wings housed the permanent mission of the Armenian republic. These days, the building is occupied by the Armenian embassy. Till recently, the right wing of building housed the Armenian theatre under the supervision of Slava Stepanyan.

Old cast-iron staircase leading to the library

Old cast-iron staircase leading to the library

The old premises of the library, which now displays books from Lazarev printing house, pre-revolutionary photographs of the Institute's life and letters, including mentions of the XVIII century.

The old premises of the library, which now displays books from Lazarev printing house, pre-revolutionary photographs of the Institute’s life and letters, including mentions of the XVIII century.

Sculpture of Peter I in the vestibule of the embassy.

Sculpture of Peter I in the vestibule of the embassy.

Chandelier, gifted to the Lazarev institute.

Chandelier, gifted to the Lazarev institute.

lazar5 lazar4

Caryatids decorating the ceremonial entry into the hall.

Caryatids decorating the ceremonial entry into the hall.

Assembly hall. In the 1920s, it hosted the performances of the first Armenian theatre in Moscow.

Assembly hall. In the 1920s, it hosted the performances of the first Armenian theatre in Moscow.

The Lazarev Institute.

The Lazarev Institute.

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