• Ira Bliznets

One anniversary for all - centenary of suburb residences' transformation into museums



The anniversary is primarily meant to summarize the renovation works taking place in former tsars' suburb residences - Peterhof, Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo), Gatchina, Pavlovsk - and to let people know about what was done. Numerous lectures have already taken place and many of the events are still to come. New expositions and renovated palace interiors of various museum-reserves are being open, the new excursion programs are prepared for the interest of public. And it is also the right time to make plans for the future.

100 years ago the suburb emperors' residences were established to become museums. But initially the new political power was planning to turn the royal palaces into workers' resorts as it happened to the one in Znamenka (on the way to Peterhof).


The new life of tsars' residences began with Lower Park of Peterhof being turned into walk zone with public beach on the Gulf of Finland shore. On a sunny day it was covered with sunbeds to provide the workers with airsolarium. There were changing cabins put there, kiosks with ice-cream and beverages. After enjoying sunbathing the guests would walk to the emperors' Orangery to rent a ball, tennis rackets, bicycles or watch a movie - cinema was arranged in that location as well.

One hundred years ago all the four grand palaces of Peterhof, Gatchina, Pushkin and Pavlovsk were meant to be reconstructed for the needs of people. They started counting and describing the tsars' treasures one year before tragic assassination of tsars' family. Less than two months before that terrible execution there were already first visitors walking around the royal park.


As Yelena Kalnitskaya, the director of Peterhof museum-reserve, notices, people did not know what is a museum visit, they did not have that kind of skill. They went there just out of interest to have a look at how the tsars lived.

But the fountains did not function then. This unusual Peterhof silence went on during the First World War and Russian Revolution. The new owners turned them on only in 1920s for an hour a day. By the way, there were two directors at a time - art historian and political party commissar. And guess who was to decide what is to be done. So practically fountains did not function till the end of World War II and some year after. The fountain constructions were all made of wood, and without appropriate care they all rotted, the fountain basins were washed apart. They were in terrible condition but there were no money for renovation though the entrance fee for visitors was quite high.


When it was decided to turn palaces into resort living houses, they wanted to put up to 200 beds in each of the parade rooms. Luckily the "courtier director" as he called himself Nikolaj Arkhipov could not be silent about that. On October 1, 1937 he was arrested. One of the reasons for prosecution was "the wrong ideology".


But the worst was to come to suburb residences. Peterhof palace and park were occupied by nazi troops in 1941 for more than two years. Almost 70 percent of all the heritage was lost. After the war was over restorers began to re-create the historic look and paraphernalia of Peterhof as well as of the other royal suburbs basing on the descriptions of early 20th century. The works are still in process but the atmosphere of tsars' residences is already back to most of them.


To promote the celebration of anniversary and support its spirit there has been a short video made along with recognizable logo by project group "Masterskaya" headed by Dmitry Barbel (https://youtu.be/C4wCZM7lliw). It mainly focuses on night life of palaces that is usually beyond the visitors' access.

Photos: official Peterhof museum-reserve web-site: https://peterhofmuseum.ru/



#Peterhof #Gatchina #Pavlovsk #Znamenka #Sovietpast #Russiantsars #assasinationofRussianemperor #Sovietresorts #suburbresidence

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