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Novodevichiy Convent & CemeteryNovodevichiy Convent & Cemetery

At the same time that Moscow's Kremlin was reinforced as a protective citadel for the city center, a series of fortified monasteries were constructed as an outlying defensive chain to the south. The most famous of these is the beautiful Novodevichy Convent, founded in 1524 and situated along a prominent bend in the Moskva River. The convent's fame, however, has less to do with its role as a protective fortress than with its aristocratic and political history, for Novodevichy was the favored destination for high-ranking women banished from court. The most famous such inmate was Peter the Great's elder sister Sofia, who had ruled as Regent during his minority. After Peter came of age and--with some difficulty--claimed his throne, it was to Novodevichy that he banished his Machiavellian sibling in 1689. Nine years later, as Peter was returning to Russia after his travels in Europe, Sofia engineered an attempted coup from the convent. The coup failed, and Peter reached home in time to participate in the mass execution of the rebels. Although Sofia was not to be harmed, she was apparently driven mad when the bodies of her supporters were strung up outside her window. Novodevichy is also famous for the cemetery that lies beyond its south wall. Here lie many famous writers, artists, and politicians including Gogol, Checkov, Bulgakov, Mayakovsky, Stanislavsky, Shostokovich, Eisenstein, and Nikita Khrushchev, the only Soviet leader not buried behind Lenin's Mausoleum.

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