On Saturday we went on a trip out of town to the old Arkhangelskoye State Palace and Estate. A short 30 minute drive from Moscow (if you don’t miss your turning and then get stuck in traffic waiting for President Putin to drive by) it is a nice day out.
From 1703 to 1810 the Estate was owned by the Golitsyns, one of the largest of the noble families in Tsarist Russia. During this time Prince Nikolai Golitsyn commissioned a French architect to build him an elaborate Palace and grounds. However in 1810, before the Palace was finished, it was bought by Prince Nikolai Yusupov, a politician and art collector. Prince Nikolai Yusupov served under several sovereigns including Catherine the Great, he spoke 5 languages and corresponded with Voltaire. While travelling in Europe he purchased a large collection of art for the Tsars and at the same time collected for himself. He altered the Palace in order to better display his 16,000 books and large collection of paintings. The Palace is actually quite modest in size compared to many British stately homes, however this was only one of a number of palaces, factories, and country estates that he owned. The Yusupov family were incredibly wealthy and were richer than the royal Romanovs.
Whilst Prince Nikolai is obviously an extremely interesting character in his own right – in fact the whole of the Yusupov dynasty is fascinating – it is his descendent Count Felix Yusupov that is probably the most well known in the western world as one of those involved in the killing of Rasputin! In 1917 after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Yusupov family left the Palace and Russia, Count Felix eventually ending up in America (his granddaughter and family now live in Greece). The estate is now owned by the Russian MoD who in the 1930s built a large sanatorium there. Fortunately the two main buildings were built in a sympathetic style and do not look amiss in the grounds.
Sadly the house was closed for a few days for filming (what film we don’t know, but there was lots of fake snow on the ground) so we were unable to see inside. In fact the house has been closed, on and off, for several years for restoration. We were told that it would re-open on 11 March after filming had finished but would then close again in September 2020 for another 2 years of restoration. So if you would like to see inside – get there quick! However, even with the palace closed, the Estate itself is a lovely place to visit and wander. There are a handful of cafés, a church that predates the Palace, a nice souvenir shop, a colonnade with the unfinished mausoleum for Prince Felix’s elder brother who died in a duel, and a lovely park and walk along the River Moskva.