Tranquille Yard.

There was a very famous restaurant Яр [Yar] in Moscow, founded in 1826 in the central city (on Kuznetsky Most) but best known in its later incarnation in Petrovsky Park, just outside of the (nineteenth-century) city on what is now Leningradsky Prospekt (and if anyone knows exactly where, please tell me — I like being able to place things on the map). I had thought it was named for the Russian word яр ‘steep bank, ravine’ (borrowed from Turkic), but in the fantastic new Poemas del río Wang post by frequent LH commenter Dmitry Pruss (aka MOCKBA) on the tango “Ojos negros que fascinan” (“I spent years trying to solve the riddles and mysteries surrounding Dark Eyes, a song about fatal love and perdition which almost prophetically touched most of the talents who ever touched it, making them vanish from history”), which I urge anyone interested in music, history, or the untangling of tangled tales to go read at once, Dmitry writes “the famous suburban restaurant, the ‘Yard,’” and sure enough, the accompanying image of a postcard has “Restaurant ‘Yard.'” Why “Yard”?

Well, the Russian Wikipedia article says it was founded by a Frenchman named Tranquille Yard, and this information is also purveyed in a couple of books (e.g., Max Fram’s The Motherland of Elephants: “The original restaurant in central Moscow was founded and owned by the Frenchman Tranquille Yard”). But I don’t believe it. “Yard” is not, so far as I know, a French surname, and Tranquille is only a (rare) surname, not (so far as I can tell) a given name. Of course if irrefutable evidence exists of such a person with such a name, I’ll accept it, but for the moment it seems far more likely to me that something has gotten garbled in the nearly two centuries since the founding of the restaurant. A similar mystification is noted in Dmitry’s post about one of the creators of the song, Florian (or Feodor) Hermann:

Most often, we are told that Hermann was French, and came to Russia with Napoleon’s Grand Army. Sometimes we hear that his Valse Hommage started as a march of the advancing French troops in 1812. But sometimes, that it mourns the French army losses as it forded the icy Berezina river on retreat from Moscow. We even hear that Florian Hermann visited the home estate of Evgeny Grebenka, the author of the lyrics of the future song, during the Napoleonic Wars! But sometimes Florian Hermann turns out to be a German rather than Frenchman. We are even told that the lived in Strasbourg. One has to note that Valse Hommage is always titled in French in the international score catalogs, while some of the other Hermann’s compositions are titled in German. However, my research shows that Florian Hermann was a Russian patriot from the Wilno strip area of Poland / Lithuania, and that he composed some of his most popular pieces in 1870s through 1890s. And very recently, I was able to find out a few details about his youth and his family in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania).

As always, I welcome all thoughts from the Varied Reader.


  1. Google Books found this earliest mention dated Friday, August 14, 1835

    Verhaal eener reize in Rusland: gedaan in het jaar 1835
    Jan Ackersdijck – 1840 – ‎Full view – ‎More editions

    Met hetzelfde oogmerk ging ik eten bij Yard “au restaurant français” waar niemand Fransch verstond , behalve de meester, en deze, verkoos niet zich om mij te bekommeren; zoodat ik slecht en maar half genoeg te eten bekwam.

    So we can, at least, be reasonably sure that it was a French restaurant, it’s original name was spelled Yard and it’s owner was French speaker.

  2. The person “Trankil’ Yar” (Транкиль Яръ) definitely existed, he’s in the 1834 Revision list for the Butcher’s Quarter (Myasnitskaya Sloboda) of Moscow as a “Merchant, 3rd Guild, arrived from abroad in 1826”. But from where, it isn’t clear. Some “Yars” are listed later as Austrian subjects.

  3. marie-lucie says

    I thought I had indeed run into “Tranquille” as a male given name, although not belonging to anyone of my acquaintance. Googling “Tranquille prénom” yields a number of instances of “Tranquille … masculin”, considered rare but including a Saint Tranquille. One source says that the average age of males named Tranquille is 109 years, and that includes a few babies! Such once archaic names are coming back into fashion in France, and names of forgotten saints still on the Church’s lists are also given in other French-speaking countries, such as in Africa or the Caribbean.

  4. In the first volume of his memoirs, Alexander Herzen mentions his youthful experiences at the “Yar” in 1832 and 1833. It is an outrageously expensive French restaurant, the menus are in French, and when they order catering, then a Frenchman brings the basket and the whole discussion is in French. Herzen vividly remember the teasing he’s got from the older generation for their hapless trip to the Yar with Ogarev, which cost them a golden ruble each, and left the teens hungry but quite buzzed 🙂

    Транкиль is in an official govt record and doesn’t seem like it could be anything but transliterated French. The record doesn’t mention the country of his origin, just “abroad”. But the guy spoke French and opened a leading French restaurant on the year of his arrival, so his connection with France was definitely much stronger than a tenuous bubbemeize of later generations?

    It just doesn’t sound like a mystification. It would be too hard to insinuate its way into the #1 restaurant in the famously nosy city without the proper credentials

    Tranquille’s landlord was a French expat too, Lucienne Chavanne

  5. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    Yard is a surname from northern France, with at least on Wikipedia-worthy holder, the writer Francis Yard.

    A little genealogical searching turns up the birth and death certificates of a Tranquille Frederic Yard (1821 – 1838) from Normandy (more precisely, from Seine Inférieure). In his short provincial life he cannot have become a Muscovite restaurateur, but he suffices to establish the name is plausible for the era.

  6. marie-lucie says

    It turns out that Monsieur Yard had a French last name also! Rare, but attested (especially under other spellings such as Hiart and others). The final d being silent, did not make it into the Russian transcription.

  7. Just to be clear, I wasn’t doubting that it was a French restaurant, or that it was founded by a Frenchman — just that the name was really the unlikely-looking Tranquille Yard. But it seems that it was!

  8. marie-lucie says

    Yes, very unlikely, therefore worth checking. I thought that Yard would turn out to be foreign, inherited from some male ancestor.

  9. I remember a piece of Russian music called in English “The Gypsies Rode to the Yar”. That caused me to assume that Yar was the name of a river or something like that. However I can’t find anything more about it.

  10. The restaurant was famous for its Gypsy music.

  11. Courtesy of Dmitry:
    Last 5 rubles
    Race to the Yar

  12. A little genealogical searching turns up the birth and death certificates of a Tranquille Frederic Yard (1821 – 1838) from Normandy (more precisely, from Seine Inférieure). In his short provincial life he cannot have become a Muscovite restaurateur, but he suffices to establish the name is plausible for the era.
    “Ours” was born in ca. 1795, and may have been a relative, perhaps father or an uncle of this Tranquille, if the rare name was traditional in the family. (The Muscovite Yard was 38 at the time of the “VIII Revision” Russian Imperial Census, 1833-1834)

  13. French surname Yard is a variant of surname Hia, Hias, Hiar, Hiard, Hya, Hyat, Hyar, Hyard, Hyart, Iart, Yart – popular in northeastern France and Wallonia.

    Apparently derives from Walloon word meaning “to give a shake”.

  14. Apparently derives from Walloon word meaning “to give a shake”.

    I assume then that the restaurant is known for ice cream, and their milkshake brings all the boys to the Yar.

  15. I almost suspect that this entire post was a deliberate setup for that comment.

  16. I was originally going to make the joke after the reference to “The Gypsies Rode to the Yar” made me think of it, but I resisted. Then amazingly (and suspiciously) SFReader’s comment came along and I was compelled to follow through.

  17. As they say, thread won.

  18. Trond Engen says


    (I would have laughed harder if I wouldn’t have had to google the phrase first. The naughties went right past me, culturally speaking.)

  19. The naughties or the noughties? 😀

  20. Trond Engen says

    Nåtis. I added the parenthesis just for that.

  21. The original wooden place was rebuilt in Art Nouveau style in 1910 and then in 1952 in Stalin’s Empire style. Since 1969 it partly shared the building with the Gypsy Theatre ‘Romen’. In Soviet days it was called Gostinitsa Sovetskaya but is now hotel Sovetsky (same name agreed in masculine with masculine hotel).
    As to the place on the map of Moscow, it’s Leningradsky Prospect, 32/2.

    History of the building on Wikipedia. And a bit of history of the restaurant and its association with Gypsy (Roma/Tsigane) culture with photos.

  22. By the way the Napoleonic / foreign origin stories of Florian Hermann also turned out to be more than a mere literary mystification. More like a case of misheard / misattributed history. While Florian was born in Vilnius a decade after Napoleon’s Russian campaign, his father turned out to be an ethnic German who come to Vilnius from abroad at the height of Napoleon’s campaign of 1812. He started teaching in Vilnius just as the Grand Armee readied for its fateful fight at Borodino. Was he a civilian or a convalescing soldier, this we can’t tell yet.

  23. As to the place on the map of Moscow, it’s Leningradsky Prospect, 32/2.

    Thanks very much, and the photos are great!

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