I’m getting closer to the halfway point of Veltman’s Приключения, почерпнутые из моря житейского (Adventures drawn from the sea of life — see this LH post), and I want to translate the beginning of Book Three (it’s pretty long, so I won’t provide the Russian; you can go to the linked text and Ctrl-F for “Часть седьмая” and read what follows):
My readers probably have some idea of Moscow either from various “Voyages en Russie” or from a journal of impressions. From the former, they will doubtless have formed a clear idea of its outward appearance, and from the latter, of its inhabitants, mores, and customs. From these descriptions you know that the Kremlin stands beside the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, that the Sukharev Tower is by the Tver Gate [on Tverskaya Street], that the Tver Gate is on Prechistenka Street, that the Moscow River flows right under Zamoskvorechye, and so on. There is, therefore, no need to describe Moscow for you; you know it as well as befits a Russian person. I’ll get down to my story.
One foggy August day a carriage pulled by four horses rolled up to the Krestovskaya barrier-gate. The sentry was about to lower the barrier, but a servant called out “From the Moscow region!” and the carriage passed freely.
In the carriage sat two gentleman. One, thickset and appearing to be a Moscow landowner, was leaning back in a corner and dozing; the other — thin, squinting, with a pale face and a significant look — appeared to be a Petersburg department head or official for special assignments; in a word, his face was significant, and in his personal opinion even of statesmanlike significance.
“At last I am in Moscow!” said the latter, raising a lorgnette to his eye; “Let us see what sort of a beast Moscow is! Please point out to me anything of interest.”
As soon as there appeared on the right a Gothic building enclosed in battlements and towers like a knightly castle of the Middle Ages, the young man again held his lorgnette to his eye and cried:
“Is that the Kremlin?”
“Yes,” answered the thickset landowner, not opening his eyes. The Petersburger flew past. Let us leave the Petersburger and follow the crowd of shackled prisoners being led along the street. A woman in simple peasant dress was being carried along behind them on a cart. When this whole consignment [транспорт] neared the locked gates of the castle, before which there was no drawbridge, the sentry waved toward a small gate with a little barred window; the corporal escorting the consignment was the first allowed in, and then they opened the hell-gate, which, opening like the jaws of a beast of the Apocalypse, swallowed the whole consignment and closed with a gnashing of teeth.
In the interior courtyard of this castle were strolling what in reality were not people but dark shadows. We will not describe the human form distorted by passions and crimes. Someone in a worn overcoat and peaked cap separated himself from the ugly crowd and, hands in his pockets, walked quickly down the courtyard. From his face and glances you could see that he too had staked his soul, but his appearance did not show any deep impressions of crime, nor was there an answer in his eyes to anyone else’s soul. He was still, it appeared, a newcomer, looking at the high walls surrounding him and the “honored company” without surprise but with a certain special curiosity, as if he were asking himself where the devil he had wound up.
More than meets the eye is going on with that first paragraph. Not only is it amusing in itself, muddling up the sights of Moscow (the Sukharev Tower is nowhere near the Tver Gate, which is nowhere near Prechistenka), but it sets up the Petersburger’s mistake of thinking a building he sees shortly after entering the city is the Kremlin. However, I think Veltman is doing something else as well. The mistakes follow a pattern: you have to go counterclockwise from the Sukharev Tower to get to the Tver Gate, and from the latter to get to Prechistenka. As far as I can tell, there is no battlemented building just inside the Krestovskaya (also called Troitskaya) barrier-gate, in the center of the north wall of the city (a застава, what I am calling a barrier-gate, is where internal passports were checked to make sure the bearers had the right to enter the city), but if you go counterclockwise from that gate, the next one is the Dmitrovskaya or Butyrskaya (there’s a useful map and listing at this Wikipedia page), and if you enter that gate, not far ahead to the right was (and still is) the Butyrka, Moscow’s famous (and dreaded) central transit prison. I suspect that is what Veltman is describing, cleverly displacing it to avoid arousing the attention of the censors. I also can’t remember encountering an earlier description of a prison (the passage goes on to an account of a new arrival being threateningly accosted by an inmate); I had thought Dostoevsky’s Записки из мёртвого дома (Notes from the House of the Dead or Notes from the Dead House; see this LH post) was the first account of prison life in Russian literature, but now I’m thinking it was Veltman’s. I’ll be curious to hear what those who know more about Moscow and Russian literature think of these surmises.