The Origin of Moscow Street Names (part 3)
It often happens that the origin of the names of Moscow streets can be explained с помощью легенд (by legends). It gives high confidence to Muscovites that street names давались не просто так (were not given just by chance) but that for all of them there is действительный исторический факт (an actual historical fact), and if настоящая причина (the real cause) has been forgotten, there is still народная фантазия (the popular fantasy).
On Krymsky embankment can be found Бабьегородские переулки (Babegorodskie lanes). The name took its roots in the 17-18th centuries, when work was done to strengthen the banks of the Moskva River with special piles that were driven into the ground with the help of “баб” (means either “women” but is also the name given to suspended heavy hammers). The work took a long time, and the residents began to call his area with protruding piles “Бабьим городом” (the hammer city). When work was over and the “баб” finally dismantled and taken away, the name was definitely adopted. But over the time, the real reason of such a name was forgotten, and Muscovites came up with a legend pretending that in the 14th century, Tatars were approaching the city while the Prince and his army were fighting in a faraway land. Women hurriedly built a small fortress and defended it with the help of children and elderly. Tatars couldn’t take the town. And the place was named “Бабий городок” (the city of the women).
Writers took involuntary part to the creation of legendary toponyms in Moscow. For example, возле Симонова монастыря (close to Simonov monastery), there was a pond called “Лизин пруд” (Liza pond), because this place inspired Nikolai Karamzin when he wrote the novel “Бедная Лиза” (poor Liza), the story of a peasant girl who fall in love with an aristocrat and drowned herself in the pond when she understands that he doesn’t share her love.
In 1809, Vasily Zhukovsky wrote the novel “Марьина роща” (Marina Grove), the unhappy fate of the peasant Mary and the shepherd Uslad separated by the cruel warrior Rogdai. Following the publication of the novel, the places he described in it, became known as the Marina Grove.
Despite their unscientific nature, similar legends give a special charm to Moscow. And Muscovites who know the true meaning of a name, are still coming up with this legends happily.