Balashikha (Russian: Áàëàøèõà, is a small up-and-coming city located approximately 25 kilometers east of Moscow on the Pekhorkha River. Balashikha is known for its unique river and waterway system, its greenery, newly-constructed blocks of flats and its pleasant tree-lined main street in the town centre. The Pekhorka River system covers an area of 40 km from north to south and 20 km from east to west. Within the system, many small lakes and ponds were created by damming to provide water power for the cotton mills that opened there in the 19th century. According to the 2002 census, the town’s population stood at 147,909 representing an increase of 50,000 inhabitants compared to its population 1970.
Balashikha consists of several districts: Balashikha I (the main part of Balashikha), Novi Svet, Balashikha III and Balashikha VIII (both residential areas) and Yuzhni, an industrial district closer to the town Zheleznodorozhni. In the wake of Russia’s rise to capitalism, the town has been quickly modernising. In addition to several thriving markets, the town also boasts a number of shopping centres. Surrounding this small enclave in the countryside is an attractive woodland.
Although Balashikha lies outside Moscow’s city limits, many of Moscow’s emerging middle class have taken up residence here and commute to Moscow daily. Balashikha has the feel of a small town with plenty to see and do. Of equal importance, Moscow with its tempting and oftentimes outrageous nightlife is not far away.
Origin of the name
Balashikha’s roots can be traced back to the 1200s and many explanations abound as to the origin of the name ‘Balashikha’, which in Russian is considered extremely unusual. One of the more plausible explanations has to do with the origin of the word 'balash' (áàëàø), which is derived from the Tatar language and can be translated as 'Inn', a place of temporary respite for travellers. One of the legends surrounding the origin of the name can be found in the story of Balash, a wealthy Tatar who was reported to be a descendant of Genghis Khan of the Golden Horde who had his residence on the site of the present town of Balashikha.
Although Balashikha’s roots can be traced back to the 1200s, it was only in 1820 that the areas many hamlets joined together to form a mini-conurbation which in 1938 was awarded town status. Between 1830 and 1870, Balashikha experienced an industrial revolution with the growth of the local cotton industry. A consequence of the town’s economic growth was the construction of an 8 km railway line from Reutov, a district of Moscow to Balashikha at the end of the 19th Century. The settlement’s growth quickly absorbed smaller settlements around it, including Gorenki (the residence and estate of Prince Dolgorukoy) and Pekhra-Yakovlevskoe (the 250 year old estate of Prince Galitzine).
Saltykovka, a village close to Balashikha, has long been known for its appeal to the artistic community. Isaak Levitan, the famous landscape painter, lived there in 1879. Leo Tolstoy, another frequent visitor, found the tranquillity of Balashikha and its proximity to Moscow so alluring that it was here that he put together many of the ideas that later found themselves into his literary works.
Not surprisingly, several factories and military bases were created in Balashikha following the Bolshevik revolution. Balashikha still hosts a large Russian Army base and consequently was closed to foreigners during the Soviet era, a ban which, in theory, still remains to this day. The town is also home to several music schools, including the Sviridov School of Arts.
Living in Balashikha
There is a certain arrogance among many Muscovites that if you don’t live in Moscow, you live in a backward province. This attitude is changing fast as more and more Muscovites leave the city for newly built homes in nearby Moscow region. Balashikha is a small but prosperous town with plenty of bars and restaurants including a number of popular Moscow chain restaurants such as Planeta Sushi, Il Patio and the French-owned and managed restaurant ‘La Provence’ (all located in Balashikha I). For a quiet drink, there’s Prosto Bar on Ulitsa Sovietskaya and a couple of nightclubs such as Kontor in Balashikha I, Sem Noch’ (Seven Nights) in Balashikha VIII and the Bowling Club. There’s also a Macdonald’s for emergencies pit stops.
If you prefer to cook in, then there a number of well-known supermarket chains like Kopeika, Perekrestok and Sedmoi Kontinent.
Without doubt, you are sure to explore all these places with your students and/or any friends you make while teaching there. It can occur that with the sense of community spirit that is found in Balashikha, you may forget that Moscow’s city limits are only 5 km. away - a sure sign of being comfortably settled.
The woods and rivers located around Balashikha also provide plenty of opportunity for biking and summer shashliki (Russian-style barbecue) parties. If you like the ‘great outdoors’, Balashikha is the place for you.
There’s plenty of greenery around Balashikha, offering the opportunity for walking, cycling and bike-rides and of course summer shashliki parties in the woods. Inside the town, you can always take a stroll down Balashikha’s main street and look at many of the monuments, erected to those who served and fell during World War II. There are also several churches around town, including the recently restored Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which was destroyed by the local authorities in the 1960s (a frequent but unfortunate occurrence during the Soviet-era).
Getting There and Away
Train: Rather frequent elektrichki run from Moscow’s Kurskii Vokzal to the villages of Nikolskoe and Saltykovka from which you can pick up a marshrutka (a mini-bus taxi) which can take you to Balashikha I in 10 to 15 minutes. The last trains to and from Moscow are at about 0015.
There are elektrichki from Balashikha and Gorenki to Moscow but they are less frequent running from early morning until 10 am and resuming from 2:30 pm until 10:30 pm. The service is approximately hourly, although at weekends and on public holidays, the 1246 train runs to Moscow.
Despite Balashikha proximity to Moscow, journeys into Moscow take about an hour. The cost to Moscow is from 35 to 50 rubles depending upon train.
Marshrutka & Metro: There are several marshrutki (mini buses) routes from Balashikha to several metro stations. They are extremely frequent and go to the following metro stations:
- Scholkovskaya (last Station on the Arbatskaya-Pokrovskaya Line)
- Izmailovskii Park/Partizanskaya (located further down on the Arbatskaya-Pokrovskaya Line)
- Novogoreevo (last Station on the Kalininskaya Line)
- Shosse Entuziastov (located further down on the Kalininskaya Line)
The fare to all points costs about 30 roubles.
N.B. It is worth noting that Izmailovskii Park/ Partizanskaya is home to a flea market where you can pick up anything ranging from inexpensive souvenirs to antiques - not to mention the infamous pirated music albums and DVDs. However, Language Link does not endorse, nor encourage the purchasing of pirated goods!
Teaching in Balashikha
Language Link operates out of two schools in Balashikha, and you’ll probably find yourself teaching in both schools, possibly on split shifts. Language Link maintains a school in Novi Svet on Ulitsa Zvyezdnaya which is home to three modern and spacious classrooms, whiteboards, a computer with internet access and a photocopier. The school is located in a recently constructed building.
School Number Three is an ordinary state school located in Balashikha I right in the town centre on Ulitsa Sovietzkaya. Nevertheless, there is quite an extensive resource library and a photocopier.