The Menshikov Palace

A sand-colored building with a risalit at the center is the palace of Prince Alexander Menshikov, a close friend of Tsar Peter I, the Governor General of Petersburg, and the richest man of the Petrine era.

Menshikov rose to the top of his power from the very bottom. He was a son of a stableman. He made his living by selling and delivering pies. Young Tsar Peter liked these pies as well as the quick-witted boy himself, and he employed 13-year-old Alexander as his batman. Menshikov was quick to learn. He accompanied the Tsar in all his trips abroad. He worked with him in the shipyards of Holland. Menshikov distinguished himself in the Northern War with Sweden. Peter I could entrust his favorite with any business, be it political, military, or economic. Menshikov coped with everything brilliantly. He was holding enormous power in his hands. In fact, it was him and not Peter I who supervised the construction of Petersburg.

Menshikov invited architect Giovanni Maria Fontana to build his own palace in Petersburg and a year later moved to his new house. Yet, the construction of the largest and most pompous palace of the capital took some years more. It looked different in Menshikov’s time. The front stairs descended from the main façade to the river. By a wooden pier, a barque painted in imitation of marble was always ready for him. On the opposite side, a garden with fountains and greenhouses adjoined the palace. The walls and ceilings of eleven rooms were Dutch-tiled. The decoration of four of the rooms has survived to this day.

On the upper floor of the risalit there’s a Walnut study. Its walls are covered with natural wood with beautifully chosen painting. Peter I enjoyed being in this room. He admired a broad view to the Neva and the Empire’s capital under construction. Anyway, the Tsar was a frequent guest at his friend Menshikov. He accepted foreign ambassadors here, arranged assemblies, celebrated the wedding of his son Prince Alexei and Princess Charlotte, as well as the wedding of his niece, future Empress Anna Ivanovna and Duke of Courland.

After the death of Peter I, Menshikov, relying on the Guard, enthroned the Tsar's wife Catherine I and became, in effect, the ruler of Russia. Not only did he rank himself as Generalissimo, but also managed to betroth his daughter Mary with the heir to the throne Peter, 11-year-old son of Prince Alexei. Catherine I died shortly afterwards. After he became Emperor, Peter II lived here, in the palace of his bride, for a while. However, Menshikov was never to become relatives with the Emperor.

The old Russian aristocracy headed by Prince Dolgoruky managed to deprive him of his power. Menshikov was accused of treason and embezzlement. He was exiled to Siberia, the town of Beryozov, together with his family. On the way to the exile, Menshikov buried his wife. His 16-year-old daughter, former Tsar’s bride died in Beryozov. After his disgrace, Menshikov lived a little more than two years. He was buried in Beryozov by the wooden church that he built with his own hands.

The Menshikov Palace on Vasilievsky Island was handed over to the state. Architect Trezzini rebuilt it under the Cadet Corps. A lot of famous people of the Empire graduated from this first Russian military institution of higher education. Moreover, these were not only military men, including commander Suvorov, playwright Sumarokov, founder of the Russian theater Volkov, and so on. For a while, Director of the Cadet Corps was Mikhail Kutuzov who defeated Napoleon in the war of 1812.

The Menshikov palace hosted the military school until 1981. In the late C20th it was under restoration when the palace interiors of the Petrine era were restored. Some original interior items returned here from the vaults of the Hermitage. They were confiscated from Prince Menshikov in 1728.


Информация по экскурсии "Walking Tour around Vasilievsky Island in St Petersburg"

Vasilievsky Island is a historical district in St. Petersburg, located in the delta of the Neva River. It is bordered by the Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva Rivers in the south and northeast, and by the Gulf of Finland in the west. Two of the most famous St. Petersburg bridges, Palace Bridge and Blagoveshchensky Bridge, connect it with the mainland to the south. Exchange Bridge and Tuchkov Bridge across the Malaya Neva connect it with Petrogradsky Island.

In 1715-25 Peter the Great planned this island to become a city center but those plans were not destined to be fulfilled. There are lots of legends connected with Vasilievsky Island and its buildings. For example, the name of the island Vasilievsky people usually associate with a certain man called Vassily or Basil. The legend says that was the name of one Peter’s foremost gunner officers and military engineers, Vassily Korchmin, who had his artillery battery to ward off the Swedish navy at the spit of the island and got the tsar's letters addressed "To Vassily in the Island".

During the tour you will hear some legends of the island and see all its landmarks. It is better to start the tour from the easternmost tip of the island, called Strelka (or the Spit, literally Arrow) which features a number of museums, including the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange as well as two Rostral columns. The Spit is a place popular for wedding processions and tourists. Nice postcard views on the city are open from here.

The edifices lining the Universitetskaya Embankment along the Bolshaya Neva include the Kunstkamera, The Palace of Peter II, the Twelve Colleges Building, the Menshikov Palace, the Imperial Academy of Sciences, and St. Andrew's Cathedral – all dating from the 18th century.

Museums, State University and the Imperial Academy of Sciences with library tell us the island has been for the recent centuries home to academic life. There is even the House of Academicians.

The island is a very romantic place with many cafes and restaurants, and panoramic views from the embankments. Just download the application “Your Audio Guide” (free) and the excursion. And walk as much as you want. Enjoy the unforgettable views of the northern capital.

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