Restoration of Mikhaylovsky Castle
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The Mikhailovsky (or Engineers) Castle, St. Petersburg
Photo: Archives

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The state spent 800 million rubles on the restoration of the Mikhaylovsky Castle (branch of the Russian Museum) in St. Petersburg, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Sunday during his tour of the castle.

“We began restoration works in 2000 and now, ten years later, we have completed it, having invested 800 million rubles. We transferred (the castle) to the Russian Museum, the country’s biggest museum and the main custodian of Russian art keeping 400,000 storage units. Specialists say it is five times as many as in the Tretyakov Gallery,” Putin said.

He also recalled his visit of the castle in 1991, with the then mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak and Academician Dmitry Likhachev.

“When we walked around the premises – and now I recollect it with regret – I asked: ‘Anatoly Alexandrovich (Sobchak), why are you doing this? We will never be able to restore it, it is too big and restoration will take huge sums,” Putin recalled.

In his words, 1991 was a very difficult year for the economies of both the country and the city. “It seemed impossible (to restore the castle), but, nonetheless, the decision was taken and Anatoly Sobchak began to work on it,” said the prime minister, recalling the fact that a museum staff member told him that once the museum had been so neglected that it served as a sort of marketplace.

According to Vladimir Gusev, director of the Russian Museum, almost all the premises of the Mikhaylovsky Castle have been restored. In his words, the Georgievsky stateroom for solemn ceremonies have been restored to its initial appearance, with natural Italian marble of various colours.

The next on the agenda is the building of the Central Navy Library, which is in a very poor state endangering its unique collection, said the museum director, adding that the museum faced problems with storing certain exhibits. In his words, the program for the restoration and development of the Russian Museum is expected to be implemented in 2015.

The Mikhaylovsky Castle, copying a Medieval knight’s fortress, was built at the end of the 18th century to the order of Emperor Paul I to house Knights of Malta. After the emperor was killed in this castle, it was not used for decades. In 1822, Tsar Nicholas I decreed to transfer the castle to the Engineering School, among the graduates from which was Russia’s famous writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. During WWII, the castle was damaged by a bomb, which destroyed a number its premises, including the Georgievsky room. In 1994, the castle became part of the Russian Museum and a home for a portrait gallery. As of today, the castle’s northern, western and southern facades, and the inner court have been completely restored. A total of 24 halls on the first and seconds floors are now open for public.

ITAR-TASS
22 February, 2010