Babych Nataliya, the guide-interpreter of Prime Excursion Bureau
Since at the moment Mariyinsky Palace is under restoration, we invite you to the virtual tour starting with its background.
Despite the long over 1500-year history Kyiv can't boast of old palaces and castles since there were quite a few tragic pages in its history. Actually until now only one palace survived in Kyiv and it surely attracts a special attention. It's called Mariyinsky and located in the old area of Pechersk on top of the hill overlooking the Dnieper River. They say that it was the Empress of Russia herself, Elisabeth II, that chose this picturesque location for her summer residence in Kyiv during her visit to Ukraine in 1744. She prompted the design to her court architect Rastrelli. You must have heard the name if you visited St. Andrew's Church yet. Yes, the same architect, the same style and the same time. And we, Kyivans, are proud of the fact that we have Rastrelli's masterpieces in our city too. At this instant you may recall Rastrelli's Winter Palace in St. Petersburg or Catherine's Palace in Tsarskoe Selo near that time Russia's capital.
The irony is: the architect never visited Kyiv and another architect, his pupil Michurin, came to our city to work supervising the construction of both St. Andrew's Church and Mariyinsky Palace. The construction started in 1747 and was completed in 1752. But ironically again, the 1744 visit of the Empress to Kyiv was the only one. The first royal person to admire its interiors in the Palace was Catherine II who stayed in Kyiv for 3 months in 1787 on her way to Sevastopol. After she left and resumed her trip to Crimea she made the entry in her diary: "Kyiv is a romantic and beautiful place". Although you might have heard some other opinion of hers, contrary to the above.
Intended originally for the members of the imperial family when they visited Kyiv, in the early 19th century the Palace became the residence of the Governor-Generals. Hence it was also used by General Rayevsky. Yes, Pushkin's friend, the famous hero of the 1812 war with Napoleon. After one of Rayevsky's occult sessions, very popular in aristocratic circles, the Palace caught fire and the first floor (26 rooms), made of wood, was burnt to the ground.
Ridiculously, for some time afterwards, before substantial renovation the Palace belonged to the Kyiv Artificial Mineral Water Company. Can you imagine people taking mineral baths here?Although the rich and in silver baths, as rumours say. And it was in connection with Alexander II 's visit to Kyiv that architect Mayevsky, who was keen to preserve Rastrelli's style, in 1870 was commissioned to do another restoration. And it was at that time that the Royal Palace acquired the name of Maria Alexandrovna, Alexander II's wife. Isn't it interesting that the palace which was meant for Elisabeth, then first used by Catherine was named after Maria (spelled “Mariya” in Ukrainian)?
Maria Alexandrovna gave handsome money for laying out the park in front of the Palace on the site of a parade grounds with endless drills that bothered her. First the park and then the Palace were named Mariyinsky. They say that Maria Alexandrovna frequented Kyiv as a pilgrim, praying in its holy places. The Tsar feeling guilty because he cheated his wife named the Palace Mariyinsky to honour his faithful wife. Whatever the reason since that time the Royal Palace has been more referred to as Mariyinsky.
The Palace witnessed turbulent years of the 1917 October events and Civil War being used as military headquarters. Later it housed an agricultural school and in May 1941 the Shevchenko Museum.
Badly damaged it was restored after WWII. Major restoration took place in the early 80ss of the 20th century. Since that time until recently the palace was the state residence of the President of Ukraine. At present, it's under restoration. It's also needed as the rumours say because of the nearby apartment building controversial construction of 2004 at 9 Hrushevsky str.
Speaking of the Mariyinsky beautiful interiors you will see them renovated most likely in 2010. Believe us they are worth seeing, starting with the first floor White Hall that you can often see on TV news programmes where summits and meetings of official delegations, awards ceremonies, presentations of credentials by ambassadors of foreign countries take place; and finishing with the ground floor rooms (55 all in all), including ones for the press, security and other services. You will be surprised to hear that only seven people kept up servicing the Palace on a day-to-day basis.
The Ukrainian proverb reads: "It's better to once see than three times to hear" (Seeing is believing).
Hopefully you are intrigued to see the Palace on your own eyes. We are also looking forward to its reopening to show you round. So far, enjoy the photos.