Everbrite's Russia, Belarus and Ukraine Pages
Central Moscow Tour- in four parts with map:
Travel in Russia planes, trains and automobiles
Tapochki, Terms and other Tidbits
Interesting and Useful Information from A to I
Addresses - Russian addresses are different from those in other countries and places can be difficult to locate, even for Muscovites. For residential buildings and often, commercial buildings, there are three parts. The first is called the "Dom" or house number. This does not mean the building number, but rather it could refer to a complex of buildings, all off the same courtyard. In an address is it usually written out or may be abbreviated. Note that a small letter "d" when written in Cyrillic may look like the Roman letter "g."
Outside doors often require a special key or code to open them. Some buildings have intercoms so the apartment number can be dialed and someone can ring to open the door. Once the building is located and the door is opened, the final piece of information to locate an apartment is the floor or "etazh" number. Apartment numbers do not correspond to the floor on which an apartment can be found. For example, apartment number 19 is likely to be up more than four flights of stairs as there are often four apartments of a floor. Also, just to be confusing, the ground floor is not the same as the first floor.
Often two apartments are located behind the same locked outer door. So when the correct floor is reached, look for the bell for the specific apartment and ring. And finally, be prepared to wait as many people have two more doors to open each with several locks.
Apse - A projection off the end of a building that is usually semicircular in shape, especially for an altar or the eastern end of the church.
Begunets - A decorative strip usually of brick and common to Pskov style architecture.
Belvedere - Open gallery
Bolshevik - The word Bolshevik, an emotionally charged term in English, is derived from an ordinary word in Russian, bol'she, "bigger, more," the comparative form of bol'shoi, "big." The plural form, Bol'sheviki was the name given to the majority, radical faction at the Second congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party in 1903 (the term is first recorded in English in 1907.)
The smaller and more moderate faction was known as Men'sheviki, from men'she, "less, smaller," the comparative of maly, "little, few." The Bol'sheviki, who sided with Lenin in the split that followed the Congress, subsequently became the Russian Communist Party. In 1952 the word Bol'shevik was dropped as an official term in the Soviet Union, but it had long since passed into other languages, including English.
Today the word generally is used in Russian to describe a member of the left-wing majority group of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party that adopted Lenin's theses on party organization in 1903, a member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party that seized power in November 1917 or a member of a Marxist-Leninist party or supporter of one (a Communist.) In English, it is often used to refer to an extreme radical.
Bolshoi - Big or great, like the Bolshoi Theater is the Big Theater compared to the Maly or Small Theater.
Boyar - A member of the Russian aristocracy, which was abolished by order of Peter I. Prior to that in the 15th to 17th centuries, the boyars of Moscow formed a closed aristocratic class that surrounded the throne of the Grand Prince (and later the tsar) and ruled the country together with him. They were drawn from about 200 families, descended from former princes, old Moscow boyar families, and foreign aristocrats. The rank of boyar did not belong to all members of these families, but only to those senior members to whom the tsar granted this title. Below the boyars stood the group of okolnichy.
Together these two formed the boyar council, which helped the tsar direct both the internal and foreign affairs of the state. The decisions of the boyar council, as confirmed by the tsar, were recognized as the normal form of legislation. The boyars and okolnichy generally served as heads of government offices, provincial governors, and military commanders. Throughout the 17th century, the social and political importance of the boyars declined. Then early in the 18th century, Peter the Great abolished the rank and title of boyar and made state service the exclusive means of attaining a high position in the bureaucratic hierarchy.
Consecrated versus Unconsecrated - During Soviet times about 40 churches were actively operating as religious institutions. The rest were destroyed, turned into museums, left vacant or converted for other uses. Since the late 1980's and the decision to permit the church to take a more active role, many of churches have been reopened, rebuilt and reconsecrated. This means that they have been blessed by the Patriarch and can hold religious services.
Colors - Many buildings in Moscow are painted. The colors often fade, so deep garnet red might become dusty rose or they may be repainted a different color, so pale coral one time, might be pale pink another time. For this reason, most color descriptions should not be considered definitive.
Cornice - Either the molding between the top of a wall and the ceiling or the horizontal projection that crowns or completes a building.
Decembrists - After some of the young military officers returned from France in the early 1800s, they established a number of secret societies whose aim was the liberalization of Russian rule. Prominent among these groups was the Union of Prosperity founded by Alexander Muraviev. The chief goal was the political reorganization of the government and the abolition of serfdom. By the early 1820s, the Union itself had divided into Northern and Southern camps with slightly different political agendas.
In December 1825, when Constantine failed to succeed Alexander I as tsar, a revolt broke out in St. Petersburg in which the Northern group attempted to force the adoption of a constitutional monarchy in Russia by preventing the accession of Nicholas I. Two weeks later the Southern group made a similar attempt. Both groups failed miserably. Probably as a result of their attempts, Nicholas became the most reactionary leader in Europe. Several of the leaders were hung and many were exiled to Siberia. They came to be regarded by later revolutionaries, as the forefathers of the Russian revolutionary movement. These late 19th century radicals, including Hertsen, Petrashchevsky and Lenin, looked to the Decembrists as an inspiration in their fight against the tsars.
Dentils - A series of small tooth-like rectangular blocks forming a molding or projecting beneath a cornice.
Gorod - Town
Entrances and Exits - Buildings and churches often have several doorways. Which one is the official entrance or exit can change over time. If the directions indicate an entrance that is closed, enter someplace else and then try to reorient to the description.
Hours of operation - Nothing is more frustrating than expecting to visit a museum and arriving to discover that it is closed. Unfortunately, this is a frequent occurrence in Moscow. Besides the one day a week that a museum is always closed, there are often sanitary days once a month when a museum is also closed. And then there are the unexpected reasons - technical problems, reasons from above and other unexplained causes for not being open. Despite telephone calls and checking directories, there is little that can be done to anticipate these closures.
Icon - The word derives from the Greek eikon meaning image. These are religious paintings, frescoes and mosaics that follow certain standard patterns. Icons depict Jesus, Mary, saints, martyrs or episodes from the Bible or other religious texts. They can be found in churches, chapels, at crossroads for travelers, hanging in museums, as well as placed private homes. On occasion, they were carried into battle and if victory ensued, they might be attributed with the success.
In olden times, icons were frequently placed in homes, clustered as a shrine with burning candles in the "red" or "beautiful corner", which was the first corner of the room seen when entering. But they could be found in any room of the house, including barns and stables, where they were hung to guard the livestock. In churches, they were usually assembled in an iconostasis or altar screen that by the 15th century had its own elaborate traditions. (See below)
Icons usually were painted on wooden panels covered with a mixture of chalk, linen, oil, and glue made of sturgeon bones and skin. The combination is called levkas. Gold leaf was used sometimes for halos and backgrounds. A coating of boiled linseed oil gave them a golden tone and offered some protection. After a period of time, the oil darkened and another artist painted over the original design. Restorers today are able to recreate the appearance of the originals by removing later layers.
There is an artistic code involved in icon painting that was dictated primarily by the church. These works of art were said to have been revealed, not painted. Figures could not look like statuary or idols, and thus the technique of perspective had to be avoided. The only source of light permitted was from within the saint or religious person. Icons were not intended as original works of art. These works were not signed and if writing is present, it is often just the name of the saint depicted.
There are many different styles of icons. Those involving the Virgin Mary usually fell into one of four groups. An icon is a considered "Hodegetria," from the Greek meaning "showing the way," if the Virgin is seen leading the people to her son, accompanying them to their salvation. Generally she is pictured full face or with her head slightly tilted to one side. The Virgin is pictured holding in one arm Jesus, either standing or as if seated on a throne. With her other hand Mary points to Jesus indicating him as the way to salvation. Jesus is depicted the size of a baby but with the face of a young man. In the traditional Kazanskaya Virgin, a shoulder-length version of Mary is pictured. While similar, the Smolenskaya Virgin is a waist length portrayal.
Usually the name of the icon is related to the place in which it was "revealed," where the subject of the icon was known to have appeared, where the image was specially honored. Occasionally icons were named based on the historical figure that painted the icon or the individual who witnessed its miracle.
A hierarchy of color exists which holds meaning: at the top were white, purple and gold which symbolized divine light, purity, salvation and love. Blue and green which were considered earthly colors, representing heaven, joy and hope. Blue in particular was associated with virginity and purity, while red portrayed the flame of the Holy Spirit, maternity, the passions, martyrdom, sacrifices and faith. Yellow was the symbol of treachery, and black, the gloom of death and emptiness. In early icons of the Virgin Mother, she is depicted clothed in a dark or cherry red outer garment covering her from head to toe. As Western European Art began to influence iconography, the Virgin was portrayed without the head covering.
Different cities established their own styles and schools. The main ones were Novgorod, Pskov, Moscow and Central Russia. Each had its own special design elements.
Iconostasis - A wall of icons or altar screen; an elaborate tired structure, filled with icons, which often stretches from the floor to the ceiling behind the altar. Sometimes the icons within the iconostasis date from other times or places. Traditionally, the icons are set into the iconostasis in a pattern with specific levels having definite icons within them.
The top or festival tiers hold scenes from Jesus' life above which might be views from the Old Testament. The middle or deeis tier has Jesus in the center with Virgin Mary on one side and John the Baptist on the other side. Beyond them are full-length portraits of apostles, saints and prophets. The lower or local tiers are reserved for pictures relevant to the particular church. At the center of the local tier was a doorway, the Royal Gate, representing the entrance to the spiritual world, above which was a representation of the Last Supper.
last revised 23 November 2009 © 2003-2011 Ruth E. Imershein
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Please do not depend entirely on this information when making your decisions.
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