The Patriarch's Ponds area of Moscow now only has one pond, although it is thought to have once had three.
Originally a swamp known as Goat's Marsh, the area acquired its present character after the Great Fire of 1812, when much of the city was rebuilt.
The 20th century writer Mikhail Bulgakov lived in Patriarch's Ponds, which appears at the beginning of his most famous novel, The Master and Margarita.
boyars were land and serf-owning nobles, the highest ranking class of feudal Russia after the royal family. They were a hugely powerful and influential class up until the time of Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584), who brought them under his control. The boyars originally served a similar function in Russian society to western Europe's knights, as they were responsible for providing military might in times of trouble. However, over time this function was also eroded.
Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 in order to prevent Great Britain from having access to India, and to protect France's own trade links in the region. Although his battles on land were successful, the advances made by the French army were undermined by defeats at sea to the British navy under Admiral Nelson. Although the French were eventually forced to withdraw, Napoleon's abilities as a general helped secure his rise to power upon his return to France.
Inspired by Alexander the Great before him, Napoleon made an effort to appeal to Egyptian culture and expectations. On the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammed's birthday in 1798, and having warned his army to respect Egypt's religion and customs, Napoleon dressed in a turban and kaftan to celebrate the festival, organising military parades and praising Mohammed. Yet the Egyptians were unconvinced as to his sincerity and revolted against French rule.
The French invasion of Egypt led directly to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, and from there to the deciphering of hieroglyphics. The stone was discovered in Rashid (Rosetta) when the French army passed through. After the British expelled Napoleon from Egypt the stone passed to the British army, and then on to the British Museum in London, where attempts were made to decipher it. However the French scholar Jean-François Champollion, working with a copy of the Rosetta Stone, was the first to make sense of the hieroglyphics, publishing his findings in 1822.
The name of Moscow's central square, Krasnaya Ploshchad (Red Square) does not come from the Communist era, as many people assume. In Russian, the word krasnaya can mean both 'red' and 'beautiful'. St Basil's Cathedral, which lies on Red Square, was originally called 'beautiful' St Basil's, and the name came to be associated with the square as well. Originally the site of Moscow's main market, the square became host to many religious processions and festivals. By the end of the seventeenth century, however, the wooden market structures and tents had been cleared out of the square. In the 1700s Catherine the Great made various improvements to the area, which was now known as Beautiful Square. By the time Pierre came to be walking in it, the square had been paved, but the buildings around it were damaged during Napoleon's invasion.
Lubyanka Square in Moscow was to become notorious after Tolstoy's lifetime as the site of the headquarters of the Communist Party's secret police service, variously called the Cheka, the OGPU, and the KGB. The building also housed a prison where prisoners would be taken after arrest, on their first steps towards the Gulag. Today the same building houses the headquarters of the FSB. In 1901, shortly after he was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church, Tolstoy was walking in the Lubyanka Square when he stumbled into a demonstration. When the crowd realised who was with them they cheered for him, and mobbed him with such as frenzy of approval that Tolstoy had to be rescued from their affection by the police.