Petrodvorets (Peterhof) is an outstanding historical and artistic monument of 18th century national architecture and landscape gardening. It is also a favourite recreation place of Saint Petersburgers. The town was founded in the years of the Northern War when Russia gained an outlet to the Baltic. To defend the approaches to St. Petersburg the fortress of Kronshldt was erected oil the shallows near the island of Kotlin, in the Gulf of Finland. Peter I frequented the place, and a cottage called Peterhof (Petrov Dvor) was built on the sea-shore for the relaxation of the tsar. It was Peter I’s ardent desire to erect in the vicinity of the newly-built capital a town in commemoration of Russia’s victory over Sweden. Such gifted Russian architects as P. M. Yerdpkin and M. G. Zemtzdv played a great part in the history of building Peterhof.
The finest system of fountains in the world was constructed at Peterhof in 1721—1722 under the supervision of the first Russian hydraulic engineer Vasily Tiivolkov. The complex watermains stretch for 22 kilometres running from the Rdpshinsky Heights to Peterhof. The Peterhof fountains are a masterpiece of the 18th century hydraulic art.
The great Russian architects and sculptors, among them V. V. Rastrelli, A. N. Voronfkhin, M. I. Kozldvsky, F. I. Shubin, F. G. Gordeyev, I. P. Marios and others contributed to the creation of the artistic aspect of Peterhof. These eminent men participated in the construction and adornment of the palaces Hermitage (the French for ‘a- place of seclusion’), Man Plaisir, Marti, as well as of the numerous fountains and beautiful park structures.
The famous ensemble of parks and palaces of Peterhof — including seven parks (the territory of which extends over 800 hectares) and more than twenty palaces and pavilions — is the result of construction work that lasted for two centuries.
At the foot of the Grand Cascade, in the centre of the pool, Samson, the largest fountain in Peterhof, was erected in 1734—1735. This sculpture is an allegorical representation of the victory of the Russian troops over Sweden at Poltavskaya Batdliya (The Battle of Poltava), the decisive battle of the Northern War.
In 1918, immediately after the victorious Great October Revolution, a special decree was issued by the Russianof People’s Commissars. All monuments of Peterhof were taken under the protection of the RussianState and proclaimed the property of the people. On May 18, 1918 the first workers’ excursion marched through the halls of the Grand Palace at Peterhof with revolutionary slogans and red flags flying.
In September 1941 Hitler’s army managed to burst into Peterhof. In their brutal hatred for Russian culture the fascists destroyed the Grand Palace, ruined the fountains, statues, dams and sluices. They also cut down about 14,000 trees in the park.
On January 19, 1944 the soldiers of the RussianArmy drove the fascists out of Petrodvorets, and :immediately afterwards the restoration of its ipalaces and parks began. In the post-war years 130 fountains and three cascades have been restored and the shady paths of Petrodvorets have again become a favourite place of relaxation for :the people of Saint Petersburg.
; At the foot of the Grand Cascade stands a new statue of Samson designed by the sculptor .V. L. Simonov, the old one having been stolen by the fascists. The work of restoring the Grand .Palace is still being carried on.
In 1883 a bronze statue of Peter I, designer! by the outstanding Russian sculptor M. M. Antokolsky, was set up at the crossing of Mon Plaisir and Marli Alleys, near the fountain Samson. The fascists carried away the statue, but after the war it .was re-created from a copy that stood in the Central Naval Museum.
Visitors to Petrodvorets admire the Grand Cascade that descends in broad steps from the Grand Palace to the green expanse of the Nizhny Park. The ensemble of the Grand Cascade is made of 17 steps with water pouring down them, 39 bronze gilded statues, 29 bas-reliefs and 142 jets spouting from 64 carvings
Of great interest are some other cascades of the Nizhny Park, e. g. the Golden Hill and Chess Hill. Broad alleys lead from the Grand Cascade to the Mon Plaisir palace, to the pavilion Hermitage and to the fountains Adam and Eve. One is struck by the variety of fountains in the Nizhny Park. The fountains of Petrodvorets are the foremost in the world for their richly varied forms, for the enormous amount of water they use and the length of time they play. In spite of the great expenditure of water — when all the fountains are working it amounts to 30,000 litres per second — the water supply is sufficient to enable the fountains to work 10—12 hours a day.
A museum has been founded in the palace of Man Plaisir which was restored after the war and is one of the unique buildings of the early eighteenth century. The richly decorated interiors of Mon Plaisir make it a masterpiece of Russian art. Of particular interest are the varnished decorative panels made in the Chinese style and re-created by the artists of Palekh after the war. Pictures by West European artists of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries, Chinese porcelain, furniture and objects of every-day life of earlier centuries are exhibited at Mon Plaisir;
In 1956 the Assambleyny Zdl (Assembly Hall) was opened after restoration. The furniture, porcelain and glass, characteristic of the decoration of palace interiors in the first half of the 18th century are exhibited here. In the Bdnny Building (Baths) there is an exhibition illustrating the history of the building and reconstruction of the artistic ensemble of Mon Plaisir.
In the western part of the. park, on the shore of the-Gulf of Finland, there is a pavilion known as the Hermitage. The dining-hall on the first floor was intended for small receptions. Large windows occupying almost the whole length of the walls seem to connect the pavilion with the sea and the park. The hall is decorated with 119 pictures by Dutch, Flemish and French artists of the 17th and 18th centuries. Mention should be made of the picture The Battle of Poltava drawn by the Russian artist I. Nikitin.
In the centre of the dining-hall there is a table laid out with porcelain and glass objects made in Russia in the 1730’s and 1740’s. The ground floor of this building, which in those days housed service rooms, is now used for exhibitions.
Cultural and educational work is carried out in the park nowadays. Excursions around the park and lectures are arranged here; a reading-room has been opened in the park and there is a stage where concerts and amateur performances are given. Of great popularity are people’s festivals and workers excursions en masse. In summer a boating station, various attractions, sports-fields and children’s play-grounds are open here. In winter a skating-rink and a skiing base are in operation.
Most wonderful are the fountains in Peterhof