Market Friday: Apraksin Dvor Market

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The century before last (I mean the 19th century) there were many similar market places and in our city and in other cities. Markets were arranged in a similar way: small one- and two-storey stores, store rooms, sheds for outdoor sales, horse-racks and places for carts parking... The 20th century changed the view of such markets greatly enough: small stores were taken down and huge sales halls were built in their place, the function of existing buildings changed too. But the Apraksin Dvor market has a different story.

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The market quarter appeared in the 18th century and occupied a vast area between the Fontanka River and Sadovaya Street in the Central district of the city. Part of the area belonged to Count Apraksin, to him the market owes its name. Here were traded everything: agricultural products, textiles, books, and works of art. Trade was carried out both in wholesale and retail, and the wholesale turnover of the market was one of the largest in Europe.

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Sadovaya Street. The Central Building of the Apraksin Dvor Market. 1910. Postcard from the publisher V. Pfister

The streets of the Apraksin Dvor market still retain names that remind us of that time: Apple Square, Berry Passage, Fruit Line, Sukonny Line, Moskatnaya Line.

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Apraksin Dvor, 1924. Unknown photographer

But after the revolution of 1917 trade in Apraksin Dvor ceased. For some time city residents traded by hand, but then these trades ceased as well. Other markets of the city provided their trading space for the products of collective farms and gardeners, but Apraksin Dvor simply closed down. Some of the buildings were used as warehouses, others were simply closed - and forgotten about for many decades.

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Apraksin Dvor Market, 1969. Scan of the negative from prostislav1's archive

I remember the deserted area of Apraksin Dvor as it was when I was a child. Nearby, on the Fontanka embankment, is the Bolshoi Drama Theater. It was one of the most popular theaters in the city, and tickets were very hard to get, but sometimes we managed to do it. I have a great memory of going home in the evening after the performances. One had to walk through the deserted Apraksin Street, along the diabase paved streets, past rare streetlamps and empty buildings, with not a single person in sight - only the moon high in the sky was our companion.

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Everything changed dramatically in the early 1990s, when socialism was replaced by wild capitalism.New entrepreneurs took over the Apraksin Yard and started selling everything here, from socks to alcohol. Goods were imported from abroad or made here, in the cellars. Clothes were tried on right in the street and cardboard was laid on the sidewalk for customers' convenience.

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The Apraksin Dvor quickly gained a reputation as the most evil place in our city.Smuggled and forbidden goods were sold here, and crooks and pickpockets "worked" there. No one would think of going through this market at night now, lest they catch an accidental bullet or be a witness to a gangster's showdown.

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Fortunately, those wild times didn't last too long, and in the new millennium the market became a quieter place. But until now, Apraksin Dvor remains a cheap clothing market, and these rows of stores look untidy.

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In the center of the Apraksin Dvor market there is a fire station. It appeared here back in the days when most of the buildings were wooden and fires were frequent.

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The issue of the reconstruction of the area is being addressed now, and I think that soon this market will be closed for renovation. But for now it continues to work, and I walked around the rows with my smartphone in hand to take a picture of it.

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From the side of Sadovaya Street, the market looks more pleasant. Along the building stretches a gallery of small stores. I took a picture of one of the ads - I thought it was funny how quickly the advertisers used a fresh social media meme. In the original meme, the cats are standing around the fish counter, wondering if anyone will sell them this beautiful product.

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SmartphoneXiaomi Redmi 3
LocationSaint Petersburg, Russia

This is my entry for the #marketfriday challenge by @dswigle.

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