Ostrovsky Square is one of the city’s most interesting ensembles. The area occupied by this square and the districts adjacent to it began to take shape soon after Nevsky Avenue was laid out. At that time, the boundary of St. Petersburg ran along the River Fontanka. The building team headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Mikhail Anichkov, who built the first bridge across the river, was quartered here. To this day the bridge retains the name of Anichkov.
In 1750, on the bank of the Fontanka, a palace for Count Alexei Razumovsky was built by the architects Mikhail Zemtsov and Grigory Dmitriev. The palace came to be known as the Anichkov Palace (owing 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.
In the 18th century a large garden abutted onto the western façade of the Anichkov Palace. In 1828, the building of the present Pushkin Academic Drama Theater, designed by Carlo Rossi, was erected on the site of this garden. The theater’s main façade is decorated with a six-column loggia raised on a high basement story. The entire building is girded by a frieze of theatrical masks and garlands, and its front is crowned with the chariot of Apollo, the patron of the Muses (sculptor Stepan Pimenov). Images of the muses grace the main façade.
The centre of Alexander Square [as Ostrovsky Square was known in the late 19th - early 20th centuries] , adjacent to the library, is occupied by the monument to Catherine II., erected in 1873. The base con sists of enormous blocks of Finnish granite from the shores of Lake Ladoga. The bronze statue of the Empress stands on a pedestal, on the sides of which are represented, in high relief, the prin cipal statesmen of her reign, and Princess Vor- onzoff" Dashkoff", who was the first President of the Academy of Arts, and from whose Memoirs we learn much of the inner history of that period.
Alexander Scott, Through Finland to St. Petersburg, 1914
Since its foundation, the theater (in 1832-1917 it was called the Alexandrinsky Theater after Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas I) has played an outstanding part in the country’s public life, propagandizing progressive Russian drama. Many outstanding actors have appeared on its stage.
The eastern side of Ostrovsky Square, framed by a shady garden, is surrounded by beautiful wrought-iron railings. Adjacent are two garden pavilions. These pavilions were designed by Carlo Rossi in 1817-1818. Statues of Russian warriors sculptured by Vasily Demut-Malinovsky are mounted between their columns.