We went on a short trip to Moscow last winter in order to take a peek from the other side of the now long gone Iron Curtain. What we saw fascinated us, as Moscow is a huge city that never sleeps. The shops work day and night and there is always something going on. Imagine a New York-like with European and Soviet architecture. First thing you need to know about the antique scene in Moscow is that no matter how hard the wind blows, there will always be someone in Izmailovo. Located around 20 min by Metro from the city center, the Izmailovo district is famous for it’s park (Izmailovski Park) that’s one of the biggest urban parks in the world. Izmailovo is a very old district with a rich history. We won’t be going into much detail but what we will say is that it originates from the 14th century and it started blooming in the 17th century when Tzar Alexis the 1st built his château there. Since then, it became a major cultural and trading center.
The marketplace in Izmailovo is the place you are looking for if you are going hunting for antiques. The market has two sections, one with souveniers (for tourists) and one with antiques and other miscelaneous items. Due to the sheer size of the market it’s quite hard to navigate through the endless sea of stands. Luckily we had guidance from a good friend of ours. As with all the places we’ve visited, timing was the key. In the early morning you can find mostly beautiful Russian traditional samovars for making tea, orthodox icons and fine porcelain. Besides that one can find a lot of material from the Soviet era, mostly militaria but also newspapers, diplomas, pamphlets, posters etc.
Now you might ask yourselves- that’s great, but where are the books? Book dealers are not in plane sight, meaning that you must ask the right people to get to the right stuff. We had a peak at a few shops on the market and we saw some wonderful pre-Soviet era books and paintings. Books from the Imperial era are more decorated and luxurious than later prints. One should not be deceived by appearances though, as a small Soviet-era scientific pamphlet (like the one in the picture) may be worth more than the complete works of a few authors together! Another thing that can be found on this market are the Orthodox books. Menaion, Psalter, Triodon, Trebnik and other service books are the most printed books in Russia as well as the whole eastern Europe. We will be talking more on the topic of Orthodox books in another article.
We want you to understand that Russia has a very strong culture of reading, hence nine out of ten people are reading in public transport. This culture has very deep roots and little did you know, Russia is the country with one of the highest rates of college degrees per capital in the world. So Russians love their books but they love foreign writers as well. First translations of classic works from the European literature are revered with high bibliophile value.
To conclude, we left Moscow with great new experiences and insights and with a bit of a heavy heart because we didn’t learn and see more than we did. We can guarantee that this European metropolis will impress even the most cold-hearted of visitors.
We must warn our readers that the regulations for exporting items outside the Russian Federation are quite strict. Please read more on the topic if you intent to buy something during your stay because the laws are subject of change and we don’t want to mislead you into buying something that you can’t export.