Anichkov Palace is a former imperial palace at the intersection of Nevsky prospekt and the Fontanka River. The oldest building on Nevsky Prospekt that survived until today, it took its name from the nearby Anichkov Bridge
The construction of the Palace commenced in 1741, under the orders of the Empress Elizabeth I who just started reign the state after the latest palace coup. The project of the various-story building, the form of which was similar to letter ‘H’ (‘N’ in Cyrillic alphabet) was developed by one of the most renowned architects in the Russian capital Mikhail Zemtsov. The building works were finished in baroque style upon the guidance of Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
Back then, Fontanka used to be the outskirts of the city, Nevsky Prospekt was a branch trial. So, it was necessary to erect a mesmerizing construction that could adorn the entrance to the capital. There was a special channel with a small pond at the entrance to the palace dug out near Fontanka. That accounts for the unique location of the palace which is situated sideways to Nevsky Prospect. The palace with its beautiful garden, fountains and flowerbeds which resembled the Palace in Peterhof, was presented by the Empress Elizabeth I to her favorite (and likely spouse), Aleksey Razumovsky. Thereafter, the palace used to be a nice wedding present for aristocrats. After the Empress Catherine II’s enthronement, the palace reverted to the crown – the Empress bought the Anichkov Palace from Alexey’s brother Kirill and later donated the palace to her closest favorite Prince Grigory Potemkin. Another part of her present was 100 thousand roubles for fitting out the palace ‘to his own taste’. As a result, the palace undergone reconstruction in 1776-1778 supervised by the architect Starov and turned into a great example of the classical architecture in a strict sense. The building was renewed and considerably altered: for instance, various-story structure as well as stucco decorations were eliminated, and the pond was covered up with sand.
At the end of the XVIII century the palace was restored to the crown and adapted to accommodate Her Imperial Majesty's Cabinet. Later, though, the Imperial Cabinet occupied the new building which was erected on Fontanka Embankment along Nevsky Prospect by Quarenghi. Quarenghi’s construction obstructed the overview of the palace from Anichkov Bridge.
Alexander I bestowed the palace on his sister, Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna of Russia and her groom Prince Friedrich Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin as a wedding present. The future Russian Emperor Nicholas I moved into the palace in 1817. At that time, Carlo Rossi supervised architectural re-planning and reconstruction of the interiors of the palace. He also instilled the palace and its garden into a grand architectural ensemble on Alexandrinsky Square (now known as Ostrovskogo Square). After Nicholas I ascended the throne, he often stayed at Anichkov Palace. It was also a place where royal balls and banquets were held. In 1837, at the year when the Winter Palace was being reconstructed after the fire, august family was living in the Anichkov Palace for a while. After the Emperor’s death in 1855, the palace was renamed ‘Nikolaevsky’ but locals kept on calling it ‘Anichkov’. The palace was home for the future Emperor Alexander II, the son of Nicholas I who was educated and brought up by the Russian poet Zhukovsky, Pushkin’s friend. Speaking of, Zhukovsky had his own flat in the palace. He also taught Russian to the Empress Aleksandra Fyodorovna. On October 23, 1836 the poet Alexander Pushkin was invited to Imperial audience, where Nicholas I insisted on his refraining from duel.
In 1841 Nicholas I bestowed the palace to his son Alexander for his wedding, quarter-century later the palace was granted by Alexander II to his son Alexander III. Being afraid of terror attacks to the Winter Palace, Alexander III preferred to stay at the Anichkov Palace and made it his official residence. At that time a blank wall was constructed from the side of the square.
Following the October revolution, the Bolshevik government nationalized the Anichkov palace and designated it the Saint Petersburg City Museum. Since 1925 the palace was closed. In 1934 it was decided to establish "The Palace of Pioneers" there, and after the reconstruction on February 12th, 1937 it was opened. During the Great Patriotic War there was a surgical hospital at the palace. It functioned the first winter during the Siege of Leningrad and housed a lot of wounded people. In the spring 1942 the hospital was moved out of the palace, and ‘The Palace of Pioneers’ welcomed pioneers of Leningrad again.