The Anichkov Palace is directly associated with Empress Elizabeth’s coming to power and her lifelong companion, Alexey Razumovsky. For the site of the palace, in 1741 Elizabeth purchased the headquarters of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, on the northwest corner of Nevsky and the Fontanka. The palace took its name from the Anichkov Bridge, which crosses the Fontanka at that point.
Work began in 1742 under the architect Zemtsov according to a design of his student, Grigory Dmitriev. After Zemtsov died in 1743, the projects was for some time supervised by Dmitriev, but in 1744 Elizabeth appointed Rastrelli to complete the palace according to his own revised design. It was ready for occupation by 1746, but it was formally completed and presented to Razumovsky only in 1750, when its chapel was consecrated.
Among the homes of nobles, hardly inferior in magnificence to the imperial residences, those which do more honor to Rastrelli are the Anichkov Palace, built on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and the Fontanka canal for a lover of the Empress, the Ukranian Razumovsky; the Vorontsov Palace, slathered in red today as the Winter Palace, but was originally painted in two shades; and especially the magnificent Stroganov Palace, at the corner of Nevsky Prospect and the Moika Canal.
Lart russe de Pierre le Grand à nos jours, Louis Réau, 1922
By the time Rastrelli took over construction, the walls of the second floor had already been erected, so he was constrained by the original design and had to focus his originality on the interior and the roof. To outfit and furnish the palace, Elizabeth ordered the decorations from Biron’s palace in Mitau be brought in. Outside, the original design had called for a central and two lateral projected façades which looked virtually identical, resulting in a dull appearance. Since Rastrelli could do nothing to increase the size of the center section, all he could do to differentiate side from center was to top the two wings with cupola-like crowns and then add statues, crowns, and trophies to the central portion.
The palace was originally very large and three storeys high, but it has been much altered. The side towards the street is exceedingly simple in structure. The garden and out-houses, however, occupied an immense area and stretched from the Grand Sadovaya Street to the Tchernishoff Bridge. On the spot now occupied by the Alexander Theatre there once stood a large pavilion, containing the picture gallery of the Court, while opposite this was the concert-room, where entertainments and masquerades were given. The balustrade that now surrounds the palace is after the design of the Prussian king, Frederick William III., who had an artistic bent.
Despite its defects, the palace was popular, as its height made it visible from all over town, much like the Admiralty and Peter and Paul Cathedral.
On the evening of the eventful March 1st, Alexander III. returned to the Anitchkov Palace—where he continued to reside until the end of his life—in an open sledge, with the young Empress sitting by his side, and without any escort. An immense and respectful crowd greeted him and lined the whole way. Scarcely a shout was raised, and a grim earnestness pervaded this first meeting of the new Tsar and his people, but there were few dry eyes among those who watched the scene. At the Anitchkov Palace all his household was waiting for him in the hall, and an old valet, who had attended the Tsar from his babyhood, presented him with the traditional bread and salt which is always offered in Russia upon such occasions, and asked him in a few broken words to be the "Little Father" of his people. Alexanders blue eyes kindled with a hitherto unknown light, and he gravely replied, "Yes, I will try to be the father of my people."
Behind the Veil at the Russian Court, Princess Catherine Radziwill, 1913
The Anichkov Palace has quite a history. For over two centuries it was passed on as a gift: in the eighteenth century, the Russian Empress presented the palace to her favorites (Catherine II, when she was reigning in Russia, presented this palace to her minister, Potemkin. He, being hard up, sold his gift to the merchant Shemyakin, who in 1759 amassed a fortune by transporting provisions and stores from Petrograd to Pillau for the Russian army when it was engaged in operations against Prussia); in the early nineteenth century it became property of the Romanov family (In 1817 the Emperor Alexander I. presented palace to his brother, the Grand Duke Nicholai Pavlovitch, who resided here until he ascended the throne in 1825, under the title of Nicholas I. This Emperor was exceedingly fond of the palace, and in order to differentiate it from others called it “ his own palace.”) , and members of the royal family would receive this palace as a wedding gift.
The Anichkov Palace is the Tsar's own personal property and is situated on the right-hand side of the Nevsky, close to the Anichkov Bridge. Formerly the ground on which it stands was the quarters of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. The Empress Elizabeth afterwards purchased this plot of ground and ordered Rastrelli to build a sumptuous palace. On its completion, in 1751, the Empress, who was secretly married to Count Razumovsky, presented it to this nobleman. It is generally believed by Danilevsky and other historians that the Princess Tarakanova, who perished in the fortress of Peter and Paul, owing to the perfidy and cruelty of Count Orloff, was the fruit of this marriage. In his thrilling novel, The Princess Tarakanoffva, this dramatic episode is treated with great delicacy and with regard for the truth.
Petrograd, Past and Present, 1914
In the XX century, this palace was presented to Leningrad boys and girls. This building is amazing to us that this is a genuine palace of 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.
Anichkov Palace. View from the Fontanka. Sadovnikov, watercolors. 1838
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.
This palace is not open to visitors.