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The Magnificent Constantine Palace at Strelna

The historic settlement of Strelna is situated approximately half way between the city of St. Petersburg and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Peterhof. Strelna overlooks the Gulf of Finland, the easternmost segment of the Baltic Sea, which has Finland to the north, Estonia to the south and Russia to the east.

Strelna was chosen in 1714 by Peter the Great as the site for the construction of his summer residence. Jean Baptiste Le Blond was commissioned to design a palace and surrounding park; however, after the gardens were laid out accordingly to Le Blond’s design he died, leaving the project unfinished. A cornerstone for the palace at Strelna was laid in June 1720, but because the site was not deemed suitable for the installation of water fountains, Peter the Great decided to turn his attention to developing Peterhof as the royal summer residence.

Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth, resolved to complete her father’s project when she ascended to the throne in 1741, however, her plans were never realized and the palace at Strelna remained incomplete. The palace was finally completed in 1807 under the ownership of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich and his wife Grand Duchess Feodorovna. After the death of the Duke, the Constantine Palace at Strelna passed to his nephew and remained in the family until the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Following the revolution, the Constantine Palace was used respectively over the years as a child labor commune, a secondary school and a German naval base. Eventually the palace was stripped of all its interior decoration and only the palace walls were left standing. In 2001, Vladimir Putin commissioned the Constantine Palace at Strelna to be renovated as a presidential residence. This was done according to the original designs of Jean Baptiste Le Blond and now includes a splendid park with canals, fountains and drawbridges, as well as a promenade at the seashore.

The equestrian statue of Peter the Great, which was originally installed in 1911 in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, now stands in front of the palace at Strelna. The sculpture of Peter the Great’s family strolling through the garden, as depicted by sculptor Mikhail Shemyakin, stands in the beautifully maintained grounds. A number of rooms in the palace are devoted to the poet Konstantin Romanov, who was born at Strelna. Other rooms which can be viewed by visitors include the Travel Room, Fortune Parlor, Dining Room, Wardrobe Room, Drawing Room and Study.

The renovated palace at Strelna has hosted heads of state during the 300 year St. Petersburg celebrations in 2003, as well as the 32nd G8 summit. Eighteen cottages, each named after a historic Russian town, served as accommodation for dignitaries and the 19th century stables have been transformed into a four-star hotel for other visitors.

A number of other landmarks in the area are interesting to visit. These include a ruined monastery with numerous churches which were used as burial grounds for Russian nobility, as well as several Romanov residences. Certainly a tour of the St. Petersburg area of Russia should include a visit to Strelna – a historic site which has been through many changes, and is finally representative of Peter the Great’s vision of his summer residence.


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