There are many cities in the world, which, by the will of fate, became the capitals of modern states, the megalopolises, gigantic urban areas with millions of people living there. However, there are few only, which managed to preserve the old urban structures. The list of these "lucky capitals" includes such cities as Rome, Paris and Moscow. These cities developed in compliance with the radial-circular pattern; it means that in the process of urban development the streets were laid round the city historical centre.
Today the capital of Russia is one of the biggest cities of Europe with 850-years history. Look back to the 12th century to find out that during that time Moscow was only a small wooden town, the seat of a local Prince in the northern province of young, but strong and prosperous state called "Kievan Rus".
Prince Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky, is considered to be the founder of Moscow. His name relates to the first written mention of Moscow, which dates back to 1147. That was there, on the banks of Moskva River, where Yuri Dolgoruky arranged a sumptuous feast in the honour of his ally Prince Svyatoslav Olgovich. In 1156 Yuri Dolgoruky ordered wooden walls to be built round Moscow. That was how the small settlement turned into a wooden town. During that time the town occupied the south-east area of the modern Kremlin.
Being located in deep woods, which hindered the movement of Mongol-Tatar cavalry, Moscow had soon turned out to be a town situated right in the centre of many major trade routes. The town had been quickly developing, it had managed to unite the forces of many separate principalities for the final battle against Mongol-Tatar yoke. Three famous Princes of Moscow contributed to the victory over Mongol-Tatar oppression. Those were Ivan Kalita (ruled in Moscow from 1325 to 1340), who turned the small town into the capital of the Great Moscow Principality. During his rule the residence of the Russian Metropolitan was moved to Moscow. The first stone structures were ordered by Ivan Kalita to be built in Moscow. Dmitry Donskoy, the grandson of Ivan Kalita and the Great Prince of Moscow Principality (1359-1389), had strengthened the influence of Moscow and won the first military victory over Mongol-Tatar army in the history of ancient Rus. Dmitry Donskoy was the first to order the stone wall to be built round Moscow. Ivan the Third (1462-1505) the grand-grand son of Dmitry and the Great Prince of Moscow and All Rus managed to complete the unification of Russian principalities round Moscow and to throw off the yoke of Mongol-Tatar Golden Horde. Ivan the Third initiated the construction of stone town of Moscow, that was the time, when the famous Kremlin cathedrals Uspensky (Dormition), Blagoveshchencky (Annunciation), Arkhangelsky (Archangel Michael) were built. The Kremlin was surrounded by a new stone wall, which is currently remained in Moscow. The towers were also built (during that time there were no tent roofs on towers). A bit later one more stone wall was built around the trade area called "Kitai-Gorod". The remains of this wall are still there in Moscow, not far from Nikolskaya street.
In 16th century new streets and small settlements were built round the Kremlin and Kitai-Gorod and during the period between 1583 and 1593 the new area of Moscow was also surrounded by a white wall of 9 km length (the construction was supervised by Fedor Kon, the famous Russian architect). The white walls gave the name to this area of the ancient town, which was called Bely Gorod (White Town). At present the walls of White Town are replaced by Bulvarnoye Koltso, a kind of a street, which envelopes the city centre by its boulevards. These boulevards are as follows: Prechistensky, Nikitsky, Tverskoi, Strastnoi, Petrovsky, Rozhdestvensky, Sretensky, Chistoprudny, Pokrovsky and Yauzsky. The names of several squares located in the area of Bulvarnoye Koltso ("Nikitskyie Vorota" "Pokrovskiye Vorota") still keep the memory about the ancient gates of the old White Town.
By the end of 16th century the town expanded far away from the old walls of White Town. A ground bank with a wooden wall on top was built round the new living areas of Moscow to protect citizens against Tatar raids. This part of Moscow, encircled by proper ground bank, got the name of Zemlyanoi Gorod (Ground Town). At present one of the main city streets - Sadovoye Koltso passes along the line of the ancient ground bank. The names of some of the streets remind of the ancient Zemlyanoi Gorod: Zemlyanoi Val, Krymski Val, etc.
In the same 16th century the chain of Tsar dynasty was broken, the event, which took Russia to the long seven years of the Time of Troubles. Those were the years of civil war, uprisings, murder, foreign aggression and national disaster. The Russian state had reached the edge of downfall and again, like many times before, it was saved by Moscow. Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and rural council elder Kuzma Minin managed to unite the opposing forces and the people's volunteers won decisive victory over foreign invaders. The monument to Minin and Pozharsky was erected at the Red Square, close to Cathedral of the Intercession.
In 1613 Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov (1596-1651) was elected the Tsar of Russia. His ancestors ruled the country up to the October Bolshevik's revolt of 1917.
In 1713 Peter the Great (1672-1725) transferred the capital of Russia to St. Petersburg, which he had founded. But Moscow remained the heart of Russia and "the First Capital", all Russian tsars were crowned in Moscow, in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin. On the whole, the life in Moscow was more quiet and free, if compared to that in St. Petersburg, and more patriarchal. However, the construction works in Moscow, in 18th and 19th centuries were conducted in compliance with common European baroque and classic styles. Once introduced in Russia, those architect styles were interpreted by the Russian architect in a peculiar way and contributed to the creation of fine pieces of architect art.
During the years of 17th and 18th centuries Moscow had greatly expanded its borders. Tsarina Elizaveta Petrovna ordered a so called "Kamer-Kollezhski" Bank to be built round the new living areas of Moscow. The bank remained the border of Moscow up to the beginning of 20th century. The bank purpose was not a military one, it was built to restrict smuggling of goods to Moscow (vodka, mainly), which were subject to high duty. The bank got its name from the state organisation, which was in charge of taking duties: "Kamer-Kollegia" (Chamber Board).
In the beginning of the 19th century all patriotic forces of Russia were united by Moscow during the Patriotic war of 1812. That's what Napoleon Bonaparte understood quite well. He said: "If I take Kiev, I would bind the legs of the Russian state. If I capture St. Petersburg, I would take it by the head, but when only capturing Moscow I would be able to seize its heart".
After the October revolt of 1917 great drastic changes took place in Russia. During the years of Soviet rule the town-planning history of Moscow experienced many dramatic events. The life of Moscow was mostly determined by views and tastes of ruling Communist leaders. On the whole, the Soviet government ordered four general reconstructions of Moscow. However, these reconstructions didn't change the structure of Moscow town-planning and many unique projects were carried out, new highways, bridges, metro stations and skyrises, etc. were built, but at the same time, many ancient buildings, churches, monasteries, convents were destroyed. As a result, Moscow has lost a lot of its integrity, ancient beauty and charm. Eventually, things have started to become better. Many destroyed buildings and monuments are being built anew. For example, a new dome of fantastic Saviour Cathedral - the symbol of spiritual revival of Russia is already seen from many places of Moscow.