"At sunset, high over the city, on the stone terrace of one of the most beautiful houses in Moscow, a house built about a hundred and fifty years ago, there were two: Woland and Azazello.".
One of the most beautiful buildings in Moscow, the Pashkov House in Mokhovaya street, is built between 1784 and 1787, and was indeed about 150 years old when Bulgakov wrote his novel. The house was built at the slope of the Vagankovsky hill facing the Borovitsky gates for Peter Yegorovich Pashkov, who was a retired officer and the son of an orderly of czar Peter I. In 1812 the building was destroyed by a fire when Napoleon invaded Moscow. Later the building was acquired by the government. It was renovated and became a school for children of the nobility. After that it was the first public library which also appeared to be a real cultural centre for Moscow. Prominent Russian writers and scientists came here to study, like Lev Tolstoy, Pyotr Dostoevsky and Dimitri Medeleyev.
After that the Pashkov house became part of the Rumyantsev Museum, and Bulgakov visited it often in the 20s, when it had become the Lenin Library. Today it houses the manuscript collection of the State Library, including -appropriately - Bulgakov's archival manuscripts.
The building, designed by Vasily Ivanovich Bazhenov (1737-1799), is classical in style, with columns, urns, and terraces reminiscent of Rome. It had a garden with a pond, but that can’t be seen anymore. Today the house looks over a never ending car traffic stream.
The Pashkov House is one of the places in Moscow with a permanent problem of rats. In Moscow live "dozens of millions" of rats. Their number is estimated between four and ten rats per Moscovite. Almost all are grey rats (pashuks), weighing between 250 and 350 grams, and they can be 30 cm long with a tail between 10 and 15 cm. Rats don't bother much about rank nor position. It took a very long time before rat exterminators were able to catch a rat in the office of minister of Culture Mikhaïl Shvydkoy. The news channel Вести Москва even reports 40 rats per Muscovite.
The illustration shows an old view of the Pashkov house. In 2007 there was not much beauty to admire because the front of the house was entirely covered by a giant publicity pane. Which not only happened to the Pashkov house. Many beautiful buildings in Moscow are totally hidden by the unrestrained erections of publicity panes. The city council of Moscow decided in June 2007 that such practices should stop. We can only hope it will.
The front of the Pashkov house is visible again since August 2007. The building should be passed on to the Lenin Library in September.
Metro: Библиотека имени В. И. Ленина (Biblioteka Imeni V.I. Lenina)