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Gatchina is a city in Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located 45 km south of St. Petersburg by the road leading to Pskov.
Population: 88,420 (2002 Census).
It is part of the World Heritage Site Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments.
Khotchino (old name of Gatchina) was first documented in 1499, a village in possession of Novgorod the Great, Russia. In the 17th century, in a series of wars, it passed to Livonia, then to Sweden, and was returned to Russia during the Northern War. At that time, Gatchina was a southern vicinity of the new Russian capital, St. Petersburg. In 1708 Gatchina was given by Peter the Great. to his sister Natalia Alekseevna, and after her death, Peter founded an Imperial Hospital and Apothekary here. In 1765, Catherine the Great bought Gatchina with suburban 20 villages, then she granted it to her favourite General Count Orlov. Between 1766 and 1788 Count Orlov built a sombre castle with 600 rooms and laid out an extensive English landscape park over 7 square kilometres, with adjacent zoo and a horse farm. A triumphal arch was erected to a design by the architect of Gatchina, Antonio Rinaldi (1771, built 1777-82), forming a monumental entrance, the gift of Catherine to Orlov for his efforts during a recent outbreak of plague at Moscow.
The Empress took such a great liking of the Gatchina Palace and park, that at Orlov's death in 1783, she bought it from his heirs and presented it to her son, the future Emperor Paul I.
Paul I was the owner of Gatchina for eighteen years, he invested much resources as well as used his experience from his travels in Europe to make Gatchina the exemplary city of Russia. During the 1790s, Paul expanded and rebuilt much of the palace, and renovated palatial interiors in the sumptuous Neoclassical style (illustration, left). Paul I graced the park with numerous additions, bridges, gates, and pavilions, such as "The Isle of Love", "The Private garden", "The Holland garden" and "The Labyrinth" among many other additions. In 1796, after the death of his mother, Catherine the Great, Paul became Emperor Paul I of Russia, and granted Gatchina the status of the Imperial City - official residence of the Russian Emperors.
A remarkable monument of Paul's reign is Priory Palace on the shore of the Black Lake. Constructed for the Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St John, it was presented to the Order by a decree of Paul I of Russia dated August 23, 1799.
After Paul's death the grand palace and park were owned by his widow, Maria Feodorovna, from 1801 to 1828. Then Emperor Nicholas I was the owner from 1828 to 1855. He made the most significant expansion of the palaces and parks, adding the Arcenal Halls to the main palace. The Arsenal Halls served as the summer residence of Tsar Nicholas I and his court. In 1851, Tsar Nicholas I opened the monument to his father, Paul I, in front of the Gatchina Palace. In 1854 the railroad between St. Petersburg and Gatchina was opened. At that time the city of Gatchina's territory was expanded by incorporation of several villages and vicinity.
Alexander II of Russia used Gatchina Palace as his second residence. He built a Hunting village and other additions for his Imperial Hunting Crew, and turned the ares south of Gatchina into his retreat, where the Tsar and his guests could indulge in living country-style among unspoiled wilderness and woods of north-western Russia. Alexander II made updates and renovations in the Main Gatchina Palace.
Alexander III of Russia made Gatchina his prime residence, after experiencing a shock and stress of his father's assassination and the palace became known as 'The Citadel of Autocracy' after the Tsar's reactionary policies. He lived most of his time in Gatchina Palace. Here Alexander II made his official state announcements, diplomatic receptions, theatrical performances, masquerades and costumed balls, and other events and entertainment. During his reign, Alexander III introduced major technological modernization in the Gatchina Palace and parks, such as electric lights, telephone network, non-freezing water pipes and modern sewage system.
Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, spent his youth in the Gatchina Palace. His mother, Empress Maria Fedorovna, widow of Alexander III, was the patron of the city of Gatchina and Gatchina Palace and parks.
Gatchina was honored as the best-kept city of Russia at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris (Exposition Universelle (1900)). The quality of life, education, medical services and public safety in Gatchina were recognized as the best, and it was recommended as an example for other cities in Russia.
One of the first airfields in Russia was built in Gatchina at the end of the 19th century. The pilot Pyotr Nesterov was trained at Gatchina airfield and made his first long-distance flight from Gatchina to Kiev in the 1900s. At that time, an aviation industry was developing in Gatchina, eventually becoming one of the first centers of aviation and engine technology in Russia.
During the WWI major medical hospitals in Gatchina were patronized by the Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Maria Fedorovna, the mother of Nicholas II, his wife the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, as well as their daghters: the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Grand Duchess Tatiana, the Grand Duchess Olga, and the Grand Duchess Maria.
During the 1900s, Gatchina remained one of the official Imperial Residences of the Tsar Nicholas II, who was presiding over annual military parades and celebrations of the Imperial Russian Army garrisons, stationed in Gatchina until 1918. At that time Gatchina remained one of the most anti-Soviet centers of resistance during the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the following Russian Civil War.
According to the some sources, "in May 1918, in the former imperial palace, one of the first museums in the country was opened for the victorious popular masses" of the Russian Revolution. From 1918 to 1941, the Gatchina Palace and parks were open to public as a national museum.
In 1923–1929, the town was called Trotsk after Leon Trotsky. After Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party and Trotsky was exiled, the town was called Krasnogvardeysk, or "Red Guard City" until 1944, when the original name was returned and the city has been called Gatchina ever since.
The Nazis looted much of the Gatchina palace collections of art, while staying in the palace for almost three years during World War II and the Siege of Leningrad. The Gatchina Palace and park was severely vandalized and destroyed by the retreating Nazis. The extent of devastation was extraordinary, and initially was considered irreparable damage.
Restoration works took over 60 years, in order to restore most of original handcrafted interiors of the Gatchina Palace. Some pieces of the art collection were recovered after the WWII and returned to Gatchina. One section of the Gatchina Palace is now partially completed and certain state rooms and the Arsenal Halls are now open to the public. Other areas of the Palace, including those of Tsar Alexander III, remain closed while still undergoing restoration.
Sister cities of Gatchina
• Eskilstuna, Sweden
• Espoo, Finland
• Ettlingen, Germany
Used materials of Wikipedia and www.history-gatchina.ru
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