new icn messageflickr-free-ic3d pan white
Moscow Thieves Market 1909 | by
Back to photostream

Moscow Thieves Market 1909

Visit my museum exhibit Empire and Empathy to view all of my great-grandfather’s 1909 photographs and for more information about the trip.Murray is one of 5 photographers featured in the book Twilight of the Romanovs: A Photographic Odyssey Across Imperial Russia the book is being printed in both German and English.


Original description


A prize snap shot on a sunday morning in the famous Thieves Market, Moscow. I was mobbed by this crowd after taking this picture and had to be rescued by the Soldier-Police


Murray Howe, 1909

Copyrighted visit


For information about the trip or to inquire about use of the images, contact Murray's great-grandson:


Andrew Murray Howe V


[This Khitrov market was then #1 among the most crime-prone areas of Moscow. The open-work canopy seen in background of the square was initially used as a market for a variety of goods including foodstuffs. Later on it became a sort of labor market where lumpenproles gathered from everywhere outside Moscow and offered themselves as general workers. All the dwelling houses in the adjacent lanes turned into a skid row. When Konstantin Stanislavski, the founder of the Moscow Art Theater, planned to stage The Lower Depths play by Maxim Gorky (, a group of actors, directors and designers made an excursion to one of the bunkhouse in the Khitrov market to see with their own eyes the environment and people to be imitated on the Moscow Art Theater stage. They hardly survived there. Their saver was their guide Vladimir Guilyarovsky, nicknamed the King of Moscow newspaper reporters, who often had visited the Khitrov market, and was familiar with both the policemen and gangsters of the area (he was highly reputed among them for his unique physical strength and dauntless courage) He managed to stop the beginning of the robbery and possible slaughter of the theater people by outrageous burst of obscenities which overwhelmed the mob, made them slack-jawed out of surprise on hearing the fantastically virtuous word combinations, and the final result of mob’s stupefaction was a storm of applause. Happy ending!]


Note by great-grandson: There was a return trip in 1912 that Murray could not attend because he had become head of the advertising department for Union Carbide (founded by the owner of the horses). Here is what was said about Murray in an article by the journalist that replaced him on the 1912 trip:


“In closing I must add that there is mourning in the land of the Czar at Murray’s non-appearance. When the natives learned that the Billings stable was to return, it was supposed, of course, that he was to return with it, and the fact that he was not would undoubtedly cause the city to be draped in crepe, were it not for the fact that the Imperial Majesty himself is due for a visit in about two weeks, in consequence which the entire population is engaged in a perfect orgie of activity with paint, calsomine, gold leaf and upholstery, streets are being repaved, windows polished, droshkies refurbished and harnesses besilivered, regardless of expense. The Czar however, will depart May 21st (May 8 Russian style) and thereafter nothing will dispel the pall of gloom – for Murray is recorded in local history as the greatest Russian-American that has ever appeared in the shadow of the Kremlin. Innumerable legends exist regarding his prowess in the consumption of vodki and sakouski, of the famine in caviar and sterlite that followed his departure, and the drought in the wine cellars at the Metropole, the National Continental, the Imperial Club, and at “The Yards”. There is a Murray Howe Memorial Society, composed exclusively of chefs, butlers, matres-de-hotel, waiters and bell boys who are still living in luxury from the shower of rubbles and kopeks that made his trail luminous. There is a similar society composed of droshky and troika drivers and owners; that portion of the citizens that habitually depends upon largess for their sustenance hold periodical mass meetings upon the plaza in front of the Grand Opera House and petition the Czar to issue a ukase demanding his return: while night before last, at the performance by the Imperial Ballet of “La Belle au Bois Dormant” when the premier danseuse, the beauteous and sprightly Mlle Balaschova , learned that the American trotting legation was present and that Murray Andreyvitch was not among them, she was so overcome with grief that she was obliged to omit her grand climactic “pas-seul” in the last act, and a physician had to be hurried to her dressing room.


But the biggest gloom prevails in the Thieves Market, where the most affectionate remembrances exists of the tall Americanski’s fraternal visits. The king of pickpockets has been inconsolable ever since he was told that his comrade from across the seas would probably never return to his old haunts, where, three years ago, they used to foregather with much mutual enjoyment.


From all which it will be understood that such an ineffectual understudy as myself is laboring under disadvantages impossible to overcome”

9 faves
Taken in March 2011