Ryazan in photos:
a century ago and today

How has the city changed over a hundred years? We took old photos of Ryazan's streets and re-shot them today
from the same spots.
Astrakhanskaya (Lenin) Street
Astrakhanskaya (Lenin) Street. A view of the city outskirts from Gazetny Side Street. The first house on the left is No. 22.
On the left is Astrakhanskaya Street at the beginning of the 20th century. On the right is Lenin Street, well-known to all Ryazan citizens. If not for the building in the front, the place would be hard to recognise. The old photo features a line of almost countryside type houses vanishing into the distance. On the new photo, almost all buildings in the front are from the Soviet era or built at the turn of the 21st century, even though they do not seem to be, at first. The nearest house was built at the beginning of the 19th century in the classic style, but its current appearance is attributed to the early 20th century – the peak of the bourgeois age. Back then, it housed the Nobles' Land Bank and Peasants' Land Bank. The balcony above the entrance was demolished, but the lobed dome on the top luckily survived the Soviet period, though most of such architectural extravagances were taken down in order to facilitate roof maintenance. Nobody felt like clearing the domes and the turrets from snow. This street is the starting point of the road from Ryazan to Astrakhan, which explains the old name. Before the railway construction in the 1860's, an important trade route from Moscow to Astrakhan had passed through Ryazan in this street. No ring roads around the city were built back then. In the second half of the 19th century, Astrakhanskaya Street and adjacent neighbourhoods transformed into the downtown district hosting banks, offices, hotels, and other urban amenities.
Until the second half of the 18th century, Ryazan had remained a medieval town with a web of crooked streets. Only at the time of Catherine the Great – the peak of the classicism era – a global redevelopment took place. In line with the general plan, the city centre turned into a rectangular structure of quarters with Astrakhanskaya Street serving as the main street. It was supposed to accommodate houses made of stone. On the right is the general plan dated 1876. The city's area remained the same as during the reign of Catherine II.

Astrakhanskaya (Lenin) Street. A view of the city centre from a bridge over Lybed. In the foreground is the crossroads between Pochtovaya and Novoslobodskaya streets.
The photo on the left was taken in the early 20th century from the Astrakhan Bridge over Lybed. The bridge is still in its place, while the river was confined to a pipe since the 1960's. This photo features three famous buildings, almost unchanged over the course of a hundred years. The building with a half rotunda on the left is the Ryazan Region Duma, former assembly of nobility. The three-storey building with a corner bay window and a balcony is the Steyert hotel, built in 1890 and rebuilt in the modernist style in the 1900's. This hotel was considered to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, even Feodor Chaliapin used to be among its guests. In the 1930's it housed government security officers and it is still the local FSB quarters. On the right of the photo is the Ryazan branch of the State Bank captioned in the old postcard. Today, the building hosts the city's arbitration court. The old photo gives a very good view of the metal guard rails to prevent carriages from running over the pavement. Today, the heavy guard rails have been replaced with light-weight fencing. A pole with 13 horizontal bars and a variety of insulators is a telephone & telegraph pole.
Sobornaya Street
Sobornaya Street from the corner of Astrakhanskaya (formerly Lenin) Street towards Novobazarnaya (formerly Lenin) Square.
A typical example of the changes that a central town of a governorate went through over a century. The once deserted road is now replaced by busy – sometimes overly busy – traffic. The city skyline is a mess of wires, but there is less outdoor advertising seen on buildings, which, by the way, stay mostly intact: only one in the end finally gave way to a Stalin-era house, and the second house from the corner had a new storey added during the Soviet times.
Pochtovaya Street
Pochtovaya Street. View from its turn towards Novobazarnaya (formerly Lenin) Square
The street was named after the Governorate's first post office. The three-storey building has house signs "Central Hotel Rooms" and "Fancy Smallware by Gavrilov Brothers" dating back to the pre-Revolutionary times. In the 1990s, Pochtovaya Street turned into a pedestrian street paved with cobblestones, with a row of street lamps in the middle.
Moskovskaya Street / Pervomaysky Avenue
Moskovskaya Street, now Pervomaysky Avenue. View towards downtown
The street's name speaks for itself: it is the road that leads to Ryazan from Moscow. The overall street view remains unchanged, with trees just as high and the house even preserving its brick chimney. A stark contrast is the traffic – no way to casually walk down the middle of the road! The long three-storey house with a chimney has been owned by the military for more than a century now. In the early 19th century, it was home to the Volkhovsky regiment of the Ryazan garrison and was informally referred to as "six-company barracks". Today, the building hosts the military prosecutor's office, military court, and an out-patient department of a military hospital.
Yamskaya Sloboda / Tsiolkovsky Street
In all Russian cities, slobodas (coachman quarters) would emerge on the outskirts, along the main roads, to facilitate the work of coachmen. For example, in Moscow there were several such districts, including Tverskaya-Yamskaya, Rogozhskaya-Yamskaya and Dorgomilovskaya-Yamskaya Slobodas. The coachman quarter in Ryazan was built on the south-eastern edge of the city.

Hence, Yamskaya Sloboda lies on the periphery of Ryazan's historic centre. Unlike Moskovskaya Street, this district underwent serious changes that dramatically changed its original look. As a result, the street is now lined with five-storey apartment blocks dating back to the crusade against architectural excesses (the 1950–1960s) rather than the neat rows of old two-storey merchant houses. Photos taken in the early 20th century show that Sloboda's streets were not even cobbled. On top of that, there was a drainage ditch running smack in the middle of the main road. One can easily imagine how many carriages would get stuck here when bad weather turned the road into a swamp of dirt.

Along with Astrakhanskaya Street, Yamskaya Sloboda formed part of the road from Moscow to Astrakhan. On 30 May 1819, Russian Emperor Alexander I made a stop here on his way back from the south of the country to "have a short break in a small neat cottage". To mark this event, a chapel was built. Even though it was brought down after 1917, Yamskaya Sloboda's Saint Nicholas Church survived the revolution and to this date remains the highest building in the street. A decision to build a church in the coachman quarter was taken in the late 18th century. Bricks of the destroyed Church of Saint Nicholas the Wet which used to stand on the bank of the flood prone Trubezh River came in handy as the construction material. The church was commissioned in 1788, however the bell tower was not completed until 1822.
Hangover of the regional Communist Party committee's canteen keeper unleashed a chain of events that probably saved the church from destruction when it was chosen to host Ryazan's new brewery.
The church was eventually closed in 1935 and subsequently served as a vegetable storage facility for the local kolkhoz (Soviet collective farm). During World War II brand new brewery equipment was brought to Ryazan from Germany as a trophy, but it was not put on stream until 1950. The things could have remained as is but for a happy accident. As the regional Communist Party committee's canteen keeper bemoaned lack of hair of the dog to "raise spirits" after the November holidays, first secretary Larionov asked to send in some beer from Moscow. His request was declined, though, because Ryazan already had a new set of German brewery equipment. Local authorities had no other choice but to urgently look for a place to accommodate the new brewery. That is where Saint Nicholas Church came in particularly handy.

Saint Nicholas Church in 1990 after the brewery had moved for good.
Yekimetskaya Gymnasium / School No. 1
The original building was narrower. Judging by the architecture, it was extended before the revolution or in the 1920s.
Ryazan's main school traces its history back to 1894 when Vera Yekimetskaya, daughter of the local doctor, opened educational courses in her house on Myasnitskaya (currently Gorky) Street. To teach students more effectively, Ms Yekimetskaya had to rent a house on Astrakhanskaya Street. The school was transformed into a gymnasium for women in 1901, with a dedicated three-storey brick building completed in 1904. The latter has been preserved to our days. The gymnasium offered teaching in Russian, French, German, theology, writing, handicrafts, geography, Russian history, mathematics, physics, arithmetics, vocal techniques and natural scienes.

Below is the breakdown of the gymnasium's students by their social class:

  • daughters of hereditary nobles – 151,
  • daughters of personal nobles and civil servants – 71,
  • daughters of clergymen – 30,
  • daughters of freemen and merchants – 104,
  • daughters of petty bourgeois and craftsmen – 157,
  • daughters of peasants – 150.
Similar to other private gymnasiums, the education was fee-based.
After the revolution, the school was closed to make space for the Youth Club, which it hosted for one year. In 1918, it reverted to being a school again.

1918–1941: school No. 1
1941–1945: hospital for wounded soldiers
1946–1955: school for women No. 1
1955–1958: polytechnic school (for boys and girls)
1958–1968: labour school
1968–present: secondary school

Nikolo-Dvoryanskaya Street
One of the few views of Ryazan that have barely changed over the years. In the centre of the picture there is a building of progymnasium constructed in the 1880s. In 1904, it became male gymnasium No. 2, while, in the Soviet times, it transformed into school No. 7, under which name it has been known ever since. Even the small single-storey house on the left side of it has survived. There is one catch, though: instead of the beautiful carved gate it features ugly metal fencing now.
The Old Market / 26 Baku Commissars Square
The Lybed River would spill over its banks almost every spring, but, in 1908, the flooding was especially bad. The winter was very snowy and lingered on until April, with the warm temperatures coming abruptly. Serious floods hit many cities in the European part of Russia, including Moscow and Ryazan.
Today, the farthermost point of the Kremlin's wall offers a fairly bleak view of the Soviet-era five-storey apartment blocks. Lost among them is an old two-storey house which serves as a link between different historical epochs. In the old postcards it is surrounded by churches, chapels, an uncrowded square and rows of houses farther aside. This is the Old Market Square. Starting from the 16th century, it was the city's main marketplace until traders moved to the far end of the Moscow Route in the late 18th century (the New Market is current Lenin Square). Smack in the middle of the Old Market there was St Simeon Church. In the old photograph its belfry lurks behind the red building on the left side. The church was closed in 1924 and then used as a bakery warehouse before being demolished for good. Farther away, behind St Simeon Church, one can see the gate bell tower of Kazan Monastery, which was later transformed into a residential building. Just a bit to the right, in the background, there is an unhindered view of the Resurrection Church, which later gave place to the Freedom Square. There is also a white two-storey house peeking in the photograph from behind the right wing of the red brick building. It has survived and now stands on the corner of Griboedov and Skomoroshinskaya Streets. All the other houses and churches have been demolished. The Old Market Square was renamed as 26 Baku Commissars and downsized in the 1960s giving space to a residential quarter.
13 Pervomaysky Avenue,
Ryazan's first residential high rise
In the 1920s, the protruding decor elements were painted dark to contrast the light painted walls and produce a distinct impression on the viewer. Unfortunately, the original colour treatment is no longer respected.
In 1929, the four-storey building with a five-floor centrepiece was viewed as a skyscraper.
Despite the 27-floor high bell tower of Ryazan's Kremlin being constructed back in the early 19th century, it is the building on 13 Pervomaysky Avenue that won the title of the city's first high rise. Built in 1929 by architect Alexey Soshkin, this is a fine example of constructivism. The building was slated for commissioning just in time to mark the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, but it was delayed. So the building ended up having only four floors on the flanks and five in the centrepiece. Despite the shortcomings, local writer Nikolay Nezlobin was euphoric about the project: "The fifth floor of Ryazan's first gargantuan house is heading for completion... Below it is the clattering of forged wagon wheels and clamour of the coachmen bringing in sand, lime and cement barrels. Asphalt melting is underway. Shrouded in fumes, the city is busy thumping, throbbing, clouting and painting. The city is hurrying to live it up to the fullest."

Ryazan's first high rise residential building. Constructed in 1929 by architect Alexey Soshkin. In 1941–1943, the building housed the Command Centre of Ryazan Air Defence Unit's 291st Standalone Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion.
Service Centre
In the early 1970s, Ryzan's Service Centre was built on the corner of Lenin and Liebknecht Streets. A fine example of Soviet modernism, it has not weathered the grind of the last 25 years very well: some say that the building's single-piece glass windows would only get washed once in every five years. With no refurbishment plans in sight, the Service Centre was reconstructed in the 2000s becoming a fairly mediocre piece of architecture. Currently it houses the Atron Shopping Mall.
Built in the early 19th century on the corner of Astrakhan and Vvedenskaya Streets, the mansion of the Shuvalov-Larionov merchant families was demolished in 1969 to give place to the city's new Service Centre.
Unfortunately, many buildings in Ryazan have not survived the grind of the 20th century
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