This massive building near Siny Most (Blue Bridge) over the Moika River, limiting St. Isaac’s Square from the South is justifiably attributed to the outstanding historical and architectural monuments. Even here, in the magnificent St. Petersburg, not many buildings can be compared with it to beauty and originality of interiors, their preservation, and abundance of bright names and events in their biography.
The first object of great merit by the architect Andrei Stackenschneider, who was young at that time, marked the appearance of the talented and extremely prolific master in the urban planning practice of Russian capital. Within 30 years of tireless work, A.I. Stackenschneider (1802-1865) has decorated St. Petersburg, its suburbs and other cities with numerous buildings and new halls in the imperial residences, grand-ducal palaces, detached houses of rich and noble people, churches, summer houses... Andrei Ivanovich, a grandson of a German Russian migrant, leather-dresser, a son of a miller, spoke Russian with abiding and persistent accent, but he gave Russia all his talents, all his power in hide and hair. “An Architect of Imperial Court”, an Academician and Professor of architecture, a teacher of great talent followers, he became one of the few who established a visage of the Northern Palmyra and ways of Russian architecture development in the middle of the nineteenth century.
There, in the works of Stackenschneider and many of his contemporaries, a new architectural style has been established. This style replaced classicism: eclecticism or eclectic, a later term is historicism. Its essence is expressed in absence of strict canons, a limited set of forms and techniques for creativity. On the contrary, eclectic involves the use of enormous wealth of ideas accumulated over the long creative activity of mankind, and new opportunities through the use of materials and structures, which did not exist previously or were not used widely. The author was given the opportunity to select of this bottomless well anything that was in the best client’s interests and met the creative design. (The notion of “eclectic” itself comes from the Greek word “èklegejn” that means “to choose”.) But the principle of new style during its golden age was not just a choice, but a “smart choice”. Erudition, imagination and taste served as a measure. Unboundness of a range led to unexpected, but organic aesthetic effects and harmony of dissimilar elements. Another important feature of eclectic is conformity of building and its premises to specified functions, the unity of content and form. A.I. Stackenschneider and his followers each time looked for the optimum compositional and structural solutions, taking care not only about the beauty and diversity of the layout, decoration materials, but primarily about people, their physical and emotional comfort. As a result, architecture became more humane and responsive to human needs. So, in 1845, the Grand Duchess finally received the priceless paternal gift and moved to the Palace with her family, with a large number of servants. The Palace was assigned the title “Mariinsky” by a special Emperor’s decree. A new center of high life has grown up in the capital. The members of the widespread august family often visited it, and Nicholas I, according to Anatoly Koni, “every day at certain hours was walking an alderman's pace in a slow and stately manner” from the Winter Palace to the Mariinsky Palace to see the favorite child and the first grandson who was named after his grandfather Nicholas. The high-blooded aristocrats served at the “little” grand-ducal court: Deputy Master of the Horse, Count Matvey Vielgorsky, Lady-in-waiting Countess Tolstaya, adjutants, Duke of Baryatinsky and Duke of Bagration. All Petersburg nobility visited the welcome receptions, balls, masquerades and concerts at the Mariinsky Palace. Duke of Leuchtenberg loved the community of scientists; Maria Nikolaevna surrounded herself with the artists. The writers Peter Vyazemsky, Vasily Zhukovsky, Vladimir Odoevsky, a University Rector Pyotr Pletnev, an architect Andrei Stackenschneider, artists, actors, singers, musicians and composers constantly received her invitations. Matvey Vielgorsky masterfully played amazing Stradivarius cello, Vladimir Sologub composed the comedy “A Civil Servant” to perform in the Palace. Of course, the owners of the Palace were engaged not only in family’s entertainments, joys and concerns. They both played a prominent role in the public life of the Russian Empire.
Duke Maximilian-Eugene-Joseph-Napoleon of Leuchtenberg (1817-1852) was an unusual figure among the Romanovs. His father, Eugene Beauharnais, a nurseling and companion of Napoleon Bonaparte, was married to the Bavarian King’s daughter and founded a Duchy, was created the Royal Highness title. Max's mother, Amalia-Augusta, was considered to be one of the most educated women in Europe and gave children an excellent education. Maximilian served in the Bavarian army, he commanded a Cavalry Regiment. In 1837, the King sent him to Russia with military and diplomatic mission to attend a large Cavalry maneuvers. The Prince was introduced to the imperial family, and made a favorable impression. Both Maximilian and Maria fell in love at first sight. Also the idea of marriage immediately came up with her mind. She did not want under any circumstances to divide the usual fate of the Royal House brides who had to leave their homeland and change faith. Maria hoped to persuade Max to take Russian citizenship with her parents’ help. That's the way it was happened. A year later, the Duke returned to Russia. On December 5, 1839, they were engaged, and on June 2, 1839, they got married. Maximilian agreed to live in St. Petersburg, to serve in the Russian army, to baptize and bring up children according to the Christian Orthodox faith. The bride's happy father heaped his son-in-law with monarchial favors. Maximilian was awarded almost all of Russian and Polish orders, received the title of Imperial Highness, promoted to major general. He was appointed the Chief of the Imperial Guard Hussar Regiment and the Honorary Member of the Academy of Sciences. Later, he commanded the 1st Division of the Light Brigade, became Commander-in-Chief of a mining engineers corps, was a President of the Academy of Arts. Nikolay Pavlovich declared unofficially the Bavarian to be his fifth son. Duke's propensity to science became surprise for courtiers. He was deeply interested in the galvanoplastics, electrochemical metallurgy, and mineralogy. Maximilian organized a laboratory in the Winter Palace, then moved it to the Guard's Headquarters and conducted experiments there. The Academician Boris Jacobi highly appreciated the scientific achievements of this “eagle of passage” and believed that his works “amounted to an era in galvanoplastics”. In addition, the Duke has collected a unique collection of minerals, made the revision of the Mining Academy Charter to improve the educational process, inspected mountain factories in the Urals and submitted to the Tsar a report on their condition. His Highness also demonstrated remarkable entrepreneur skills. He started a factory behind the Obvodny Channel, not far from the Baltic railway station, where the bronze and copper-nickel casting with gilding by electrolysis was manufactured. The factory completed the order for casting for almost all sculptures for arch barrels and dome drum of the Saint Isaac's Cathedral. First Russian steam locomotives to Tsarskoselskaya and the Warsaw railways were also built there. The Zavodskaya Street, on which the factory buildings still remain, had been called Leuchtenbergskaya before 1917. Maximilian also did not forget the family’s interests. He sold part of his Italian possessions, bought the estate in Tambov province for money made from the sale, and made it to be highly profitable one. Maximilian left good memories about himself also as a person of good works. He became a trustee of the Society for the Relief of Poor created in 1846 and developed vigorous activities there. The Society collected considerable capital through donations. He bought houses for the poor for these funds, organized workshops for manufacturing handicrafts and stores for selling them. The first in Europe, a free clinic for the poor was founded on the former Maksimilianovsky lane at the corner of Voznesensky Prospekt is a prototype of modern polyclinics. This clinic bears the name “Maksimilianovskaya” to this day.
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (1819-1876) not only shined at the noble balls as well, but was engaged in the social activities, then - in the state activities. Even before her marriage, from 1835, she became a member of the patriotic society, arranged the meetings of its Board in her Winter Palace apartments. The society established Sunday schools, where girls were taught various skills. Then the Patriotic Institute of noble maidens passed under control of the Grand Duchess. According to the Decree of Nicholas I dated November 5, 1852, his daughter replaced her deceased spouse as a President of the Academy of Arts and jealously led it until her death. She established Orthodox icon-painting school, raised funds for the establishment of the Old Russian Art Museum, introduced a new Academy Charter, according to which the teaching of general educational courses was permitted, “to raise the overall level of development and education of Russian artists and give them the opportunity to compete in many ways with their foreign counterparts”. The Emperor's permission to send graduates of the Academy abroad for improving in art is also her merit. Maria Nikolaevna was not satisfied with amount allocated by the Emperor to the Academy upon her petitions. Many things have been done for her personal funds. Every year she replenished the library and museum with her gifts, donated the “amounts of hospitality expenses” that were due to her as a President to support needy students. She spent a thousand rubles annually for awards given for the best exhibits of the academic exhibitions. When the Grand Duchess took a title of chairperson of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, first she gave several rooms in her own Palace to this Society. Then she achieved that Society inhabited the House on Bolshaya Morskaya Street, gave it her own art library and many valuable items for the museum. She also established a library at her own expense, a museum and shops of the School of Drawing for Manufacturing. Maximilian and Maria managed the Academy, and to some extent also managed the public policy in the field of art, with full knowledge of case. They were artistically gifted minds, could skillfully draw and paint, and were subtly versed in painting. They were famed as outstanding cultivated collectors and art patrons. The Duke owned an art gallery in Munich, collected by his father. There were paintings by Raphael, Bellini, Van Dyck, Velazquez, Murillo, and other great masters in the Gallery. Most of these masterpieces moved to the Mariinsky Palace. In Russia, Maximilian replenished the collection by works of Aivazovsky, Bryullov, and Neff, patronized to their authors. Maria Nikolaevna showed impeccable taste in decorating the walls of the Palace with the great works of Italian, German, French, Dutch and Russian painters. This was added by the family heirlooms, jewelry of Empress Josephine and Maria Nikolaevna from her luxurious dowry, collections of arms of Napoleon Bonaparte and Eugene Beauharnais … Thereby, thanks to best offers of spouses, the richest art collection was built. The contemporaries admired the magnificent Palace at Siny Most nothing less than its hosts. “The Duke of Leuchtenberg was not only one of the nicest men in Europe, but was also one of the most enlightened and educated Princes ... I have never met any person with such an extensive and accurate flair of all noble and beautiful” (Vladimir Sologub); “She was undoubtedly rich and generously gifted by nature, combining striking beauty with a mind of fine texture, friendly nature and great heart.” (Anna Tyutcheva said about the Grand Duchess). Her sister Olga also admired Maria: “Her beauty of special kind combined austerity of classic face and unusual facial expressions. Features of her forehead, nose and mouth had absolutely classical regularity, her shoulders and chest were perfectly set up, and her waist was so thin that a hoop of her Greek hairstyles could embrace it. She had a congenital feel of beauty; she was attracted to the beautiful.” The Duke and the Grand Duchess had six children (excluding a girl who died in infancy). Parents seriously and thoughtfully cared about their upbringing and education, raised them in the heart atmosphere, but it was a typical Romanov’s spartan atmosphere. Their eldest son Nikolay Maximilianovich recalled: “We were far from to be molly-coddled… The rooms, especially a bedroom, were cold (10-12 degrees). We slept always on field beds, in summer – on mattresses stuffed with hay, and were covered with only quilt.” Nicholas I personally watched to his grandchildren that they were regularly engaged in gymnastics, had the officers' bearing and were trained in drilling, flawlessly mastered rifle techniques. They mastered “frunt” (marсhing) under the guidance of “dyadkas” (tutors) who were the retired non-commissioned officers. On the plus side, the best teachers, University professors were invited for their education. Especially for Nicholas who inherited his father's craving for sciences. The second son, Sergei, was fond of painting and music, so the artist K. von Liphart was responsible for his education. The memoirists noted that the children of the Duke and Duchess received a good upbringing and education. It should seem happiness was to permanently settle in this “magic castle” as Anna Tyutcheva named the Palace at Siny Most. But she also told in her memories and diary that mutual love of Maria and Maximilian had not guaranteed marriage-bed and family harmony. The main cause of their relationship break-up, in her view, was guilty atmosphere of haut monde when the matters of the heart were not discountenanced by public opinion, but rather deemed very nearly to be a valor. This atmosphere also influenced the unusually attractive and harmonious couple, which everyone admired. But if the petty intrigues of the Duke were apparently light by nature, then adulterous relationship of the Grand Duchess with Earl Gregory Stroganoff turned out to be deep. Some memoirists and researchers even believe that the real father of the Duke of Leuchtenberg’s younger children was actually Stroganoff.
Duke Maximilian died very early. He caught a cold during inspection of mountain factories in the Urals; he fell ill and could not recover. He died at night on October 20, 1852, in the Mariinsky Palace. Two years later, his widow entered the morganatic marriage with Grigory Alexandrovich Stroganoff (1823-1878), keeping secret from her parents. Everyone in the Romanov’s family and in the social circles was sure that Nicholas I would have never agreed to the official marriage of his daughter with one of his people, even well-born one. Make things worse: Maria was threatened with imprisonment in a monastery, and the Count - with casting into exile to the Caucasus. Nothing has changed after the death of Nikolay Pavlovich in 1856: Dowager Empress declaimed against of this marriage acknowledgment, and she was supported by many of Romanovs. The new Tsar, Alexander II, sympathized with his sister, but could not go against his mother’s will. Maria Nikolaevna and her husband and children became go abroad increasingly, having failed to overcome dynastic prejudices. However, secular and public responsibilities from time to time called upon her to St. Petersburg. Here, in her own Palace, she died after a long and severe illness on February 9, 1876.
The descendants of the Duke and the Grand Duchess inherited Mariinsky Palace. But their daughters Maria and Eugenia had been married by that time and fluttered out the parent nest. Nikolay Maximilianovich, a prominent scientist and military, settled abroad for family reasons. On August 24, 1877, Sergei died in the war for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire Yoke. The Romanovs’ family survived the first death in battle. The two youngest, Eugene and George, remained in the Palace with their families. But they could only squander the inheritance, failed to maintain the huge building, and were forced to sell it to the Treasury for three million rubles.
On July 14, 1884, Alexander III signed a decree, which declared the Mariinsky Palace the place for the National Council, the Stationery Office, the Committee of Ministers and the Office to take applications to the name of His Imperial Majesty. The building retaining the old name was new-furnished and equipped under the direction of architect L.L. Petersen. On February 11, 1885, the Palace was consecrated solemnly as a center of Russian statehood. The entire august family headed by the Emperor attended the ceremony.
V.D. Nabokov, the famous writer’s father, who served in the Stationery Office, and later was a member of the Central Committee of Party of Cadets (Constitutional Democratic Party), brightly outlined the situation that prevailed in those times in the Palace: “At that time, the Mariinsky Palace was the sanctuary of the higher bureaucracy... There the unusually strapped chamber-lackeys who were wearied in embroidered liveries and white stockings, were moving noiselessly carrying tea and coffee through the magnificent halls of the Palace covered with velvet carpets, decorated with heavy fabrics, arranged with gilded furnishings. Ssome excited solemnity on the days of the plenary meetings (on Mondays) dominated there. Impressive figures of the largely elderly civil servants heaving ribbons and orders, - the military uniforms and court-dress coats, - unexpansive talks - all that created some atmosphere of unavailability, isolation from ignoble everyday life.”
The National Council was an institution engaged in discussion and preparation of bills and had the right only to express opinion about bills and some administrative cases assigned to its competence. The autocrat of All Russia could not count with these views at all. The Committee of Ministers also had no real power. It existed only for preliminary consideration of executive cases, authorized by the supreme power. The situation was changed under the influence of the first Russian Revolution: autocracy had to make concessions to democratic forces and introduce elements of the constitutional system. The State Duma – the lower House of Parliament – was established under the Imperial manifesto as of October 17, 1905 “The Manifesto on the Improvement of the State Order”, and the Council of State became the Upper House. According to the Decree of Nicholas II, the membership was expanded to 215 people. Unlike previous years, now the journalists and “other stakeholders” were permitted to visit the Council meetings.
There was no hall with so many seats in the Palace. Rotunda, where until the Council was hold, could not contain so many of those present. It was therefore decided to build a new, spacious meeting room. A special Commission chaired by Secretary of Baron Yu.A. Ikskul von Gildenbandt announced closed competition. Four renowned architects were invited for participation in it. This commission also requested and received from Russian diplomatic mission information about the parliamentary halls arrangement in England, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Prussia, North American States, and France. The participants were invited to take into account these detailed descriptions in their projects.
The winner of this competition became Leontiy Nikolaevich Benois (1856-1928), known for numerous buildings in the spirit of classical traditions. He invited for cooperation the talented architects M.M. Peretyatkovich and L.L. Schroeter, Professor B.K. Pravdzik who was the best specialist in St. Petersburg in heating and ventilating systems. For the sake of saving money the hall was built on the place of the winter garden, one of the best Stackenschneider’s achievements. “On June 26, 1907, we started to destroy the old building and clear space for newly erected structure”, Benois wrote. - The foundation-stone was laid on July 21. Works were nonstop the entire fall and winter until the end of all the works on October 15, 1908, which day is assigned the consecration of the building and a new hall opening.” That day for the first time, a meeting of the National Council was held in the Great Hall. The participants were impressed by the huge premise arrangement constructed and equipped with the latest technology.
Half of the members of the reformed National Council were appointed by the Tsar; the other half was elected from curias including the Academy of Sciences and Universities. By virtue of this procedure, the majority of the seats in the upper House were occupied by retired ministers, governors, military commanders and other leaders, pleasing to the emperor. But among them, especially in the elected part of the Council, there were many interesting personalities who have left an appreciable trace in the country's history. These include outstanding scientists: V.I. Vernadsky – “Lomonosov of the twentieth century”, A.A. Shakhmatov – philologist, who laid the foundations for the historical study of the Russian language and textology as a science, A.S. Lappo-Danilevsky – a researcher of politics, economy and culture of medieval Ancient Rus, P.P. Semenov-Tyan-Shansky – a great geographer, organizer of expeditions in Central Asia; famous lawyers: N.S. Tagantsev – a brilliant connoisseur of criminal law, M.M. Kovalevsky – an author of scientific publications and lecturer, whose public speaking has enjoyed wide popularity in Europe and America, A.F. Koni – a star of jurisprudence, “a virtuoso of virtue”, in the words of his colleague; famous warriors: Admiral I.A. Shestakov – a pioneer of national steam fleet, engineer General Eduard Totleben – hero of Sevastopol defense in the Crimean War and of the siege of Plevna in Russian-Turkish War; major statesmen K.P. Pobedonostsev and S.Yu. Witte... The emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II, Prime Ministers, including P.A. Stolypin, regularly participated in the Council meetings.
The members-reformers of the National Council have repeatedly honked off the supreme power with requirements of the abolition of the death penalty, amnesty for political prisoners, equal protection of all citizens, fair settlement of worker and peasant issues, etc. But the majority in the upper House were retrogrades who were rejecting progressive initiative of their colleagues and members of the State Duma. Already after the collapse of the monarchy, Alexander Guchkov, a leader of the party of Octyabrists, named among the three nests of reactionary forces in Russia along with court camarilla and the united nobility “a group of bureaucrats who have settled down in the National Council as a right-wing”.
In the days of the February Revolution, the imperial power bodies located in the Mariinsky Palace ceased to exist. Their place was taken by the interim Government that was here until events of July 1917, its secretariat, Small Council – a regular meeting of the comrades (Deputies) Ministers, as well as various commissions, which occupied all the halls. From August 7, All-Russian Commission for Elections to the Constituent Assembly began operating.
V.D. Nabokov who was a Managing Director of the interim Government at that period recalled: “The Mariinsky Palace was subjected to radical “simplification”. Crowds of shaggy, casually-dressed people in jackets and “kosovorotkas” (Russian shirts with collar fastened at side), who had very proletarian look, flushed in its luxurious halls. The glorious lackeys, changing their liveries to gray jackets, lost all of their representativeness. A solemn performance was replaced by shrill vanity”.
The first structure of Provisional Government, one can say, of the color of Russian liberalism: the Prince, a direct descendant of the Rurik dynasty, head of the zemsky (district) movement Georgy Lvov was the President of the Government; the permanent leader of the cadets, “soul and brain of all bourgeois political circles”, the famous scientist-historian Pavel Milyukov was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A leader of Octyabrists, hereditary rich industrialist, extremely influential in the military-industrial circles Alexander Guchkov was the Military and Naval Minister… According to contemporaries, other members of the Cabinet also possessed high business, intellectual and moral properties: N.V. Nekrasov, A.I. Shingarev, M.I. Tereshchenko, A.I. Konovalov. They were joined by the only Socialist in the bourgeois Government, a popular lawyer Alexander Kerensky – the Minister of Justice who was at the same time a friend of the Chair of the Petrograd Soviet of Deputies of Workers and Soldiers.
At the beginning the Provisional Government enjoyed wide support from various social classes – from gentle aristocracy to the right-wing Social Democrats and Social Revolutionaries. However, it became clear to thoughtful people even in March: this Government is doomed. French Ambassador in Russia Maurice Paleologue after the first meetings with the new leaders of country recorded in his diary: “None of the people who is currently in power, has political vision, determination, fearlessness and courage, which requires such a terrible situation.” And further: “one and the same impression of patriotism, mind, and honesty remains for everyone. But what they have exhaustless look from fatigue and worries! A task, which they have undertaken, is clearly above their strength”.
Indeed, the Provisional Government has failed to solve any pressing problems, which became tangle of concerns and has made life miserable for workers. It rapidly lost the allies, while simple and clear Bolsheviks’ slogans gathered more force under the red flags. This course of events would inevitably lead to armed rising and civil war. To avoid this danger, the democratic parties have set up an interim Council of the Russian Republic (Pre-parliament). It should “decide issue about power”, form a Government credible for all influential segments of society. Pre-parliament operated at the Mariinsky Palace. It was led by the Council headed by the founder of the right-wing Social Revolutionaries Party N.D. Avksentjev.
The first Pre-parliament meeting was held on October 7, 1917. However, all hopes of its organizers were crossed by the Bolshevik group’s Declaration, which the Chairman of the Petrograd Council Lev Trotsky announced from the tribune of the Great Hall: “We, the Social Democrats group of Bolsheviks, declare: we have nothing in common with this Government of national treason and counter-revolutionary connivance, we don't want, either directly or indirectly, to cover a single day of work murderous for people that takes place behind the official scenes.” After the Trotsky’s speech, the Bolshevik group in full left the Pre-parliament, “making it unsustainable” (an American columnist John Reed).
The Pre-parliament continued its existence, but participants of the “waiting room”, as ironically this institution was called, were sinking in empty discussions, internal contradictions and failed to oppose anything to the acts of Leninist party. On the morning of October 25 (7 November, new style) the revolutionary soldiers and sailors began to surround the Mariinsky Palace, around noon they disarmed cadets who guarded it, stationed their guards and offered those present to clean room. All obeyed.
Initially the Soviets placed the Supreme Council of National Economy, formed by a decree of VTsIK (All-Russian Central Executive Committee) and Sovnarkom (Council of People's Commissars) on December 18, 1917, in the Mariinsky Palace. The Bureau of Supreme Council of National Economy was composed of prominent personalities of the Bolshevik Party: N.I. Bukharin, Yu. Larin (M.A. Lurie), V.P. Milyutin, A. Lomov (G.I. Oppokov), G.Ya. Sokolnikov, and chaired by N. Osinsky (V.V. Obolensky) as a People’s Commissar for the Organization and Management of Мanufacturing. At the first meeting of the Bureau of the Supreme Council of National Economy on December 27, the head of the Soviet Government, V.I. Lenin, delivered a speech about the need for “extraordinary revolutionary measures” against the threat of hunger, sabotage, and total ruin. This episode is marked by a commemorative plaque on the facade of the building.
In March 1918, after moving of the Sovnarkom and other headquarters to Moscow, the Palace was turned into barracks for new formations of the Red Army. Then it was occupied by various agencies: Transbalt, Sevzapvod, Printing house, in 1928-1929 it was occupied by the joint-stock company “Soviet tourist”. In the autumn of 1929, the Leningrad branch of Industry Academy of USSR Supreme Council of national economy was opened there, hereinafter named as I.V. Stalin Industry Academy under Narkomtyazhmash (People's Commissariat of Heavy Engineering Industry). For 10 years, thousands of “red directors” and other commanders of production, workers-stakhanovtsys (efficient performers) passed training here. In 1940, listeners of the higher courses of the Lenin Central Committee of the CPSU (b) packed the lecture halls and residence halls in the Palace. History gave them only one academic year.
The beginning of Great Patriotic War on June 22, 1941, forced city authorities to create volunteer formations subject to approval of Supreme High Command General Headquarters, as military personnel could not withstand the onslaught of German troops. The front was rapidly approaching Leningrad. On June 28, the Supreme High Command General Headquarters approved the Plan for the Organization of the Leningrad People's Emergency Volunteer Corps (LANO was provided this name on July 4). On June 29, recording of volunteers began. On June 30, the military Council was created (Army Commander Major-General A.I. Subbotin, the members of the Council, Brigade Commissar N.I. Zhmakin and Head of the Instructors Organizing Department of Leningrad City Committee L.M. Antjufeev), headquarter (Chief N.N. Nikitin) and Political Department were created (the Chief is the Head of the Military division of the City Committee of the CPSU (b) (All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks) I.A. Verkhoglaz). On the same day, they met at the Mariinsky Palace and began to address the challenge, which in general met successfully in the most difficult conditions.
10 infantry divisions, 7 partisan regiments, 16 artillery machine-gun, a large number of fighter and marching battalions, detachments of special forces, totaling over 200 thousand people were sent to the front and rear of the enemy. Volunteer military formations played a huge role in the defense of Leningrad.
On September 23, 1941, LANO divisions received numbers of regular forces of the Red Army. Army headquarter was disbanded, the Military Council was abolished. But the hundred days’ history of Leningrad People's Emergency Volunteer Corps should be never-to-be-forgotten. The commemorative plaque on the façade of the Mariinsky Palace also recalls about it. Earlier, on September 17-18, 4 battalions of recovering from the suburbs of Leningrad were redeployed here. Soon, their number would increase. In official documents at that time, the Palace became known as the “town” of Brigade 1 of the convalescents”. The wounded, shell shocked, frozen, sick soldiers and commanders were sent here from hospitals, they were finished treating and returned to the front. Only for the first year of the war, the Leningrad front received 92.2 percent of the soldiers stationed in recovering battalions – over 135,000 people. In addition, 40 percent of rank-and-file Red Army soldiers during treatment passed combat training and became operators of automatic machines, machine gunners, mortar gunners, tank fighters, and junior commanders. Under the blockade conditions, when it was very difficult to get a reinforcement from the big land, and the results of labor of people in white robes and military officers who served in the Mariinsky Palace, had a great deal of importance to the upcoming Victory.
In 1944, soon after full liberation of Leningrad from enemy blockade ring, the workers-repairers, builders and renovators came to the Mariinsky Palace. They dealt with the destructions caused by bombing and shelling. Two heavy shells and about 40 incendiary bombs fell to the building. On December 6, 1943, the Great Hall was suffered especially strong damage. The shell struck the glass roof and exploded, breaking the brick wall behind the Presidium. The palisander door of the red room also suffered from fire, caused by an incendiary bomb. The painting of the Square Hall was partially destroyed. Internal utility facilities became worn. In addition to the elimination of war damage, substantial restructuring of the interiors was made. It was decided to move the Leningrad City Council of Workers' Deputies, its permanent body – the Executive Committee – to the Palace. In eastern wing of the building, a marble staircase was erected leading to the lower-right of the lobby for convenience of the new owners of the building. The rooms were changed to the offices. Architect M.A. Shepelevsky managed the works. From 1945 onwards, the Mariinsky Palace has been the place of the city representative authorities. In recent decades, the body of these authorities has undergone many changes. In March-April 1990, free multi-mandate elections were held in the City on Neva, and on 3 April, the first session of the Leningrad City Council of People's Deputies was opened.
On August 22, 1991, after the coup attempt that failed, the Tricolor flag – the new national flag of Russia – hoisted over the Mariinsky Palace. On 6 September, by the wish of the majority of the citizens expressing their opinions, the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation gave back the City its historical name, and the City Council became known as Saint Petersburg Council. As a result of the crisis of September-October 1993, it was dissolved by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation as of 21 December “On the Reorganization of St. Petersburg Public Authorities”. In 1994, the deputies of the St. Petersburg City Assembly were elected. They gathered at the first meeting on December 14, and renamed the City Assembly to the Legislative Assembly. This decision is justified in full. In accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, representative body of the subject, such as St. Petersburg, has the right to make local laws that are binding on its territory. Thus, the Legislative Assembly has attained the status of the local Parliament.
Besides the Assembly, the Saint Petersburg Electoral Commission is located there in the Mariinsky Palace. The years pass rapidly, and the monumental building at Siny Most looks almost the same as in 1845, when its doors were first opened. As for the interiors, they are a shadow of the former ones. The descendants of the Grand Duchess and the Duke inherited the art collections, heirlooms, historic rarities, and divided them among themselves, partially evacuated abroad. Items remaining in Russia mostly were nationalized and became exhibits of the Hermitage, the Russian Museum and other public storages. Some things were gone in times of great disruptions.
When the Grand Palace was adapted to the needs of the Empire high officials, the personal apartments of former owners of “Magic Castle” were completely changed. Only somewhere the plafonds, fireplaces, separate elements of decoration and decors were undamaged. After the proletarian revolution, many premises were affected, including ballrooms, transformed into the Red Army barracks, then a hotel for tourists, later - lecture halls and residence halls of Academy audience. Rough, sometimes barbaric alterations were made in order to please Communist ideology. It is truth, yet in 1938, then in 1940s some restoration work were carried out, but they were carried out occasionally. Only since late 1960s, these works have been carried out consistently and systematically. The masters working with scientific methods and high professionalism eliminate the destruction inflicted by time and people, restore the lost, remove distortions, which were introduced in interior design at different times. Thanks to the work of specialists and caring of the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputies, who annually allocate significant funds for the maintenance and repair of the Palace, its staterooms and living rooms were restored to their youth, began to shine with original beauty.
The Palace is far from being in a museum mode and is used not only for the work of the institutions. Different conferences, symposia, congresses of local, nationwide and international levels are often held in it. Eexhibitions, concerts and ceremonies are arranged here. Every day, the groups of tourists and sightseers see over the building. A flow of high foreign guests does not run out. Actually every week, heads of states, parliaments and governments, twin-cities delegations, many countries and international organizations visit the Mariinsky Palace, political and public figures, diplomats, main financiers, businessmen meet with members of the Legislative Assembly... National and foreign journalists feel here almost like at home – press conferences and briefings are held for them regularly, they always receive up-to-date information.
The Mariinsky Palace, one of the main political centers of St. Petersburg, lives a rich, many-sided life. Its rooms, comfortable for work, its rich history and dynamic modernity, its inspirational beauty is a heritage of the whole city, the whole Russia, and entire world.