On a recent archaeological exploration, researchers found a hitherto unknown secret room beneath Moscow. The room, built underneath a fortification wall that was built to deter Tatar and Polish raids, was likely used by spies to eavesdrop on the enemy.
The wall no longer stands – only small pieces of it are still visible. But when it was still in use, the wall spanned a mile and a half long, and featured twelve towers. The spy room was likely in use until the seventeenth century. During this time, Russia was at war with the Poles, who at one point seized and occupied the Kitay-gorod sector of Moscow.
Archaeologists believe that when Russia was not at war, the spy room was used to store food. It was constructed with vaulted walls, which would have amplified sounds from outside the room.
The wall was originally built between 1536 and 1539, by Ivan the Terrible. It was designed by an architect from Italy. The wall was constructed with six gates and twelve towers, which were about twenty feet tall and twenty feet thick. The last standing tower was destroyed in the 1930s.
According to Leonid Kondrashev, the chief archaeologist in Moscow, “The [Kitay-gorod] Wall differs a lot from the Kremlin Wall as a fortification, because it was used to defend against firearms.”
Ivan the Terrible, who ordered the wall be built, was the Grand Prince of Moscow from 1533 to 1547. His real name was Ivan IV Vasilyevich. Ivan was a pious, clever man but was given to flights of temper that often proved deadly. Many historians now believe that he was mentally ill, and his condition worsened with age. In one particularly severe episode, he apparently murdered Ivan Ivanovich, his second son, with a pointed staff.
Ivan the Terrible oversaw a Russian military conquest of multiple neighboring regions. The result was a significant expansion of Russian territory, spanning about a million and a half square miles.
Ivan’s spy room contained about 150 artifacts originating from between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. They include bowl and pot fragments, a ceramic cup, iron knives, nails and a dozen copper coins.
There is currently deliberation underway as to whether the room should be made accessible to the public. Some parties involved would prefer that it remain closed, to preserve it as it was found. It is not often that a major archaeological find is made within the limits of a huge metropolitan area such as Moscow.