The palace, situated on the plot formerly owned by Antonio de Vieira, takes its name from the nearby Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka. Designed for the Empress Elizabeth of Russia in a dazzling Baroque style, the palace came to be known as the most imposing private residence of the Elizabethan era. Some suggest architects Bartolomeo Rastrelli and Mikhail Zemtsov were responsible for the design, though it's yet to be substantiated. The main frontage faces the river and was originally connected to it by a Canal.
Construction works continued for thirteen years and, when finally finished in 1754, the palace was presented by the Empress to her favourite and likely spouse, Count Aleksey Razumovsky. After his death, the palace reverted to the crown, only to be donated by Catherine the Great of Russia to her own favourite, Prince Potemkin, in 1776. The architect Ivan Starov was charged with extensive renovations of the palace in the newly-fashionable Neoclassical style, which was effected in 1778 and 1779. Simultaneously a regular park was laid out by an English garden architect, William Hould.
Upon Potemkin's demise, the palace was restored to the crown and adapted to accommodate Her Imperial Majesty's Cabinet. The last major structural additions were made in the reign of Alexander I, with Quarenghi's construction of the Imperial Cabinet along Nevsky Avenue. The latter structure was formulated in a rigorous Neoclassical style and many people feel that it doesn't complement Rastrelli's original work. Three year later, Alexander I bestowed the palace on his sister, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia – she was later the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin by marriage. Several architects worked on the edifice since then, and its interiors were continuously refurbished.
The future Alexander III of Russia saw new life breathed into the palace, ensuring its refacing in a variety of historic styles. It was there that the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, spent his childhood years. It was also the setting for numerous family festivities, including the wedding of Nicholas's niece Irina Romanova to Prince Felix Yusupov in 1914. It is often said that the family of the last tsar preferred the cozy apartments of Anichkov Palace to the vastness of their official residence, the Winter Palace. His mother, Maria Feodorovna, continued to have right of residence in the palace until the February Revolution, although she had moved to Kiev away from St. Petersburg. After the revolution the Ministry of Provisions moved there instead.
Following the October Revolution, the Anichkov Palace was nationalized and designated the St. Petersburg City Museum. Since 1934, when it was converted into the Young Pioneer Palace, the palace has housed over hundred after-school clubs for more than 10,000 children. While a small museum inside is open to the public at selected times, the edifice is normally not accessible to tourists.
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- Axelrod V.I., Bulankova L.P. Anichkov dvorets – legendy i byli. SPb, 1996.