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Pavel Ermolov, a senior researcher at the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve, tells how the three buildings of the 18th century that have survived to this day were conceived and implemented.

Tsaritsyn’s story begins in 1775. Catherine II, driving through the territory of the Black Mud estate of Prince Sergei Cantemir, was so fascinated by the local beauties that she immediately bought these lands.

In the same 1775, the Empress instructed the court architect Vasily Bazhenov to create a project for a new entertainment residence near Moscow, wishing that the buildings were in Gothic or Moorish taste. Bazhenov proposed a project that combines Gothic, Classicism, Moscow Baroque and Old Russian architecture. The master himself called Tsaritsyn’s style “gentle Gothic”. Already in 1776, the construction of the ensemble began. Among the first buildings, the Third Cavalry Corps was laid.

Third, he is the first

Interestingly, the Third Cavalry Corps was built the first of three – in 1776-1779. However, the serial numbers are not particularly important here, because the building received its modern names only during the certification of 1947. Prior to that, in various documents they appeared as “a small house”, “a house for waiters”, “an unknown woman’s house” and so on.

The third cavalry building is a one-story brick building with lancet windows and rounded outer corners. It is decorated with an elegant belvedere turret. Inside there is a round hall, one part of which, according to Bazhenov’s plan, protrudes outward and forms a semi-rotunda.


The building is located on a high picturesque promontory between the Lower Tsaritsyn pond and the Bolshoy ravine. For Catherine II, this structure was of particular importance, she personally made changes to Bazhenov’s drawings. Perhaps this is due to the fact that during her first visit to Tsaritsyno, it was from this place that the empress admired the fireworks. In his letter to the Empress dated October 8, 1778, Bazhenov reported: “The tower on the house has been erected and finished, which is the last one to the church, in the place from where the fireworks were watched.”

In 1785, Catherine II appointed Bazhenov’s student Matvey Kazakov as the new architect of her residence. The formal reason for the replacement was the fact that the buildings seemed too cramped to the empress, but many contemporaries believed that Catherine simply wanted to remove Bazhenov. Historians are still arguing about the possible reasons for the disgrace. One of the popular versions says: the once beloved architect angered Catherine by passing the rite of initiation into Masons and allegedly receiving an assignment from free masons to get close to Tsarevich Pavel. However, Pavel Ermolov considers this legend to be unfounded.

“I think that by 1785, Catherine’s ideas about herself, the Russian monarchy and what the people needed had changed a lot,” the art critic emphasizes. – And this palace complex, which consisted of separate buildings, probably no longer corresponded to her ideas about the greatness of the Russian monarchy. Therefore, she proposed to Kazakov to create a single large palace, ”he notes.

After the death of the Empress in 1796, the construction of the residence stopped altogether, but the Third Cavalry Corps, unlike many buildings, was actively used. At the beginning of the 19th century, when Tsaritsyno became a popular destination for out-of-town walks, it was converted into a hotel with a tavern.

Since 1872, the collegiate councilor Ivan Davidov rented the building and used it as a dacha. Under him, the layout changed a lot: the main entrance was moved, the stairs were laid, and a large terrace was added outside.

“The building was used in the 19th and 20th centuries for various needs. All this, of course, entailed a distortion in the layout, the loss of its original appearance, the tower, the supporting pillars on which it stood, vaults, oval domes disappeared, ”says Pavel Ermolov.

In the mid-1920s, Tsaritsyno came under the jurisdiction of Glavnauka, and in 1927 the Tsaritsyno History, Art and Local Lore Museum was opened in the Third Cavalry Building. Here one could see collections of Bazhenov’s drawings, items of noble life and finds from the Vyatichi burial mounds. The museum was very popular. In the 1930s, on the wave of collectivization, the nature of the exhibition changed dramatically and began to gravitate towards agriculture. The place lost its former popularity, and in the end the museum was closed. In subsequent years, the building housed the House of Culture and other institutions.

In 1988, under the leadership of Vladimir Libson and Isolde Ruben, a project for the restoration of the building was developed. For a long time it was not possible to implement it due to the fact that many elements were lost. The restoration was finally carried out in 1998-2003. Experts have restored the layout, lost vaults, a belvedere tower, and parapets.

Now the building houses the exposition “Dachnoe Tsaritsyno”. This is a tribute to the period when Tsaritsyno was a prestigious holiday village. In the second half of the 19th century, some of the palace buildings were rented out, as well as land plots for construction. There were many famous personalities among the Tsaritsyn summer residents and their guests. Inventor Dmitry Ezuchevsky, archaeologist Alexey Oreshnikov, historian Ivan Zabelin rested here.

On the prestigious Pokrovskaya side, from which today only the structure of the streets has survived, six plots at once were occupied by the dacha of the Chairman of the First State Duma Sergei Muromtsev. His niece later became the wife of Ivan Bunin. The family of the famous merchant Vasily Arshinov lived in Novy Tsaritsyno, who laid out a park, partially preserved to this day. The guests of the Tsaritsyn summer residents were philosopher Vladimir Soloviev, poets Fedor Tyutchev and Alexey Pleshcheev, writers Leonid Andreev, Ivan Bunin and Andrei Bely, composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, singer Leonid Sobinov, artists Konstantin Korovin, Stanislav Zhukovsky and many others.

How summer residents of the 19th century lived in Tsaritsyn

Octahedron, failed bathhouse and mini-hotel

The first and second cavalry corps were built by Vasily Bazhenov a few years later, in 1784-1785. The first is a small one-story L-shaped pavilion with three rooms inside. The layout of the second building is much more interesting. This is an octahedron, the rooms of which are not only connected to the center, but are also interconnected along the perimeter by corner rooms.

“On the facades of the octahedron, you can see very interesting elements that, on the one hand, resemble medieval vimpergs, and on the other, the so-called kokoshniks. Bazhenov plays with Gothic and Old Russian motifs, resulting in a unique fantasy architecture. Another feature of the building is that it did not have a main facade. The cavalry buildings were slightly lower than the central buildings of the ensemble, and were the second belt of structures, decorated and complemented the panorama of the fabulous medieval town. According to the plan, all Bazhenov’s buildings were supposed to have a golden roof, sparkling in the sun. Unfortunately, the architect did not manage to bring this to life, ”says Pavel Ermolov.

The unique octahedron was not lucky: for 200 years the building was not used and, naturally, gradually collapsed. Back in 1886, in the “Inventory of the Tsaritsyn Palace”, its deplorable state was recorded: “The cornice above the windows and doors in the flying balustrade and in the portal columns is decorated with white stone, which burst and crumbled in many places, a house without a roof and vaults, floors, ceilings and all other accessories. Externally, both in the openings of windows and doors, and at the foundations, the walls are broken, and trees grow on top of the building – inside the walls in all spans are also broken, and from above they are completely stifled and in many they crumbled to a great height. “

In 1929, in the second building, a regional bath was almost arranged. The situation was saved by Konstantin Tikhomirov, head of the Tsaritsyno Museum of Local Lore, who wrote to the Glavnauk about the inadmissibility of this alteration, which would entail a distortion of the architectural monument, “completely unacceptable, especially now that the Moscow City Council is restoring classical-type gazebos in Tsaritsyno Park.” And yet, in 1932, the inner walls of the building were dismantled: the brick is used for household needs. Local residents set up vegetable gardens right inside the building.

The first cavalry corps was more fortunate. Despite the fact that the building was dilapidated, since the 1870s it was rented for the summer by wealthy officials and merchants. The cost of dachas in Tsaritsyno was quite high – more than 300 rubles per season. For comparison: a middle-class official then (at the beginning of the 20th century) received 120-150 rubles a month, an army lieutenant (lieutenant) – about 100, the so-called labor aristocracy, or highly skilled workers, employees and foremen – from 50 to 100 rubles.

“Tsaritsyno was famous for the fact that people lived there who made themselves. They did not have any hereditary holdings or titles. Rich peasants, bourgeois, and intellectuals rented dachas here, ”says Pavel Ermolov.

In 1883-1896, the building was rented by a merchant of the second guild, an honorary hereditary citizen Arshak Khalatov. Under him, the building was distorted by restructuring. And from 1896 to 1901, the building and the adjacent land plot were rented by the outstanding historian, archaeologist and numismatist Aleksey Oreshnikov. Together with the famous historian Ivan Zabelin, a neighbor at the dacha, Oreshnikov was engaged in archaeological excavations in Tsaritsyn. The inventory of 1902 records significant changes in the appearance of the building and its interiors, made by the last two tenants: the building becomes three-story, two wooden terraces are attached to it, and stairs are led upstairs. A fireplace and a Russian stove appeared in the house.

In 1906, the First Cavalry Corps was rented out by the entrepreneur and merchant Alexei Krutovsky, as well as the Moscow workshop Alexei Vinogradov. They decided to arrange furnished rooms there. After a major fire in 1909, during which the interior decoration and annexes burned down, Krutovsky became the sole tenant and undertook to restore the building within a year. He proposed a restructuring project for the building, according to which it was supposed to grow to almost 10 meters in height. Permission was obtained from the Main Directorate of Appanages, although the department noted “the extreme undesirability of distorting old buildings by superstructures.” By 1911, Krutovsky completed the reconstruction, the building now had three floors and 23 rooms. Until 1921, he rented them to summer residents.

Subsequently, the Lenin Council of Workers ‘and Peasants’ Deputies was located here; an orphanage where children from hunger-affected areas of the Volga region lived; the executive committee of the Leninsky district council and the music school. In the 1990s, the building underwent a large-scale restoration.

“I would like to dispel the myth that Tsaritsyno is a remake created as a result of the 2006-2007 restoration. Restoration in accordance with all the rules in the Cavalry Buildings was carried out back in the 1980s and 1990s. It was attended by reputable restoration organizations and respected specialists, in particular Vladimir Libson and Isolde Ruben. Everything was done exactly according to the drawings and measurements of Bazhenov. In total, more than half of the Bazhenov buildings have survived in Tsaritsyn, restored in accordance with all the rules of restoration art. They are very important for understanding the style and architectural design of the architect, ”notes Pavel Ermolov.

Today, the First Cavalry Building houses the administration of the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve, and the second houses the bookkeeping and personnel department of the museum.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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