For the first time, the ancient Russian measure of length "verst" was mentioned in the documents of the 15th century. The milestone included 500 yards or 1, 500 yards. It was slightly more than the modern kilometer - 1, 067 meters. From the middle of the 17th century, poles indicating versts from one point to another began to be installed on the roadsides. It is not for nothing that such roads were called "pole" roads. There was even a riddle about milestones: "He is deaf and dumb, but he knows the count."
The first wooden milestones were installed in 1667 along the road from Moscow to the village of Kolomenskoye, where the summer residence of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich was located. This is how the expression "Kolomna verst" appeared, so they called people who stood out among those around them by their tall stature. The pillars were indeed high - 2 sazhens, that is, a little over four meters.
At present, in our country, the distance is no longer measured in versts; they have long since switched to kilometers. But, given that the length of a mile and a kilometer does not differ very much, only by 67 meters, in conversation, kilometers are sometimes referred to as many years ago - miles.
Everywhere milestones began to be installed along the roads under Peter the Great. The tsar ordered to put wooden signs “painted and signed with numbers.” The pillars were indeed painted in black and white stripes so that they were clearly visible, especially in the winter season during heavy snowfalls and snowstorms, which helped to save the lives of many travelers.
On September 22, 1764, a decree was issued by Empress Catherine II, according to which it was supposed to put pillars along all the main roads of Russia. They should have been made of marble or other stone according to a single sample. The first such pillars were installed along the Tsarskoye Selo road, which led from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoye Selo.
Russian coachmen were famous for their fast driving. For example, there was a joke that Prince Potemkin sent a courier to the queen with an urgent report. The courier troika rushed so swiftly that the courier sword knocked on the milestones, as if on a palisade. The distance between the two largest cities in Russia was 675 versts.
The zero milepost of the Russian Empire was located at the main post office in St. Petersburg. It was from him that the count of miles along the endless roads of the vast state began. The milestone with the number "0" can still be seen in the operating room of the St. Petersburg main post office.
Stone pillars, which were made in the workshops of St. Isaac's Cathedral, of course, looked much more impressive than wooden ones, but their manufacture and delivery cost the treasury enormous sums. Therefore, in 1817, Emperor Alexander I, the grandson of Catherine, ordered to make milestones, as before, from wood.
The pillars made under Catherine the First were really not cheap, their height could reach ten meters, they were made in the Baroque style, and a weather vane was installed on the top. In addition, twenty trees were to be planted between the posts. Costs that are sensitive even for a wealthy nation.
It is assumed that the stone milestones were originally made according to the design of Antonio Rinaldi, a famous Italian architect who worked for many years in Russia, where he arrived in 1751. There is no documentary evidence that it was Renaldi who worked on the pillars' sketches. Among the possible authors are also named the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste-Michel Wallen-Delamot, professor of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts.
How many milestones have survived in our time? Unfortunately, only a few. On the one hand, this was due to the fact that since 1918 Russia, already Soviet, switched to new measures of length. On the other hand, the tops of milestones were often decorated with a double-headed eagle - a symbol of autocracy. Therefore, shortly after the revolution, most of the pillars were dismantled and destroyed.
In modern Moscow, for example, you can find only two pillars that have survived from the era of the Russian Empire. One of them is located near the Ploschad Ilyicha metro station. The date "1783" and the inscription "2 miles from Moscow" have been preserved on it. Since 1974, the pillar has been under state protection. Once here, at the Rogozhskaya outpost, the famous Vladimirka began, the road along which the convicts were led to Siberia.
And the second Moscow pillar has survived on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. It was installed in 1883 by officers of the Grenadier regiment at the place where the famous hut in Fili was located, in which a military council was held in 1812 after the Battle of Borodino. The hut itself has not survived, it was destroyed by a fire in 1868. The memorial milestone is now part of the historical and architectural complex "Battle of Borodino".