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On April 28, 1791, one year anniversary of taking over Izmail, a Turkish fortress, was celebrated in the Taurida Palace. The event was visited by the Empress and the entire Petersburg’s high society. They did not forget about simple people though. Wine barrels were rolled out and tables with snacks were put at the square before the Palace. Carriages were arriving one by one to the entrance. The Prince Potemkin gemmed with diamonds, head to feet, met Catherine the Great and three thousand more guests. His hat only had them more than a crown of any European monarch. The dinner was served in a golden ware. On that night, there were 140 thousand glass lights and 20 thousand candles lit at the Palace – the wax for them was purchased even in Moscow.
Prince Potemkin did not live long at the Palace. In a half-year after the grandiose celebrations, the Prince passed away on the road to the South of Russia. He stopped the carriage when he was feeling bad, asked his servants to lay down his coat on the ground and died lying down at the edge of the road. Catherine was inconsolably grief-stricken after Potemkin’s death. In memory of him, she bought out the Taurida Palace from his successors and lived here for long falls and springs with her grandchildren.
In April 1795, the wedding between Natalya, General Suvorov’s daughter and brother of Catherine’s favorite, Nikolay Zubov took place. In a half-year Suvorov himself settled down in the Taurida Palace. By his arrival, the odd furniture was removed from the apartments, and a bed of hay was arranged right on the floor. The great General had been in military campaigns all his life and did not enjoy luxury.
When Emperor Pavel I ascended to the throne, the Taurida Palace had bad times. The Emperor, who hated everything somehow related to his mother and her favorites, made a real mess at the Palace. All valuables were removed, even a glued-laminated parquet. Pavel housed Horse Guards here. A horse stable was arranged in the Winter Garden. 2 big halls were transformed into riding halls. Other amenities - into military barracks. Even in four years, the Palace was a misery. The next Emperor Alexander I returned the Palace to its former splendor. And once again, the Palace became one of the Tsar’s residencies. Usually, the Emperor’s guests were hosted here such as the Persian Prince Khosrow-Mirza, the Prussian Queen Luisa and the Swedish Prince Franz-Josef.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the house of the Empress’ Favorite became a political arena. Over 10 years until 1917 the State Duma of Russia was presiding within the Taurida Palace, which was reconstructed for new purposes. After internal remodeling, the Palace lost its brilliance, but remained elegant anyway.
The First Duma Elections were not general, secret and direct. The Land and Property Qualification was valid at the time, but the Monarchic parties turned out to be in minority. The deputies demanded universal equality and amnesty for political prisoners including terrorists. Finally, the Duma was dissolved in 72 days. The Second Duma began its sessions on February 20, 1907, but it was even more radical than the First one and the Emperor Nicholas the Second dissolved it as well. It was easier for the authorities to come to terms with the Third Duma, which lasted for its regular 5 year period at this time; However, clashes and squabbles were taking place during its sessions, and good acoustics allowed to shutdown unwanted speakers.
The Taurida Palace saw a number of curious personalities during its State Duma life. The State Counselor Vladimir Purishkevich, a radical monarchist and future participant of Gregory Rasputin assassination, was famous as the main troublemaker during the Third and then the Fourth Duma. Stenographers were stunned with his speech rate – 90 words per minute. He did not submit to the Chairman, threw cups from tribune on the heads of deputies, and, when security guards showed up, he climbed on their shoulders and left the sessions in such a dramatic way. Once upon a time, when members of left-wing factions in honor of May 1, passed the carnations into buttonholes, Purishkevich also showed up with the carnation and…an unzipped zipper.
The State Duma life in the Taurida Palace was full of boiling political events. All the Ministers of the Tsar Government were assigned and terminated by the Emperor and submitted to him only. The Duma could only show indignation and rebellion against it. The Government and the Duma did not ever get along, and, in early 1917, their disagreements reached their peak. In February, all the Ministers were arrested, the Emperor abdicated and all the power was taken by the Provisional Government headed by Kerensky. At its first session, it was found that the Government claimed to exercise all power and nobody needed the Duma. But it only took a few months when Bolsheviks arrested members of the Provisional Government and took power in October 1917.
On January 5, 1918, the Constitutional Convention – Parliament, a long time dream of the liberal Russia, was gathered in the Taurida Palace. However, the Bolsheviks did not want to give away power. Marines standing there as guards, were keeping their foresight on unwanted speakers, so the deputies had to remind them sometimes that the “Comrade Lenin did not allow them to shoot at the speakers”.
Finally, at one of the sessions in the Taurida Palace the Captain of Guards Marine Zheleznyak told a catch phrase, which is known to any schoolchild in Russia now: “The Guards are tired!”. As a result, the deputies were scattered, and the Taurida Palace was filled with quite different people.
However, it was hard for the Taurida Palace to break with politics. In May 1972, here, the American and Soviet flags were fluttering next to each other, and there was a meeting between Brezhnev and Richard Nixon. Since 1992 the Palace has been hosting the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS); forums, seminars and conferences are being held here.
During the centuries of Empire St. Petersburg was a grand city with ceremonial buildings, rich and pompous palaces. Even today St. Petersburg can boast a huge number of palaces, including some of the grandest residences not just in Russia, but in the whole of Europe.
Our audio guide will take you to the most famous palaces and Grand residences of St. Petersburg. We can start with the Tauride Palace and Garden, one of the largest and most historic complexes in Russia. This palace was designed for Grigory Potemkin in a rigorous Palladian style. In the 19th century, the palace was transformed into a residence for minor royalty. It had been used to host balls and exhibitions until 1906, when it was given as a seat of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma.
You will also hear the history of the Winter Palace, the most prominent palace in Russia. The Winter Palace not only physically dominates Palace Square and the south embankment of the Neva River, but also plays a central political, symbolic, and cultural role in the three-century history of the city. It was declared part of the State Hermitage Museum on 17 October 1917. Now the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and all historical landmarks of St. Petersburg are enlisted by the UNESCO.
Another famous building is Anichkov Palace located next to Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka River. It’s one of the oldest buildings on Nevsky Prospect commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1741. When the palace was completed she presented it to Aleksey Razumovsky, her favourite and unofficial spouse.
Mariinsky Palace, the last neoclassical imperial palace to be constructed in Saint Petersburg, was built between 1839 and 1844 by the court architect Andrei Stackensneider. The palace stands on the south side of St Isaac's Square, just across the 99-metre-wide Blue Bridge from Saint Isaac's Cathedral. The palace was conceived by Emperor Nicholas I as a wedding present to his daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
During the tour you will also see the houses and mansions of famous court and military people: The House of Saltykov, The Marble Palace, The Vladimir Palace, The Mikhailovsky Castle, The Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace, The House of Gagarin, etc. Each building has its own history sometimes dramatic.
Take a walk in the Summer Garden. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia's new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains.
The Field of Mars, not far from the Summer Garden, has a long and varied history dating back to the very beginning of the city's history. You will listen to it while walking. To your attention will also be the stories and legends of The First Engineer Bridge, The Salt City, The Building of Senate and Synod, The Isakievsky Cathedral, The Petropavlovsk Fortress.
With audio visual materials you will also get a map that won’t let you lose your way.