Lenin Square
History of the city's main square
Lenin Square emerged in the late 18th century following a large-scale redesign of Ryazan as per a regular layout. The plan was adopted in 1780 by order of Catherine II to abolish crooked medieval streets and build from scratch what was basically a new city with a rectangular grid of blocks.
Also during the reign of Catherine II, an order by Governor General M.N. Krechetov transferred to Ryazan the Astrakhan Highway, which previously went through the towns of Zaraysk and Skopin. The highway crossed downtown Ryazan, and it was logical to have the so-called Trading, or Merchant', Rows alongside. They were to be hosted by two dedicated squares, with one of them located at the crossroads of Astrakhan Street and Vladimir Street (currently the city park). A traditional indoor market, known as Gostiny Dvor, was built there, and Moscow Street soon became home to Khlebnaya Square: literary meaning Bread Square, it hosted sellers of mostly bread and pastry. In the first years after its inception, the marketplace was a makeshift building, but as early as the 1790s a design project by Ivan Sulakadzev, Ryazan Governorate's architect, helped build Neoclassical trading rows.
Ryazan's regular layout of 1780 overlapped with the city's old design.
Merchant rows
Architecht Sulakadzev planned the merchant rows as four one-storey buildings surrounding the square. By the end of the 19th century, only three of the four buildings were ready: two longitudinal (southern and northern) buildings and a transverse one (between Sobornaya and Pochtovaya Streets). In 1807, N.P. Milyunov was appointed as Ryazan Governorate's new architect and started renovating the merchant rows. His suggestion was to add a second storey, have two additional transverse buildings erected in the western part of the square, and decorate the longitudinal buildings with half rotundas. The renovation started in the same year of 1807, but later on, in 1814, N.D. Shein, the next architect of the Governorate, decided to play a role too, ordering to change the facades of the merchant rows. However, apparently the changes were only minor.
The layout of 1909 clearly shows all the six buildings: two longitudinal and four transverse ones. The yellow colour between them marks non-permanent buildings (wooden merchant rows). The central part of the square is dominated by a chapel (see below for details).

The top part shows one of the draft layouts of Novobazarnaya Square of the first third of the century. The longitudinal buildings definitely do not take up the entire length of the square. Their western parts with rotundas were built as late as the second half of the 19th century. The lighter shade on the layout shows buildings made of stone and the darker one – those made of wood.
In 1837, Ryazan suffered a major fire. A lot of wooden houses were destroyed, which became an additional trigger for stone house building. The most famous image of the fire is Mikhail Brovkin's picture called Fire in Ryazan's Novy Bazar Square in 1837, which shows bakery stands on fire.
Merchant rows in early 20th century. Rear facade of the southern building (Krasnoryadskaya Street).
At first, the merchant rows only sold bread, which gave them and the square the same name. Over time, the square grew into the city's key retail space, which hosted merchants previously located at the old marketplace (now 26 Baku Commissars Street) and partly from Gostiny Dvor. In the middle of the 19th century, the square adopted the name Novobazarnaya (New Market Square), with its range of bakery stands considerably expanded. The longitudinal northern building offered manufactured goods and dry goods. The long southern building sold flour and pots. In the transverse south-eastern building, customers could find ironware, and in the north-eastern, clothes, footwear, and books. The transverse western buildings offered groceries, tobacco, and pryaniki (Russian gingerbread).
Krasnoryadskaya, formerly Goncharnaya, Street. To the right are merchant rows following the 1990s upgrade and to the left is the long array of merchant houses built in the second half of the 19th century. Usually the ground floor hosted the shops, while the upper floor was where their owners lived.
Alexander Nevsky Chapel
In 1856, V.E. Antonov, city mayor, initiated the cornerstone laying of a church marking the coronation of Emperor Alexander II. Novobazarnaya Street was chosen for its location. Also, a merchant named Gavrila Ryumin bequeathed 13,500 roubles to a new church, but the money was not enough for a large building, so a chapel was chosen instead. It was erected in 1860 right in the middle of the square. It existed for just above 50 years before demolition by the Bolsheviks.
Lenin Square in the 1930s. Parks replaced the cobbled square, wooden benches, and merchant stands.
First monument to Vladimir Lenin
In 1924, Bazarnaya Square was renamed to Lenin Square. It was around the same time that fundraising campaign for a monument to the Soviet leader began and eventually failed. This money instead fuelled the construction of Lenin children's health centre in Solotcha. In 1932, many years and several Stalin monuments later, the idea of a Lenin monument caught the public's eye again. The first monument to Lenin by Georgy Alekseev was unveiled on 1 May 1937. The sculpture was made of concrete, which was common during the times of Lenin's Plan of Monumental Propaganda in the 1920s–1930s and in Moscow. The monument started crumbling just in 10 years, and was dismantled in 1957.

Sobornaya Street in the early 1950s. This view had remained unchanged for over 100 years. However, in just a few years after this photo was taken, the right shopping building would be demolished to make room for the next monument to Lenin.
Second monument to Vladimir Lenin
The current Lenin Square monument that the Ryazan people know well was authored by Matvey_Manizer and dates back to 1957. It was initially intended for a Primorye Territory town, so its base resembles a ship's bow. However, for reasons unknown, the town rejected the monument, and it passed to Ryazan. To make room for the monument, the city authorities demolished two transverse shopping buildings in the western part of the square.
For a short while, old two-storey buildings remained as part of the background.
Six-storey buildings on Lenin Square were built at the tail-end of the 1950s. Khrushchev denounced "architectural excesses" as far back as 1955, which led to a sharp decrease in decorated housing. However, in the USSR's regional cities Stalinist architecture remained alive up until 1960. Still, Lenin Square serves as a sign that "architectural excesses" were on their way out. The old photograph below shows the completed right side of the building. It has five storeys, a pattern of pilasters with capitals, and rustication adorning the first two storeys. However, the building's left wing, which was erected later, has six storeys despite being lower. Belts were getting tightened: ceilings got lower, along with a noticeable cutback in decorations.
The building to the left stood between Podbelskogo (Pochtovaya) St. and Sobornaya St. and housed Moskva Hotel with a restaurant of the same name, as well as the City Executive Committee that later became the mayor's office. The one to the left was a residential building. The ensemble looked better during the 1960s, when the trees only covered the first two floors. Nowadays, they are as high as the building façades.
As for the Lenin monument, just like many other cities of the former Soviet Union, Ryazan removed it in 1993. The statue of the Soviet leader was dismantled following the mayor's decree and trucked to Tsentrolit plant's warehouse, and for a time the plinth hosted a wooden cross in its place. Later, the plinth was razed as well, getting replaced with an installation depicting domes – one of the contemporary symbols of Ryazan. It was popularly referred to as "onions".
In 1997, the Ryazan Region elections were won by a communist party, who immediately proceeded to restore the monument in its rightful spot. At the end of the day, Lenin's "vacation" lasted just four years.
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