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Owners of Pavlovsk


Catherine the Great presented the young Pavel Petrovich and Maria Feodorovna with the village of Pavlovskoe, intending it to become a centre of quiet domestic bliss. Catherine also hoped that the everyday concerns of family life and the running of his own household would distract her son fr om thoughts of politics and the state. The construction of two country houses, Paulust and Marienthal, surrounded by modest gardens, lent the new residence a noble charm and sentimental simplicity. Right from the very start of construction in Pavlovskoe, its young mistress Maria Feodorovna left her indelible trace on its image. Memories of her own childhood years spent at Monbeliar and Etoupe, the summer residence of her parents, and in the gardens of her uncle, Leopold von Wurttemberg, at Hohenheim were reflected in the first pastoral pavilions constructed - the Hermitage, Charbonier and the Old Chalet.

The couple dined in the Old Chalet and made music in Charbonier. The latter was one of the favourite activities of the young ladies and cavaliers that together formed the Pavlovsk court. The young mistress of Pavlovsk was given an additional concern when Catherine presented Maria with her new architect, the somewhat dour Scotsman Charles Cameron. Cameron was assigned the task of transforming the village of Pavlovskoe into a Grand Ducal summer residence and discussion of all the plans and projects took place with the keen participation of Maria Feodorovna. All changes to the park and the construction of the palace in Pavlovsk made by Charles Cameron were carried out under the watchful eye of its director, Karl Kugelbecker, who had come to Russia from Saxony, assuming the post in 1780. An assidious and highly-respected manager, he was responsible for controlling the finances, hiring the workers and tendering out work to contractors. When Pavel and Maria set off on their trip across Europe at the end of 1781, they left everything in the capable hands of Kugelbecker, who wrote regular letters to Pavel and Maria in Europe, informing them of all that was happening in Pavlovsk During Pavel and Maria's absence, on 25 May 1782, the foundation stone of the Large Stone Palace was laid. The projects were sent by messengers along Pavel and Maria's route, for the couple's approval and signature. Despite these initial inconveniences, the walls of the palace were erected fairly quickly, and by 1784 the palace was already finished. The layout of the apartments was sketched and a start was made to the decor of the rooms on the ground floor.

When Pavel and Maria returned from Europe, life in Pavlovsk was transformed into a series of amusements and festivities, especially with regard to music. This period coincided with the appointment of Dmitry Bortnyansky as court Kapellemeister and harpsichordist. Bortnyansky had only just returned from spending ten years in Italy. These were the years of the fashion for amateur domestic theatrics and Bortnyansky wrote three operas - Le Faucon, Le fete du Seigneur and Le fils-rival, ou La moderne Stratonice - that were performed by the members of the Pavlovsk court. Among the amateur actors, Yekaterina Nelidova and Ivan Dolgoruky were regarded as the most talented. Performances were first given in the palace halls before a special building, the Theatre, was built near the palace by Vincenzo Brenna in 1794. Premieres and receptions, parties and family gatherings, dinners and suppers - everything took place to the sound of music.

An important place in the daily routine was occupied by the various meals. All ceremonial meals were held in the Italian Room, though in the summer dinners were often held in the Colonnade (later renamed the Gonzaga Gallery). Dinners were also sometimes given in Voliere or the Treillage. When guests gathered in the Mirror Drawing Room, supper was generally laid out in the Dining Room on the ground floor. Afternoon snacks, drinks parties, tea and coffee were served in a variety of places - the Pil Tower, the Old and New Chalets, the Temple of Friendship or in the open air.

Pavel ascended the throne as Paul I in 1796 and Pavlovsk became the official Imperial residence. The palace was thus often the site of large state banquets. The celebrations held on 24 June each year in honour of St John of Jerusalem were especially important. In 1798, the Emperor Paul became Grand Master of the Maltese Order and henceforth Pavlovsk was the site of its festivities, which attracted all the knights and other officials of the order. Knights and foreign ministers were received either in the Knights Room or in the Large Throne Room. Nine bonfires were lit on the parade ground beyond the Etoupe Gates on the eve of the celebration and a ceremonial church service was held the following morning, after which the Emperor received everyone's congratulations in the Throne Room. Dinner was served in the Large Room for 170 or 180 people, while an orchestra played and the court capella choir sang in the Picture Gallery, conducted in the 1790s by Dmitry Bortnyansky. Bortnyansky and his students spent each summer in Pavlovsk and so there was never a celebration that was not accompanied by the maestro and his singers.

1799 brought with it a series of victories won by the Russian army in Italy, under the command of Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov In commemoration of his successful campaign, a special liturgy was held in the Court Chapel. Members of the Holy Synod and the upper clergy read a thanksgiving service, hymns of praise were sung to God an cannons were fired from the nearby Bip Fortress.

Besides the official functions there were also the simple quiet days when Maria Feodorovna resting from her numerous guests, occupied herself with music - making. She was often joined by her daughters, one of whom - Maria Pavlovna - was an accomplished harpist. Her eldest son Alexander played the violin and he too took part in these family concerts.

In these first years following her return from Europe, Maria Feodorovna aspired to organize Pavlovsk much after the fashion of Marie Antoinette in Trianon. Sheep grazed along the banks of the Slavianka and the Dairy pavilion housed goats and Dutch cows, a present from Catherine II. At midday, the bell on the roof of the Dairy rang out, calling everyone to partake fresh milk and bread. Several times a week, Maria Feodorovna and her ladies-in-waiting would dress up as shepherdesses and go to milk the cows, which were always washed and cleaned prior to her arrival. After Maria became Empress in 1796, she built the Farm on the edge of the park, with large pastures and farm and poultry yards. Here, the architect Andrei Voronikhin designed an elegant wooden pavilion. Maria had a study fitted out in the belvedere and it was here that she used to write up her diary.

The main concern of Maria Feodorovna in those years was the upkeep of the park. She discussed all new plantations and the condition of the woods with her gardeners. Maria especially loved bLossesoming trees and ones whose leaves formed artistic patterns. Her greatest attention, however, was given over to her roses, which she had imported from various parts of Europe. Thanks to the attentions of the Empress, the Private Garden was transformed into a dazzling oasis of rare shrubs and flowers.

The appearance of the Rose Pavilion transformed all the surrounding territory into a fragrant rose garden. Maria Feodorovna was also noted for her exceptional talent for handicraft. She embroidered, drew and carved in ivory and stone. To this day the halls of Pavlovsk Palace are adorned with many works made by her own hand. Her artistic achievements even merited her election to the Berlin Academy of Arts.

During Maria's widowhood, Pavlovsk became a popular place for literary gatherings. These were generally held not in the palace, but in the Rose Pavilion. In 1815 the poet Vasily Zhukovsky became the professional reader to the Dowager Empress. His elegy Slavianka, full of lyrical charm, is dedicated to Pavlovsk. Another frequent guest to Pavlovsk was the poet Yury Neledinsky-Miletsky. The writers Nikolai Karamzin, Ivan Krylov and Sergei Glinka were also regulars at soirees. Maria put her heart and soul into everything that she did. One of the activities that occupied much of her time was charity work. Out of her private funds, she founded and kept Her Imperial Majesty's Hospital of St Mary Magdalene for twenty four invalids. She also opened a maternity home for poor expectant mothers in Pavlovsk, a free school for serf children, a school of practical agriculture and Russia's first ever school for deaf mutes, which later grew into a major educational establishment. All this spoke of the wide interests and progressive views of the first lady of Pavlovsk. From 1801 to 1828, Pavlovsk was the private refuge of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. She died there on 24 October 1828. Pavlovsk was then inherited by Pavel and Maria's youngest son, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich.

Mikhail Pavlovich grew up in Pavlovsk and often later visited it with his wife Elena Pavlovna, a German princess who had been taught Russian by Vasily Zhukovsky. Naturally inclined towards the army, Mikhail Pavlovich at the age of sixteen had fought in the war against Napoleon and then in the Turkish campaign of 1826-28. From the fortress of Varna he brought back marble boards with Turkish inscriptions which first adorned Voliere before they were removed to the palace. Mikhail Pavlovich had barracks, a manege, stables, a smithy and workshops built for his Own Cavalry Regiment in the town of Pavlovsk. The Grand Duke also concerned himself with the general upkeep of the town. Ho awarded vacant plots of land for building in the region that later become known as Eleninsky and attended to the welfare of the local roads. Following the wishes of the late Empress, he made endowments to the Church of St Mary Magdalene and patronized a hospital for veteran guardsmen. His time at Pavlovsk was marked by the appearance of two more charitable institutions - a children's home and the Alexander Educational Institute, wh ere middle-class children could receive a primary education.

The palace and the park fell under the personal protection of the Grand Duke. Mikhail even forbade the chopping down of old, sickly trees. Only one new lane - the Elemnskaya, running along the bank of the river Slavianka - appeared in the park. On being informed in 1832 that the building of the Creek House "is not of any immediate use and may, in view of its dilapidated state, be condemned," the Grand Duke wrote on the report: "Support it all you can, for it is one of the original foundations of Pavlovsk." Funds were, however, lacking for repair work and as a result expenditure on the upkeep of the gardens, the greenhouses and the palace conservatories was cut back. The positions of hydraulic repair apprentices of the cascades, plumbing and ponds were also abolished in the interests of greater economy.

The most important event in the history of Pavlovsk under Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich was the laying of the railway line to Pavlovsk and the construction of the Musical Station.

The psychological blows dealt to Mikhail Pavlovich by the deaths of his beloved daughters undermined his health and he died in 1849, at the age of 51. As Mikhail did not leave any male heirs, Pavlovsk was inherited, in accordance with Maria Feodorovna's will, by the second son of Nicholas I -the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich. Konstantin owned Pavlovsk until his death in 1892 and contributed much to its welfare. As a child, Konstantin was assigned to the Russian Navy. He was the last lord high admiral of the Imperial Russian Navy, a title that had once belonged to his grandfather, Emperor Paul I. As head of the Russian fleet, Konstantin introduced many much-needed naval reforms. The Grand Duke was also a member of the State Council and helped his brother, Alexander II, to pass many important state reforms. Konstantin did not, however, neglect the Pavlovsk palace and park. Many park buildings were repaired and extensive work was carried out on clearing the park, which had become overgrown under Mikhail Pavlovich. Many new trees were planted and the roads were put in order. The palace conservatories, which had also been neglected, were now rejuvenated and supplemented with rare plants and flowers. Benches and even tables were placed for convenience in the most picturesque corners of the park.

When Konstantin returned to Pavlovsk from his distant sea voyages, he preferred to live with his family not in the Large (Bolshoi) Palace, but in the wooden Konstantin Palace, which had at one time been presented to Pavel's son Konstantin.

After Konstantin's death in 1892, Pavlovsk passed to his son, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. He was famous among members of the Romanov family for his exceptional creative talent. Like his father, he first saw service in the navy and made several long sea voyages. Elected President of the Academy of Sciences, Konstantin Konstantinovich did much to advance Russian scientific knowledge. Service to his country was, however, for him coupled with service of the muses. Konstantin was an excellent lyric poet, famous under the pseudonym of "KR". Konstantin Konstantinovich and his wife Yelizaveta Mavrikievna had six children. The whole family played music, drew and wrote poetry. The father's literary talent was inherited by his son Oleg, who was killed in the First World War. The death of his beloved son broke the health of Konstantin, who suffered from asthma. He died in his study in Pavlovsk on 2 June 1915. The burial service was read in the palace chapel. Pavlovsk was then inherited by Konstantm's eldest son, Ioann Konstantinovich, who also served in the Russian Army. After the February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government declared all Imperial palaces the property of the people, whilst stopping short of outright nationalization. Pavlovsk palace continued to be the home of its former owners - Ioann Konstantinovich and his family, his brothers, sister Vera, and his aunt Olga, the Dowager Queen of Greece. Hoping to keep the palace valuables intact, Ioann embarked on a complete inventorization of the palace property. He was helped by Alexander Polovtsev, his friend and curator of the Baron Stieglitz Museum. The October Revolution, however, brought the Bolsheviks to power, putting a stop to their work. In November, Olga left the palace.

In July 1918, the last owner of Pavlovsk, Ioann Konstantinovich, his brother Igor and the Tsarina's sister, Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna, were brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Alapaevsk mineshaft in Siberia.

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