Our story today is about the Sukharev Tower, a historic, cultural and architectural landmark which unfortunately has not survived the Bolshevik-led reconstruction of the Russian capital.
After climbing the 83-metre high Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, the early 19th-century Russian author Mikhail Lermontov committed his impressions to paper, in an essay entitled "A Panoramic View of Moscow". And in it, we find a description of what could be seen to the north of Moscow's citadel Kremlin:
"To the north, nearer to the horizon, you can observe the dark silhouette of a fantastic rectangular structure, the Sukharev Tower. With its moss-covered facade, it reigns supreme over the surroundings as if trying to assert the will of its creator, Emperor Peter the Great. The gloomy look, the size and the graphic outline recall the age when nothing could have crossed the tyrannical power of that man."
The building itself and its name dated back to the earlier years of Peter's reign.
In August 1689 the young Tsar's power-thirsty elder sister Sophia attempted a murderous coup. Warned in the dead of night by a palace guard, Peter half-naked galloped on horseback to the nearest grove. Once clothed by devoted servants who caught up with him, he fled on to the safety of the Monastery of Holy Trinity, a brick-walled fortress northeast of Moscow. The two foot guard regiments promptly followed Peter, but in the rest of the regular army there was hesitation for some time. The first unit to take Peter's side was the foot regiment under Colonel Lavrenti Sukharev. His men’s hasty redeployment close to the Monastery where the Tsar had taken refuge decided the stand¬off in Peter's favor. Sophia's supporters were sent to the gallows, and the poor Princess herself took monastic vows, and spent the rest of her life in the Novodevichy Convent.
Peter's return and subsequent accession to the throne signaled the dawn of a new era for Russia. To commemorate the triumph and the loyalty of the regiment whose decisive action resolved the power crisis, the Tsar ordered to be erected near its barracks a ceremonial gate which later took the shape of a broad-based stone tower with guardrooms on the ground floor, and a circling gallery in the upper part. At the turn of the century, a third storey was added, and above it there rose a steeple carrying a broad-faced clock and a double-headed brass eagle on top. To spice up the somewhat dreary look of the red-brick walls, there appeared rich decorations of carved limestone. The edifice was 41 meters long, 25 meters wide, and most notably, 64 meters high. The people of Moscow appreciated the unusual height by dubbing the structure "the sister of Ivan the Great", a reference to the Kremlin Ivan the Great Bell Tower which was just 19 meters higher.
Tsar Peter himself wanted the tower to resemble a ship, with the eastern side representing the bow, the western side — the stern, the gallery — the deck, and the steeple — the mast.
Tsar Peter the GreatOn the southern side of the gate, there were memorial plaques with dedications to Colonel Lavrenti Sukharev.
The Sukharev Tower has not survived to this day, but the name of the brave officer who squelched the anti-Tsarist coup of 1689 persists in the names of the surrounding square and an underground railway station nearby.
The building, in fact, served Tsar Peter's designs to upgrade the ration's industry and build a modern-age navy. It housed Moscow's first secular school, a college to train navigators, shipbuilders, topographers, teachers, construction engineers and metallurgists. The students were teenagers from all social backgrounds, about 200 of them at any given time. In the 15 years of the college's existence, between 1701 and 1716, a total of over 1200 young men graduated from it.
To stimulate learning, Tsar Peter allocated sums to pay handsome scholarships linked to academic performance. The facilities and equipment could hardly have been better. A workshop on the ground floor manufactured precision instruments and research gauges. One expert taught there was Andrei Nartov, a famous mechanic who later worked for the Tsar's workshops and invented a cutting-edge lathe.
On the third floor, there were spacious classrooms and a fencing-hall, and on the top, an observatory equipped with powerful telescopes.
Teaching was organized by a close associate of Peter the Great Jacob Bruce, a man of Scottish descent. And the most prominent Russian teacher was Leonty Magnitsky, a graduate of the Slav-Greek-Latin Academy in Moscow. Magnitsky knew many foreign languages, read works by foreign scientists in the original and had acquired especially vast knowledge in mathematics. He also compiled a textbook containing all the knowledge that sea-farers would need, relating to arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, mathematical geography, geodesy and meteorology. The textbook, published in 1703, was beautifully illustrated. The frontispiece depicted Pythagoras and Archimedes and an engraving on the first page symbolized Arithmetic with a key to the temple of ¬knowledge in its hand. The 662 page textbook abounded in illustrations and contained various meteorological charts. The author wrote with pride, that in that textbook he had put together all his knowledge for the sake of teaching inquisitive people of all ages and walks of life. The textbook was an indispensable teaching manual for half a century.
Peter the Great held Leonty Magnitsky in high esteem not only for his profound knowledge but also for his fine moral qualities which attracted him like a magnet. Hence, the tsar ordered him to be called Magnitsky.
Among teachers of the Navigation School were also people of British extraction — mathematician Andrew Fartharson, teacher of the navigation science Steven Count Jacob BruceGwin and teacher of geodesy Richard Grace. The teachers also carried out scientific research work. On instruction from Peter the Great, Magnitsky and Fartharson calculated future solar and lunar eclipses. And the cartographers drew first navigation charts laying the foundation stone of Russian cartography.
The Scotsman Jacob Bruce was a rather mysterious and even legendary person. He descended from an aristocratic Scottish family which had left Scotland at the times of Oliver Cromwell and settled down in Muscovy. Bruce began his career as a boy soldier in Peter's military games and ended as Field-Marshal. He distinguished himself in Russia's wars with Turkey and Sweden, accompanied Peter the Great during his great diplomatic mission to Western Europe, and on orders from the Tsar spent a year in Britain studying mathematics and astronomy.
With his encyclopedic knowledge Jacob Bruce stood out among the other associates of Peter the Great. The Great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin described him as a Russian Faustus and for people in the streets of Moscow he was the magician from the Sukharev tower. Jacob Bruce did a lot in the areas of science and enlightenment. He took part in setting up a printing-house in Moscow and was at the head of book-printing all over Russia. He issued the famous astrological calendar known as Bruce's Calendar that was in daily use by Russian farmers for two centuries. He translated books on astronomy, mathematics, fortification, ballistics and navigation from English, German, French, Dutch and Latin into Russian. He was the first to acquaint Russia with Copernicus's views. He spent nights at the Sukharev tower looking through the telescope. There were rumors that he had got in contact with an evil force and obtained from it the gift of prophecy and the secret of water of life. These and other legends gave grounds for Pushkin to compare Bruce with Faustus.
In 1715 the Navigation school with its 305 students was moved to St. Petersburg where a Marine academy was created. The Moscow Mathematical School functioned till 1752.
Another fact from the history of the Sukharev tower is connected with the mysterious Neptune society which gathered there. At those meetings Peter the Great suggested they all talk about the sea and ships. It was at those meetings that the supporter of Peter's reforms Stefan Prokopovich explained in a poetic form that a great power should have a strong navy. There were many legends about the Neptune society, an organization that brought together many prominent personalities. The society's symbol — a fancy boat with brass canons and mica flashlights — was taken to the streets during holidays. When Moscow celebrated peace with Sweden the boat was paraded along the streets with all sails set and lights lit. It was burnt down during the Napoleon invasion of Russian in 1812.
The Sukharev Tower was also famous for various entertainments given by foreign comedians.
In the first half of last century a cast-iron reservoir for Moscow's water supply system was placed on the second story of the Sukharev tower where the Neptune society used to gather. In the middle of the century when additional reservoirs were built and the tower's reservoir was no longer needed, the Sukharev tower was reconstructed and turned into a museum. A striking clock with music was placed on the top.
For more than a century there was a Sunday fair around the Sukharev tower. Residents of Moscow and the countryside and visitors from other regions of Russia saw it as good place to come on Sundays. The fair occupied five thousand square meters. It was surrounded by inns, pubs and shops. But what attracted the visitors most was cheap rummage sale. It was possible to buy almost everything there: torn shoes, scrap iron, food, clothes, furniture, handicraft articles, paintings and sculptures. Even attic junk was offered: broken copper door-handles, bits of candlesticks, separate pieces of tableware and sheathes.
The Sukharev fair was famous for its trade in second-hand books. In the early 20th century it had about 30 second-hand book shops. The prominent Russian journalist and writer Vladimir Guilyarovsky said:
"It was possible to buy anything you wanted there. If you could not find a volume of somebody’s collected works, you just said you needed it and it would be brought to you by next Sunday. Only there could you buy rare books. Bibliophiles were there every Sunday. This was a real book exchange where every regular buyer knew every book-seller and vice versa.
The book-sellers liked to do favors to poor students. When a group of students came, say five people, they pooled their money, bought one book very cheaply and the book was shared by them. Or they could take the book for a certain period of time and paid a small amount of money daily. The book-sellers never asked students to leave something as a deposit and they always got their books back.
Traders in books and antiques formed the aristocratic section of the Sukharev fair. There was no such crowd there as at a second-hand market. Those who came there were collectors of books belonging, mainly, to the merchant class".
During decades of Bolshevik neglect for the cultural monuments many of them were demolished like the Chudov monastery in the Kremlin, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Kazan Cathedral. The same happened to the Sukharev tower. In 1934 it was pulled down under the unconvincing pretext that it was an obstacle to the movement of traffic. But the dilapidated buildings nearby have been preserved.
Possibly, the time will come when the Sukharev tower will be rebuilt like the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. What we can do is to hope for the best.
Source:The Voice of Russia