in Saint-Petersburg

Tsarskoe Selo. Catherine Palace and park.

Tsarskoe Selo. Catherine Palace.

The Catherine Palace is a former summer residence of Russian Emperors. In the beginning of the 18th century Peter the Great gave this land to his wife Catherine the 1st. And the 1st Catherine Palace was built for her. It was her private residence. In the middle of the 18th century Elizabeth made it her official summer residence. By that time the aristocratic families built the summer mansions nearby and that little settlement got the name Tsarskoe Selo which means “Czar’s village”. It was official summer residence that was used by all Russian Emperors till 1917. Then the Imperial palaces and parks were nationalized and turned to the museums.

At the time of WW2 the former Imperial residence the Catherine Palace and town were badly damaged. About 20% of the collection survived. There were not too many people who could save al the collection; there was not enough time to move all the collection. In September 1941 the Nazi Army occupied the town of Pushkin and the Nazi soldiers plundered and deliberately damaged the Catherine Palace. It was liberated in 1944 and soon after that the restoration of the palace began. Now days the large part of Catherine Palace is restored, but the restoration still is going on. This town is located in the distance of 27 kilometers to the south of St. Petersburg.

The history of the palace

Catherine Palace. Grand Hall. Mitya from Rostov on Don

The small estate called Saaris Moisio which means villa on the hill, was presented by Peter the Great to his wife Catherine in 1710. The 1st Catherine Palace was built for her (Catherine the 1st) by the architect Braunstain between 1718 and 1724. It was a small palace with 16 rooms only. The Catherine Park was laid out at the same time. It was private summer residence of the empress Catherine the 1st. Elizabeth inherited this estate in 1744 and she decided to turn this little estate into her official summer residence. This palace was too small for her; it was not luxurious enough. She started reconstruct the palace. Her main requirement was to preserve the palace of her mother, to extend it, make it luxurious.

Rastrelli designed palace in baroque style. The facade of the palace is richly decorated with moldings, sculpture and that was the characteristic of baroque style. Originally all the sculptures and moldings on the facade were gilded. But in the course of time all that gold gone and now some of these decorations are painted in imitation of gold.

Amber room

Catherine Palace. Amber Room

The panels (which were used for decoration the walls of this room) made of amber in mosaic technique, designed by German architect and sculptor Shlutter in 1709 for the study of Prussian king Frederick the 1st in Potsdam. When Peter the Great traveled to Europe in 1716 – he admired those panels and he got them as a present from the son of Frederick the 1st. As a return gift Peter the Great sent 248 grenadiers of exceptional state. Those panels were delivered to St. Petersburg and originally they were used for decoration of one of the room in the Winter Palace. When Elisabeth made Catherine Palace her official residence in 1755 – she ordered to move those panels into Catherine Palace. 76 strongest grenadiers carried them on shoulders.
It took them 6 days to cover this distance. As the amber panels were not meant for this room (they were not tall enough) – Rastrelli added painting on canvases that cover upper parts of the walls – the imitation of amber mosaics. Rastrelli added mirrors and gilded wood carvings and 4 Florentine mosaics on the subject – 5 senses of perception. The amber panels were not evacuated at the time of the WW2. They were fragile and curators couldn’t move them from the wall. They were camouflaged. But the Nazi soldiers found them and took them away.


Gay life in Saint-Petersburg

In the Soviet times Russia's gay scene was completely underground. After perestroyka attitudes towards and in 1993 laws about homosexuality was decriminalised. In a lot of ways, Russia remains more conservative than most European countries, which may be why the gay scene in St. Petersburg is smaller and more hidden than you would expect for a city of almost five million.
More about gay-life in St. Petersburg