Where Is the Winter Palace?
The Winter Palace is in Saint Petersburg, Russia, it was the official residence of the Russian monarchs. It was built in the mid-18th Century by the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. The architect of the palace was Rastrelli and the proportions of the building are so good that its huge size is not immediately apparent.
Saint Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire from 1703 to 1917, when the capital was moved to Moscow. It is the second largest city in Russia and was built by Peter the Great, against his minister’s advice, on unsuitable terrain and with a terrifying death toll in building laborers. The site at the mouth of the River Neva was marshy.
Its great advantage was that it was a vital link with Europe and Russia’s only outlet to the Baltic. The design of the city is magnificent. Its contacts with Europe brought its citizens more freedom of thought. The first blood of the Russian Revolution was shed outside the walls of the Winter Palace, a fact which gives it great symbolic importance to the Russian workers.
Today, the restored palace forms part of a complex of buildings housing the Hermitage Museum. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great’s original Winter Palace, the present and fourth Winter Palace was built and altered almost continuously between the late 1730s and 1837, when it was severely damaged by fire and immediately rebuilt. The storming of the palace in 1917 as depicted in Soviet paintings and Eisenstein’s 1927 film October became an iconic symbol of the Russian Revolution.
The palace was constructed on a monumental scale that was intended to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. From the palace, the Tsar ruled over 22,400,000 square kilometers (8,600,000 sq mi) (almost 1/6 of the Earth’s landmass) and over 125 million subjects by the end of the 19th century. It was designed by many architects, most notably Bartolomeo Rastrelli, in what came to be known as the Elizabethan Baroque style.
The green-and-white palace has the shape of an elongated rectangle, and its principal façade is 215 metres (705 ft) long and 30 m (98 ft) high. Following a serious fire, the palace’s rebuilding of 1837 left the exterior unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned in a variety of tastes and styles, leading the palace to be described as a “19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style”.
In 1905, the Bloody Sunday massacre occurred when demonstrators marched toward the Winter Palace, but by this time the Imperial Family had chosen to live in the more secure and secluded Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, and returned to the Winter Palace only for formal and state occasions. Following the February Revolution of 1917, the palace was for a short time the seat of the Russian Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky. Later that same year, the palace was stormed by a detachment of Red Army soldiers and sailors—a defining moment in the birth of the Soviet state.
The Winter Palace is said to contain 1,500 rooms, 1,786 doors and 1,945 windows. The principal façade is 500 ft (150 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) high. The ground floor contained mostly bureaucratic and domestic offices, while the second floor was given over to apartments for senior courtiers and high-ranking officials. The principal rooms and living quarters of the Imperial Family are on the first floor, the piano nobile.
The great state rooms, used by the court, are arranged in two enfilades, from the top of the Jordan Staircase. The original Baroque suite of the Tsaritsa Elizabeth running west, fronting the Neva, was completely redesigned in 1790–93 by Giacomo Quarenghi. He transformed the original enfilade of five state rooms into a suite of three vast halls, decorated with faux marble columns, bas-reliefs and statuary.
A second suite of state rooms running south to the Great Church was created for Catherine II, between 1787–95, Quarenghi added a new eastern wing to this suite which contained the great throne room, known as St George’s Hall, which linked the Winter Palace to Catherine’s less formal palace, the Hermitage, next door. This suite was altered in the 1820s when the Military Gallery was created from a series of small rooms, to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon.
This gallery, which had been conceived by Alexander I, was designed by Carlo Rossi and was built between June and November 1826 under Nicolas I; it was inaugurated on 25 October 1826. For the 1812 Gallery, the Tsar commissioned 332 portraits of the generals instrumental in the defeat of France. The artist was the Briton George Dawe, who received assistance from Alexander Polyakov and Wilhelm August Golicke.
Nicholas I was also responsible for the creation of the Battle Galleries, which occupy the central portion of the Palace Square façade. They were redesigned by Alexander Briullov to commemorate the Russian victories prior to 1812. Interestingly, immediately adjacent to these galleries celebrating the French defeat, were rooms where Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg, Napoleon’s step-grandson and the Tsar’s son-in-law, lived during the early days of his marriage.