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Pushkin (Tsarskoe Selo)
The palace and park ensemble in the town of Pushkin created in the 18th and 19th centuries ranks highly among the world’s finest specimens of landscape architecture. This small town flanks two bewitching palaces, set amidst the parkland – the ravishing Catherine Palace, beloved by Catherine the great, and the exquisite Alexander Palace, where the family of the last Russian Emperor lived and then after the revolution was kept under the home arrest. At the same time for the admirers of Russian poetry, this place is bound to produce an emotional impact as it was here that Alexander Pushkin spent his adolescence and wrote his first verses.
The history of this suburb dates back to the early 18th century. In 1723, the palace for Catherine, the wife of Peter the Great, was completed. Later it continued to be called the Catherine Palace, and the entire surrounding neighbourhood was named Tsarskoe Selo (the Tsar''s Village). When Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, ascended the throne in the 1740s, she decided to have her summer residence built here. Being the most extravagant of all Russian tsarinas, she entrusted an outstanding architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the creator of the world famous Winter Palace (the Hermitage Museum) with the task of erecting the palace. The predominant trend in art and architecture during Elisabeth’s epoch was baroque, so the bright specimen of this trend is the Catherine’s Palace with its imposing facades.
Created over two hundred years ago the palace, being the focal point of the magnificient ensemble of Tsarskoe Selo, retained its solemn dignity and perfect beauty. That period of time was an epoch of consolidation of national consciousness, of growing prestige of Russia and flourishing of science and culture. Rastrelli managed to embody these main concepts of Russia’s might in his ostentatious construction. The architect dedicated this ensemble to the unique glory of all country.
The Catherine Palace took its final shape in 1756, indubitably, in the course of time some of the palace’s interiors were considerably altered by such prominent architects as Ch. Cameron, Stasov and Monighetti. Thus this ensemble illustrates the development of architectural styles in the 18th and 19th centuries as several Russian Tsarinas owned this place.
Among the interiors of the palace , one will undoubtedly single out the so-called "eighth wonder of the world" – the ravishing Amber Room which is a series of large wall panels inlaid with several tons of masterfully carved high-quality amber, long wall mirrors and four Florentine mosaics.
On the territory of Catherine’s park which covers almost 300 hectars one can find diversity of architectural forms and styles. Strolling through the alleys of the park you’ll be fascinated with the views of whimsical lodges, elegant buildings executed in classical style, pavilions imitating gothic and also pseudo-Chinese and pseudo-Gothic styled buildings. Harmoniously matching the natural setting they create an aura of romantic enchantment.
The Alexander Palace is regarded to be the masterpiece performed by a prominent Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi in 1792 – 1796. The yellow fa?ade of the Palace lacks the lavishness of Catherine’s Palace decoration but nevertheless it is one of the most refined and elegant Palaces. The later Tsars resided here without excessive pomp – Alexander II did all the household accounts himself – though above all the Palace is connected with Nicolas II and his beloved wife Alexandra., who settled here in 1904 and were unspeakably happy before March 1917. After the abdication of the last Russian Tsar his whole family had been kept here under the home arrest and finally taken to Yekaterinburg where they were all murdered.
During the Nazi occupation the Germans looted the Palaces and left not a structure habitable. It took the restores decades of enormous work and effort to restore the former fa?ades and interiors of the palaces and pavilions and it will take years and years to complete the restoration for us to savour the earlier existed beauty.