The complete restoration of the architectural monuments of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve (GMZ) destroyed during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the main residence of the Russian emperors and empresses near St. Petersburg, will take at least another quarter of a century. This assessment was made last week by Deputy Director for Research and Education Iraida Bott, during a press conference marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Pushkin from Nazi occupation.
“I think that it will take least 25 years,” said Bott, when asked the question of how long it will take to recreate all the monuments of the museum-reserve that were damaged in wartime. Most of them were destroyed in the first year of occupation, which lasted a total of four years.
Recreation of the Catherine Palace
Two-thirds of the main monument of the museum-reserve – the Catherine Palace – have now been restored, its restoration has been going on for more than six decades, since 1957. Among the most significant objects that have been recreated in recent years is the Golden Enfilade. “it will soon be completely restored, and in March of this year we will open the Church of the Resurrection of Christ – the last interior created by the famous architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771). The Imperial Chapel was consecrated on 30th July 1756, and thus the entire Golden Enfilade will be brought back to life,” explained Bott.
One of the greatest achievements during the reconstruction of the monuments lost during the Great Patriotic War is the reconstruction of the Amber Room. The unique interior, presented to Tsar Peter I by the Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm I, disappeared without a trace during the war years; its fate remaining a mystery to this day. Work on the recreation of the “eighth wonder of the world” lasted twenty-four years and on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the foundation of St Petersburg the restored legendary Amber Room received its first visitors.
“The greatest sadness and the greatest hope of my generation is to see the state rooms and private quarters of the Empress Catherine II restored. It is hard to imagine when these rooms will be realized,” said Bott. In the meantime, there are plans to recreate the rooms of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.
Later this year, noted Bott, one of the most grand palace halls of the 18th century – the Lyon Hall will be opened. “This is the ceremonial hall, located next to the Arabesque Hall, which was also created in Catherine’s times, and underwent significant changes in the middle of the 19th century. We will restore it to its pre-war look,” she added.
Alexander Palace and the lost exhibits
“Besides the Catherine Palace, we still have the Alexander Palace and a large number of pavilions to restore and recreate in the Alexander Park, all of which require a lot of work,” said Bott. In recent years, the Martial Chamber, the Arsenal and Chapelle pavilions were opened to visitors. In 2019, the first eight rooms of the Alexander Palace are scheduled to be opened.
The museum is working hard to return the lost exhibits to the collection.
“Before the war, our entire museum collection was catalogued, so we have the exact numbers — about 110 thousand pieces. Of course, not all of them could be evacuated, only the finest items were evacuated – about 19 thousand items. Today we have in our collection more than 50 thousand items: these include items that we acquired at auctions, and those that we received from donors and sponsors. Descendants of soldiers and civilians who stole items as a souvenir from the palaces during the war years have returned more than a hundred items,” said Bott.
It is interesting to note that when the Alexander Palace was handed over to the Ministry of Defence in 1951, a total of 5,615 items that were still among the evacuated items in the Central Repository of Museum Stocks from the Suburban Palace-Museums, were transferred to the Pavlovsk Palace State Museum. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were from the Alexander Palace ceremonial halls. These included 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture. Let us hope that as a gesture of goodwill, that the Pavlovsk Palace-Museum administration will do the right thing, and return all of these items back to the Alexander Palace – PG
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 January 2019