Vasily Klyuchevsky house, Moscow

Click on photos to enlarge.


Officially, Vasily Klyuchevsky lived at the address of 6 1st Khvostov Lane in the Yakimanka district of Moscow. But if you had gone looking for him at 6 Malaya Polyanka Street, you would have found him there, too, as you can see in the photo immediately below. He apparently lived in this specific building from 1883 to 1895, although according to Boris Arsenyev’s book, Inexhaustible Yakimanka: In the Center of Moscow, in the Heart of History, Kluchevsky lived in this general neighborhood of Yakimanka for over 40 years. (I’d like to give a shout-out to Sergei Romanyuk and his book From the History of Moscow’s Small Streets, for providing the exact years of Klyuchevsky’s residence here. Most sources just round it off to the “1880s-1890s,” which is not nearly as interesting or satisfying. Romanyuk’s entire book is available online here.)
Klyuchevsky (1841-1911) was one of the great Russian historians. As seems to be true of an inordinate number of prominent Russian cultural figures of the 19th century, he was the son of a village priest. As an adult he became an expert in old Russian history, although his work covered many periods. His first book was Tales of Foreigners about the Moscow [or Muscovy] State (1866). You can find a complete scan of the 1st edition on Google books.  Klyuchevsky’s fame and influence was such that Leonid Pasternak, about whom you can read on this blog, did a large painting of him. Thanks to Wikipedia you can go there and see it right now. Russian Wikipedia does such a concise job of describing Klyuchevsky’s place in history that I might as well simply insert that here: “V.O. Klyuchevsky was one of the leading representatives of Russian liberal historiography of the 19th -20th centuries, an adherent of a state theory who, at the same time, created his own original model of Russian history, and was recognized as a leader of the Moscow school of history.” There is both a Klyuchevsky museum and a monument to Klyuchevsky in his birth town of Penza. A stamp featuring Klyuchevsky’s likeness was issued in 1991 in the waning days of the Soviet Union. In 2005 Valentina Mazalova wrote a PhD dissertation entitled The Contribution of V.O. Klyuchevsky in the Development of Historical Sociology. You can read a detailed extract online or even purchase the entire study.

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Some of the books Klyuchevsky wrote while living in this unique building erected in the late 18th-early 19th century, include: The Russian Ruble of the XVI-XVIII Centures and its Relation to the Current Ruble (1884); The Origins of Serfdom in Russia (1885);  and Eugene Onegin and His Predecessors (1887). His five-course history of Russia is a classic. It, like many of Klyuchevsky’s other works, is still readily available for purchase in bookstores and online.
What we now know as 1st Khvostov Lane was actually called 1st Petropavlovsky Lane when Klyuchevsky lived here. It was renamed in 1922, receiving a very rare name for that time. In the early ’20s most renamed streets, plazas and parks honored some new Soviet hero. The case of Khvostov Lane, however, refers way back to a character from old Russian history – Alexei Petrovich “Khvost” Bosovolkov (? – 1357). He was a high-ranking nobleman in medieval Russia, the owner of most of the lands surrounding this location.  I don’t know whether Klyuchevsky’s connection to this region had anything to do with the choice of the Khvostov name or not. I quite doubt it. But, intended or not, it is fitting that the name of the street Klyuchevsky once lived on would refer to something out of the ancient, murky, Russian past.
The building itself is a rather odd-looking thing. It is almost too long for proper proportion. And that orange color (surely not the color it was painted 130 years ago) also makes it stick out like a sore thumb in this quiet neighborhood. It is, however, a landmark. You remember this two-story structure like no other around it. Everything else seems to be there as background padding. There is no marker indicating that Klyuchevsky lived here. That’s just something you have to find out on your own.

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