September 01, 2010

Pushkin Turns 300

In June, the town of Pushkin, located 24 kilometers from St. Petersburg, celebrated its tercentennial.

Peter I (“the Great”) gifted the land here to Alexander Menshikov in 1703. Previously, it had been a Swedish country village, named Saari mois. Then, in 1710, Peter gave some of Menshikov’s land to his wife, the future Empress Catherine I (appropriately so: it had been Menshikov who introduced Peter to his future wife).

Peter built the first royal palace here – more of a hunting lodge, actually – in 1715. By 1725 the settlement had become one of Russia’s largest summer imperial residences. In 1728, the town, which until then was commonly referred to as Saarskaya Myza, was renamed Tsarskoye Selo (“Royal Village”).* The beautiful baroque Catherine’s Palace and adjacent Catherine’s Garden was not begun until after Catherine I’s death, and did not attain its grandiose, ceremonial stature until a second reconstruction by Rastrelli in the 1750s, during the reign of Catherine’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth.

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