In 1750, on the bank of the Fontanka, a palace for Count Alexei Razumovsky was built by the architects Mikhail Zemtsov and Grigory Dmitriyev in the Baroque style. The palace came to be known as the Anichkov Palace, owing the name to the nearby bridge.
The front of the palace looks out over the Fontanka and the plain side (northern) wall of the building faces onto Nevsky Avenue, which was at that time a small, unimportant street.
Since 1937, the palace has housed the Palace of Young Pioneers. The old premises were restored and reconstructed, and numerous after-school programs opened for children studying arts and crafts, technology, natural science, chess, etc.
Curiously enough, the majority of his [Alexander III] domestics are from Great Britain, and his favorite residence at the Annitchkoff Palace is modeled and furnished in exact imitation of the London home of his genial brother-in-law, the Prince of Wales.
It is by far the most comfortable and home-like of the St. Petersburg palaces and by far the best situated, and the most attractive of all the Russian Imperial residences. The Nevsky Prospect, which it overlooks, is the busiest and most fashionable thoroughfare in the city, a splendid street extending three miles, from Admiralty Square to the Monastery of St. Alexander Nevskoi. On one side of the palace are the public gardens, in which stands the famous statue of Catherine II.
The feature of the Anitchkoff Palace, however, most attractive to the present Czar is its garden. This is not only a spacious and beautiful park, but it is surrounded by a high and strong wall. The Imperial family can there walk about and enjoy the open air without being seen by the vulgar eye, and without fear of the bullet or bomb of the enterprising Nihilist. The Anitchkoff Palace was the favorite home of the present Emperors grandfather, the Czar Nicholas. The sovereign dwelt there while he was Czarovitch, and was so fond of the place that after he came to the throne, all through his reign, he went back there every year to spend the weeks of Lent.
Marguerite Cunliff-Owen, Within Royal Palaces, 1892
It was the setting for numerous family festivities, including the wedding of Nicholass niece Irina Romanova to Prince Felix Yusupov in 1914. In the words of J. Kohl, it played an even more important role in the early 19th century:
The Annitshkoff Palace is much more frequently inhabited by the present imperial family than the Tauride Palace. The former stands on the great Prospekt in the neighbourhood of the Fontanka, and closes the brilliant range of palaces in that street. It was originally built by Elizabeth, and bestowed on Count Rasumoffsky, then twice bought by Catherine, and twice given to Prince Potemkin; it is now the favourite abode of the emperor, and handsomely built, but has no particular historical interest. A part of the court constantly resides here; here also the emperor holds the greater number of his councils, receives ambassadors, &c.: hence the cabinet of St. Petersburg may be called the cabinet of Annitshkoff, as that of London is called the cabinet of St. Jamess, and that of Paris the cabinet of the Tuileries.
J Kohl, Panorama of St Petersburg, 1841
An American editor was one of the last people to have talked to the last Russian tsar, and it happened at Anichkov Palace:
Later, when I reached St. Petersburg, Count Bobrinskoy called at my hotel and gave me the necessary information. I was to present myself alone at the Anichkov Palace at one on the following day, to appear in evening clothes, and simply to give my name to the footman at the door…The room in which I found myself was of moderate size, simply and unostentatiously furnished, without any attempt whatever at palatial effect. Upon the walls were several portraits of members of the imperial family. A faint smell of tobacco smoke lingered in the air, and the origin thereof was not difficult to trace, for, in a tray upon a center table, beside which I had seated myself, were half a dozen cigarette ends. I was evidently in one of the Tsarevitchs private lounging or smoking rooms, and while I awaited my time to be called, I amused myself by considering how much it resembled the rooms of any ordinary young man of comfortable habits but not luxurious tastes. Faintly I heard the sound of childish voices and the noises common to ordinary households. Everything was plain, comfortable and homelike. The furniture was evidently designed for use and not show. Saving the portraits on the wall, there was nothing to indicate that the house was inhabited by the family of the great and all-powerful Tsar.
The Bellman, April 28, 1917 William Crowell Edgar
Where does the name Anichkov come from? When Elizabeth signed a decree on the construction of the palace, there was a suburban settlement right next to the future palace, on the then boundary of the city. Among those who lodged there there were soldiers from the Admiralty Battalion under the secondment of the officer M. Anichkov.
The Anichkov Palace has quite a history. For over two centuries it was passed on as a gift: it was built in 1751-1753 by the order of Empress Elizabeth for her favorite Razoumovsky (and later passed on to Ivan Shuvalov, the new favorite) in the mid-eighteenth century, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great presented the palace to her lover, Grigory Potemkin; shortly thereafter Potemkin sold the palace - but the Empress purchased it from the new owner and presented it to Potemkin yet again! And yet in 1785 Potemkin sold it again - to the crown! In the early nineteenth century it became property of the Romanov family, and member of the royal family would receive this palace as a wedding gift. In the XX century, this palace was presented to Leningrad boys and girls. This building is amazing to us in that this is a genuine palace of the XVIII century, with little damage from World War II. On German maps the Anichkov palace was listed as “target 192” and the "Palace of young Bolsheviks" and marked for destruction. But destiny kept it alive.
Some outstanding Russian and foreign architects worked on this palace at one time or another, while the august owners for decades filled it with artwork. The names of the architects include M. Zemtsov, Rastrelli, I.Starov, Rossi, I. Monighetti and many others. One can study the history of St. Petersburg architecture here! Many Russian luminaries visitied this palace at the invitation of the hosts visited here: writes Sumarokov, Pushkin, Ivan Krylov, F. Dostoevsky; musicians Glinka and Balakirev; artist A. Bogolyubov. And it was here that the host of the Palace, Grand Duke Alexander, played music with the court orchestra - the prototype of a large hall Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1914, the palace witnessed the most magnificent wedding of the granddaughter of the Dowager Empress - Irina Romanova and her very rich husband Felix Yusupov, who would go down in history as a murderer of Grigory Rasputin. The last Russian Emperor Nicholas II spent his childhood in Anichkov Palace. After the February Revolution, the palace was nationalized and given to the Ministry of Food. After October 25, 1917 there opened here Museum of the city, with period rooms of the former owners of the Palace.
We recommend visiting the Anichkov Palace to those who are interested in the architecture of the middle of the XVIII century or history of the Romanovs; you can add this to your tour of the nearby attractions which include the Ostrovsky Square - Aleksandrinsky theater (the building itself and the theater), the National Library, the Basin mansion, the buildings of the Ministry of national Education, the Directorate of imperial Theatres (the Museum of Theatre and Music ), St. Petersburg municipal Credit Society, the Russian Musical Society , the monument to Catherine ΙΙ, Catherine garden, Anichkov Palace garden and pavilions in this garden. In addition, next to the Anichkov Palace are Anichkov Bridge, Fontanka, Nevsky Prospect, Rossi Street, Grand Arcade, Vorontsov Palace, Passage House, Shuvalov House, and the Eliseev House.
This palace is not open to visitors.