Modern Russian literature created its image of Moscow by depicting a number of typical inhabitants of the city and by identifying specific locales in which they lived. These settings — buildings, streets, squares, small neighborhoods, and larger regions — lent the authenticity of recognizable landmarks to generalizations about personality and life style. Similarly, descriptions of “typical” if fictitious Muscovites provided actual Moscow locations with specific, characteristic qualities. As these literary images of Moscow evolved, so too did their settings: first one area and then another became the “typical” Moscow. Thus the city's cultural topography changed with the values symbolized by Moscow's landmarks and local populations.
In nineteenth-century Russian memoir literature no work succeeds better than “My Literary and Moral Wanderings” at vividly evoking the historical circumstances of a specific time and place. In this, his best known work, the critic and poet Apollon Aleksandrovich Grigor'ev (1822–1864) depicted the Moscow of his childhood in the late 1820s and early 1830s. However, writing in 1862 and 1864, Grigor'ev described a Moscow that had changed radically in the intervening thirty years. The city's image had been preeminently aristocratic for several decades following 1812, but by mid-century a new image of merchant Moscow began to appear. The “Wanderings” confirm this change with rich descriptive material illustrating the concomitant shift in the city's cultural topography.