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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Village That Time Passed By

"Take tram No. 3, get off at the last stop, and the wooden sidewalk will bring you to Sokol, a newly built cottage compound of a new kind", promised an article in Dwelling Cooperation magazine in the mid-1920s.

Back then, the brand-new settlement of Sokol was located outside the Moscow city limits, not far from a forest and Vsekhsvyatskoye village.

Founded in 1923 as a cooperative dwelling project, Sokol was designed by several prominent architects and first inhabited primarily by well-known artists, scientists and intellectuals. The village, completed in 1930, consisted of single-family houses of which the first settlers were the sole proprietors.

Strangely, the village survived Moscow's seemingly endless sprawl. Circled by high-rise apartments and smoke stacks, it is an urban anomaly.

The 24-hectare village, one tram stop from the Sokol metro station, is a small-town oasis in the city. It consists of 119 stone and wooden houses, most of which were built before 1930.

Some 800 people live in the village, which has its own birth clinic, library and municipal center. All the houses have city telephones, hot water, modern bathrooms, and furnaces for heat. The 10 streets of the village are named for famous painters: Polyenov, Bryullov, Surikov, Levitan etc.

But the population has changed dramatically over the years.

In 1937, the village was expropriated by the city. About 60 percent of the residents were sent to Stalin's labor camps, said Pyotr Gromov, 76, deputy chairman of the village self-management council and a resident of the village since 1949.

"Very few ever returned", said Gromov. "The majority ended their lives in Siberia".

The current residents rent their houses, just like those in nonprivatized apartments in the rest of the city. Privatization of the houses is still in dispute. Though a law was issued permitting the privatization of historical monuments, it is not completely clear what guidelines should be adopted to prevent the authentic compound from destruction and reconstruction.

With strong support from the city's Communist Party committee, the village of Sokol was registered as a "monument of city construction and architecture of the early Soviet period" in May 1979. But the buildings were left to fall into disarray.

In 1989, the compound separated from the city and organized its own autonomous management committee.

"We could not get any help from the city officials", complains Gromov. "They were only up to spoiling our lives while the historic houses were crumbling".

Now Sokol lives on its own money with no financial support from the outside world.

"Our village is still regarded as one of the most prestigious spots in the city", said Gromov. "A lot of young people live here. Now we are working on building repairs and trying to restore the community spirit that was once so strong. We all love our village".

So do the people who live in the highrises around the village. Valeria Nezhina, a 63-year-old pensioner who lives in a tall apartment block nearby, was pushing her granddaughter's baby carriage through the village last week.

"This place is delightful", she said. "My daughter grew up here, too. In spring fruit trees bloom in the gardens. One can really feel seasons here. You forget that you are in the middle of the huge city".