Saturday, July 21, 2007
Pile-Driving in the White City (Белый город)
A few months ago, construction for a multi-story underground parking garage in the Hohlovskoy Square area (between the Pokrovskoi and Pokrovskim Boulevard) of Moscow uncovered something quite unexpected.
The former foundations for the White Walls (Белой стены) of the White City (Белый город) region of Moscow.
Steel piles had already been driven through parts of the former wall foundations, as seen in these photos. Construction has since been stopped and reportedly a team of archaeologists are now working on the site.
How none of this was discovered prior to construction is a mystery (to me, anyway) - it's very typical to perform deep soil borings and possibly test pits prior to construction as part of the foundation design.
The walls of the White City were part of a ring of defenses on the left bank of the Moskva River protecting the City of Moscow. Besides the inner fortress of the Kremlin, these defenses were comprised of Kitay-gorod (Китай-город), the White City (Белый город) and the outer Earthen City (Земляной город).
The White Walls were constructed from 1585 to 1593 as part of overall defensive improvements to the city, and when completed were approximately 10 kilometers long and up to 4.5 meters thick, with 27 guard towers and 10 gate towers all built from white stone. The walls and towers were designed by the Russian architect Fyodor Saveli'evich Kon' (Фёдор Савельевич Конь) who later went on to design and build the fortifications at Smolensk.
In addition to the great White Walls, the defensive preparations included a moat, filled with water from the nearby river, and an underground water pipe which passed under the walls for a city water supply. When completed it was widely considered one of the supreme fortifications in all of Europe.
At the end of the 18th Century the white stone walls were dismantled and replaced by the linden and poplar tree-lined Bulvarnoe Koltso (Boulevard Ring). All that remains of the great White Walls are the names of some former gate towers which have been given to Moscow squares: Nikitskiye, Sretenskiye, Myasnitskiye, Pokrovskiye and Yauzskiye.
Photographs, paintings, and additional information for this article were obtained from дядя Коля.
A radio interview with archaeologist Aleksander Veksler, chief archaeologist of Moscow, regarding this site and other archaeological and historic preservation efforts is here.
A map outlining the city of Moscow, circa 1695 is below. The White City is the semi-circular area shown on the northern side of the river.