Tsarskoye Selo (known as Detskoye Selo between 1918 and 1937, Pushkin thereafter) is a suburb of St. Petersburg best known for its imperial palaces and its lyceum. The town was established in 1708 on the site of a conquered Finnish village, not long after the founding of St. Petersburg. The first railroad in Russia, opened in 1837, connected Tsarskoye Selo to the capital, about twenty-five kilometers (fourteen miles) away. In 1887 Tsarskoye Selo also became the first European town to be illuminated by electricity.
Tsarskoye Selo (literally "the Tsar's Village") was among the residences of the imperial family from the time of its founding until 1917. Celebrated as the Russian Versailles, the town's layout and culture owed much to the admiration that the Emperor Peter the Great and his successors felt for the French original and other European models. Initially, between 1708 and 1724, Tsarskoye Selo served as the residence of Peter's wife, the Empress Catherine I. The original Catherine Palace, named after her, was constructed at that time. Substantial rebuilding of the complex was undertaken during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth (1741–1762), with many famed architects and artists taking part in the project. The most famous example is the architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli's work on the imperial palace. It is acknowledged as a masterpiece of Russian baroque. The stucco decorations of the facade of the immense palace were gilded so lavishly that, according to contemporaries, in sunlight one could not bear to look at the building directly. To correct this defect and reduce maintenance costs, the gilding was soon replaced by ochre paint. The contrast between the azure paint of the walls and the ochre color of the decorations continues to define the palace's look. Further notable changes and additions were made during the reign of Empress Catherine II (1762–1796). Among them was the construction of the classicist Alexander Palace, commissioned by the empress to honor her favorite grandson and future monarch, Alexander I. Aside from the elaborate palaces decorated with impressive art works, Tsarskoye Selo also featured lavish parks and the quarters for various regiments of the imperial guard. In the words of the poet Nikolai Gumilev, "barracks, parks, and palaces" defined the appearance of the town.
Numerous grand dukes lived in Tsarskoye Selo throughout its existence, but the town gained greater official stature after 1905, when Nicholas II made it his permanent residence. It was in Tsarskoye Selo that the last emperor of Russia was arrested by the Provisional Government during the February Revolution of 1917, and it was from there that he was exiled with his family to Siberia in July of that year.
The Lyceum, a school for the offspring of the nobility, opened in Tsarskoye Selo in 1811. The stated mission of this prestigious school was to train young men for service to the state. Between 1817 and 1895 the Lyceum produced fifty-one classes, shaping the crème de la crème of the empire's political and cultural elite. The most famous graduate was the poet Alexander Pushkin, whose poetry featured repeated allusions to his alma mater and immortalized Tsarskoye Selo as a literary image. Among the numerous other prominent alumni were literary figures Anton Delvig, Lev Mei, and Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin; scholars Grigory Danilevsky, Yakov Grot, and Alexander Veselovsky; Decembrists Wilhelm Küchelbecker and Ivan Pushchin; and counselor Alexander Gorchakov.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the poets Anna Akhmatova, Gumilev, and Innokenty Annensky made Tsarskoye Selo their home. Numerous painters, attracted by the allure of the Russian Versailles, were also drawn to the town. Among them were Alexandre Benois, Mstislav Dobozhinsky, Alexander Golovin, Yevgeny Lansere, and Konstantin Somov.
During the Soviet period, Tsarskoye Selo was the subject of both passive neglect and active destruction. The town's central church (St. Catherine's Cathedral, erected in 1840, designed by Konstantin Ton) was detonated in 1939. A large statue of Lenin, erected in 1960, still stands in its place. During World War II, the town was captured and looted by the Nazis. Much of its artistic heritage was destroyed and only partially reconstructed in the postwar period. Despite all this, Tsarskoye Selo remains an important tourist destination. Retaining an aristocratic aura, the town constitutes a cultural preserve of literary and artistic traditions.
See also: architecture; nicholas ii; pushkin, alexander sergeyevich
Kurth, Peter. (1995). Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra. Boston: Little, Brown.
Wortman, Richard S. (1995). Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, Vol. 1: From Peter the Great to the Death of Nicholas I. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
"Tsarskoye Selo." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tsarskoye-selo
"Tsarskoye Selo." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tsarskoye-selo
Tsarskoye Selo: see Pushkin, Russia.
"Tsarskoye Selo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tsarskoye-selo
"Tsarskoye Selo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/tsarskoye-selo