The late 19th century marked a significant period of transformation for Moscow, as the city underwent rapid modernization and urban development.
As a testament to this pivotal era, a collection of rare photographs provides a unique glimpse into the Moscow of yesteryears.
Architecturally, Moscow was also undergoing a metamorphosis. In 1812, Napoleon’s army had set fire to the city, causing widespread destruction.
However, by the late 19th century, ambitious reconstruction projects were well underway.
Landmarks such as the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Bolshoi Theatre, and the Moscow State University were built during this period and continue to define Moscow’s skyline.
In 1837 the Moscow stock exchange was established. The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 and the beginning of the railway era with the opening of the line to St. Petersburg in 1851 greatly increased labor mobility, and large numbers of peasants from the villages began moving into Moscow.
The population, which had reached 336,000 in 1835, had almost doubled, to 602,000, in 1871 and by 1897 had reached 978,000.
Moscow became the hub of Russia’s railways, with trunk lines to all parts of European Russia.
A ring of main line termini was built, mostly on or near the Kamer-Kollezhsky barrier at the limits of the built-up area.
Outside the barrier many new factories, particularly those concerned with textiles, began operation.
In the 1890s heavy engineering and metalworking industries also developed. Between 1897 and 1915 Moscow yet again doubled in size, to a population of 1,983,700.
The later 19th century was a period of ostentatious building by public bodies and wealthy private persons, in various imitative “Old Russian” styles and the so-called modern style.
From this period date the Town Hall (meeting place of the Gorodskaya Duma, former site of the Central Lenin Museum), the State Historical Museum, and the Upper Trading Rows (now GUM).
The growth of an industrial proletariat in Moscow, together with the generally low living standards of the workers, brought unrest and strikes. Various revolutionary groups were active.
In the Revolution of 1905 a small-scale insurrection took place in Moscow, and an attempt was made to seize the Nikolayev (now St. Petersburg) station; the revolt was ruthlessly crushed.
In 1917, although a Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was set up in Moscow, the city remained relatively quiet until after the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd on October 25, which was immediately followed by fighting in Moscow.
Military cadets held out for a time in the Kremlin, but by November 3 (November 16, New Style) they were overcome and Bolshevik power was firmly established.
(Photo credit: Russian Archives / Pinterest / Wikimedia Commons).