Anichkov Palace

Anichkov Palace
Anichkov Palace

Anichkov Palace is one of the main attractions of St. Petersburg. The former imperial residence on the Fontanka River embankment, an architectural monument of the XVIII-XIX centuries. This is the oldest building on Nevsky Prospekt that has survived to this day.

The magnificent palace was conceived from the very beginning as an imperial gift. Owners alternated, numerous alterations changed the appearance and even the architectural style of the buildings, but the donation of the palace remained throughout its history.

In the XVIII century, Russian empresses presented it to their lovers. In the XIX century, the reigning Romanov dynasty had a tradition of presenting it as a wedding gift to family members. Nowadays, it is given to children. Here is the Palace of Creativity of the young and Anichkov Lyceum-a secondary school with a “scientific bias”.

Historical reference

The history of the palace begins in the time of troubles of the palace coups. The daughter of Peter I, Tsarevna Elizabeth, enthroned on November 25, 1741, with the support of the guards, issues a decree on the construction of the territory temporarily occupied by his regimental yard.

In 1776, the estate, which was beginning to fall into disrepair, was bought by Catherine II and presented to Grigory Potemkin, carefully adding to the gift a large sum for the arrangement. Then the ownership passes to the treasury and since 1794, the office of the “Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty” has been located here.

Alexander III's Cabinet
Alexander III’s Cabinet

Since the beginning of the XIX century, the palace has become the property of the imperial family, it is given to the wedding of the royal family. Such a gift was received at various times: the sister of Emperor Alexander I, Ekaterina Pavlovna, then his brother Nikolai Pavlovich, the future Emperor Nicholas I, whose son and grandson — Alexander II and Alexander III were also among its lucky owners.

During the reign of Nicholas I, the Anichkov Palace acquired the status of an imperial palace, and became the center of the social life of the Northern Capital. Under Alexander III, the palace became his residence, and after the death of the emperor, it became the residence of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.

Within the walls of the palace, which belonged to the first persons of the state, interesting events took place.

Among them, the most notable are the following:

1786, in the garden gallery of the palace, the society was first presented with a grand piano, at that time – a new musical instrument.

1830, a grandiose costume celebration was held on the occasion of the conclusion of the Russian-Turkish peace;
it was here that solemn receptions and famous court balls were held, at which the wife of Alexander Pushkin, Natalia Nikolaevna, shone.

November 1836, the great poet was invited to the palace for a personal audience with Nicholas I, during which the emperor demanded to refrain from dueling.

With the proceeds from the lottery, which was organized in the palace in 1838, Taras Shevchenko was bought out of serfdom. As a prize, a portrait of the famous Russian poet Vasily Ivanovich Zhukovsky, painted by Karl Bryullov, was presented.

V. I. Zhukovsky had private apartments in the palace and lived there since 1810 as a mentor to the heir to the throne.
At the end of the century before last, the first silent films were shown here and a school was opened for the children of employees.

In 1914, the niece of Nicholas II, Irina, and Prince Felix Yusupov — the same one who took part in the murder of Grigory Rasputin, the spiritual mentor and friend of the emperor’s family – were married in the Palace Church.

Anichkov Palace
Secret passage in the library of the Anichkov Palace

During the Soviet period, the palace was nationalized, it housed various state institutions and the city museum. In 1937, the country’s largest Palace of Pioneers hospitably opened its doors to Leningrad schoolchildren. From here, celebrities of the past and present century began their professional path in art, sports and science: people’s Artists Kirill Lavrov and Elena Obraztsova, the famous chess player Viktor Korchnoi, Russian local historian Lev Lurie and academician Natalia Bekhtereva, cosmonauts Boris Shatalov and Georgy Grechko, and many others.

Architecture of the Anichkov Palace

Designed by the Russian architect Mikhail Zemtsov and his assistant Grigory Dmitriev, the building faced Fontanka Street. A canal had been dug to it, with a harbor for rowing and sailing vessels arriving on the river directly to the steps of the front entrance. The stone chambers, which had an unusual shape in the form of the letter “H”, looked elegant and dynamic due to the different number of floors: the three-story central part and the side wings, crowned with domes, were symmetrically connected by two-story passages.

Concert hall the Anichkov Palace
Concert hall the Anichkov Palace

After the death of both architects, the construction is completed by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, makes adjustments to the original design and decorates the palace in the Baroque style, designs a three-tier gilded iconostasis for the Resurrection Church, characterized by an extraordinary richness of decoration. Later, this masterpiece was moved to the Vladimir Cathedral.

The ensemble was complemented by a luxurious park with pavilions, fountains, sculptures and gazebos. The English gardener Ludwig Taper was brought from Strelna to arrange the garden.

The changes that gave the palace and park complex a solemn and austere appearance were made under the direction of architect Ivan Starov. The palace was rebuilt in the classical style, made completely three-storeyed, vases and stucco were removed, the harbor was filled in. The garden was replaced by a landscape park with a large gallery for masquerades and musical festivals, and a pond and an island appeared in the central part.

The change of owners was always accompanied by the reconstruction of the palace and the reconstruction of the vast park area adjacent to the building. Famous architects Egor Sokolov, Ernest Gibert, Karl Rossi, Ippolit Monighetti and others contributed to the creation of the architectural ensemble and interiors.

Blue living room
Blue living room

The size of the estate significantly decreased by the beginning of the XIX century. On the site of the pavilion with the Razumovsky Art gallery, where balls, concerts and masquerades were held, the Alexandrinsky Theater was built. The greenhouses and greenhouses were replaced by the building of the Imperial Public Library, where 200 thousand volumes of the priceless collection of the brothers Joseph and Andrei Zaluzsky were transferred from the library of the palace. For the personal imperial office, two buildings were built according to the project of the famous Giacomo Quarenghi in 1803-1805, blocking the view of the palace from the Anichkov Bridge.

In Soviet times, the main reconstruction took place in 1935, designed by architects David Krichevsky and Alexander Gegello. The rooms were converted into game rooms, a cinema hall with three hundred seats was located in the former church, sports halls were created in the Arena, and new buildings were built for creative studios, laboratories and classrooms.

Exhibition, attractions and events

The exhibition space is represented by ten ceremonial halls, where historical interiors have been preserved, including:

The dance (White-columned) Hall and the Large Dining Room are the extant works of Luigi Rusca;
Winter garden, where sculptures of ancient characters and original green toads hide among exotic plants;
The interior of the Golden Hall with high mirrors, decorated with a yellow damask in the Baroque style, looks expensive.

The crimson living room, created in the favorite color of the Danish Princess Dagmar-the future Empress Maria Feodorovna, looks romantic and solemn.

A small reception room, in which the only detail from the once luxurious decoration has been preserved – an elegant chandelier in the form of a pineapple. Unusual lamps can also be seen in the Floor Lamp Room.

The most original room from the ancient heritage of the palace is the library, created by the creative genius of the architects Gibert and Monighetti, completed in 1869. The two-tier octagonal hall with niches equipped for the entrance, fireplace, secret room and stairs is made in the Renaissance style. Light oak finish, bronze chandeliers, carved balcony create a feeling of amazing comfort and coziness. This room is well preserved and is still used for its intended purpose.

The halls painted in 1936 by the masters of Palekh painting based on the fairy tales of Alexander Pushkin and Maxim Gorky are a constant success among visitors.

Five exhibition halls tell the story of the Palace of Pioneers, renamed the Palace of Youth Creativity in 1990. The collection is rich in interesting exhibits, for example: the helmet of Moiseev, the world champion in motocross, the medal of Manina and the gloves of the boxer Shatkov, the Olympic champions.

Room of fairy tales in the St. Petersburg City Palace of Youth Creativity
Room of fairy tales in the St. Petersburg City Palace of Youth Creativity

In front of the main entrance there is a birch tree planted by cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Herman Titov.

What the Palace Museum offers today

In the halls where the Personal Museum of Alexander III was previously located, the Museum of the History of the Anichkov Palace has been operating since 1991. Its rich exposition is devoted to the history of the palace from its foundation to the present day. The museum staff conducts the following activities.

Sightseeing tour “Palace of Kings-Palace of children”, with a visit to the exhibition ” Living Art of Palekh».
Educational lectures on ” Anichkov Palace-a monument of Russian history».
Game programs in the fairy tale rooms.
Festive events for school leavers.
Exhibitions of achievements of teachers and students of the Palace of Youth Creativity, which has more than 1300 different sections.