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Tauride Palace in St Petersburg

Built in the late 18th century, Tauride Palace is one of St Petersburg's largest and most historically significant palaces. The palace was commissioned by Prince Grigory Potemkin of Tauride (Crimea), and designed by Ivan Starov – the celebrated Russian architect who created the layout for the cities of Yaroslavl, Voronezh, Pskov, Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk, among others. The construction of the palace took six-years and it was considered at the time to be the grandest residence of a nobleman in 18th-century Russia, becoming the building upon which other manors were modeled.

The central two-storey building features a low cupola with a six-columned Doric portico and a three-cornered pediment. The original interior décor can be seen in various rooms in the palace and the domed hall, connected by a 75-meter long gallery to a winter garden, is one of the largest in Russia. In front of the palace are an extensive park and a harbor linking the palace by canal with the Neva River. Prince Potemkin was renowned for the lavish parties he hosted at Tauride Palace, some say to win the affections of Empress Catherine II, better known as Catherine the Great, apparently in vain as Potemkin left St Petersburg to live in Iași in Romania, where he died a few months later.

Following Potemkin's death, Catherine the Great bought the palace and set about having it transformed into her summer townhouse. Commissioned architect, Fyodor Volkov was responsible for making a number of improvements, including the construction of a church in the west wing and a theater in the east wing. As an opera librettist, the Empress was a great supporter of the arts, music and theater. Additions to the gardens of the palace included the Admiralty Pavilion, glass houses, bridges and ironwork fences.

Unfortunately, the interior of the palace suffered damage when Catherine's son Emperor Paul, who reportedly detested his mother, handed the palace over to be used as barracks by his cavalry. In the 19th century, Carlo Rossi and Vasily Stasov refurbished the palace, which was later used as a residence for minor royalty, as well as to host exhibitions and balls. After 1906 the palace was used as the seat of the first Russian parliament and became the venue for the meetings of the successive governmental powers in Russia. In the 1990s it became the home of the Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States – a regional organization supported by former Soviet Republics.


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