During autumn 1775, on a walk back from Kolomenskoye estate, the empress Catherine II fell in love with the landscape of «Black Dirt» and immediately offered 25 000 roubles to Prince Kantemir to buy the area. She bought it on May 29th and construction of the first palace started in June. The empress spent more and more time at her new provincial residence, together with her favourite, and in summer 1775 she even started to conduct her war councils from there.
The task of building the new imperial provincial residence was given to the Court’s Russian architect Bajenov. This project was the first of its kind for a Russian architect; since Peter I until Elizabeth Petrovna, the construction of imperial residences had been granted to Europeans only. To build Tsaritsino, Bajenov chose basic material such as red bricks and white stones, and in doing so went against the classical trend of the time. However, this decision was justified by the conception of Tsaritsino itself, i.e. an imperial whim. In 1785, the empress came to Moscow on an official visit with several European ambassadors, to whom she wanted to show her latest Moscow palaces (in addition to Tsaritsino, two other palaces were being built in Moscow). However, the work in progress that was Tsaritsino did not satisfy the empress who saw everthing as too narrow and dark. Bajenov’s pupil, Kazakov was appointed as the new architect.
With passing time both the tastes of the empress and the trend of the time changed: classicism became the leading trend in Russian architecture. This all affected Tsaritsino’s first plans. After Catherine the Great’s death, in 1796, the new emperor, Paul I, did not like Tsaritsino and ordered the cancellation of all of the construction work in Tsaritsino. The state of the unfinished palace steadily worsened.
In 1860, after it had been officially announced that the residence did not bring any significant revenue to the imperial family, it was handed over the Department in charge of imperial properties, which rented it as several luxurious country houses to elites (including Dostoevski, Tchekhov, Bounin, Tchaikovski and Timiryazev). By the beginning of the XXth century, there were around a thousand of these luxurious country houses in Tsaritsino. Unfortunately, the state of the uninhabited main palace continued to deteriorate.
During the Soviet Union, the palace found its new calling: one building would be rebuilt and used for administration purposes, and the rest would be turned into a museum. 1927 saw the first restoration attempt of Tsaritsino. Several more followed but none were ever completed.
It was not before 2004, when control of Tsaritsino was handed over Moscow authorities; that a large scale and polemical restoration of the whole estate got underway. After two years of reconstruction, on September 2 2007, the palace was inaugurated. There were so many visitors present at the inauguration that the estate had to be kept open 24 hours.
Today, Tsaritsino is home to numerous events, exhibitions, concerts and festivals such as Круг света and Русское поле. The different artefacts that were found in Tsaritsino during the reconstruction are gathered in the main palace, on the first floor. The second floor is dedicated to the family tree of the different dynasties that ruled Russia, some of Catherine the Great’s cloths and belongings and the different construction plans for Tsaritsino. The upper floors include art exhibitions and meeting rooms.
There are three ponds where you can rent boats from Tuesday to Friday from 13 to 22 and on weekends and national holidays from 12 to 22.
Author: Diane Pallardy, Double master world politics in Eurasia at the HSE