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Gatchina

The Empress took such a great liking of the Gatchina Palace and park that at Orlov's death in 1783 she bought it from his heirs and presented it to her son, the future Emperor Paul I. Paul I was the owner of Gatchina for eighteen years. He invested much resources as well as used his experience from his travels around Europe to make Gatchina an exemplary town and residence. During the 1790s, Paul expanded and rebuilt much of the palace, and renovated palatial interiors in the sumptuous Neoclassical style (illustration, left). Paul I graced the park with numerous additions, bridges, gates, and pavilions, such as "The Isle of Love" , "The Private garden", "The Holland garden" and "The Labyrinth" among many other additions. In 1796, after the death of his mother, Catherine the Great, Paul became Emperor Paul I of Russia, and granted Gatchina the status of the Imperial City - official residence of the Russian Emperors. A remarkable monument of Paul's reign is Priory Palace[7] on the shore of the Black Lake. Constructed for the Russian Grand Priory of the Order of St John, it was presented to the Order by a decree of Paul I of Russia dated August 23, 1799. After Paul's death the grand palace and park were owned by his widow, Maria Feodorovna, from 1801 to 1828. Then Emperor Nicholas I was the owner from 1828 to 1855. He made the most significant expansion of the palaces and parks, adding the Arsenal Halls to the main palace. The Arsenal Halls served as the summer residence of Tsar Nicholas I and his court. In 1851, Tsar Nicholas I opened the monument to his grandfather, Paul I, in front of the Gatchina Palace. In 1854 the railroad between St. Petersburg and Gatchina was opened. At that time the city of Gatchina's territory was expanded by incorporation of several villages and vicinity. Alexander II of Russia used Gatchina Palace as his second residence. He built a hunting village and other additions for his Imperial Hunting Crew, and turned the ares south of Gatchina into his retreat, where the Tsar and his guests could indulge in living country-style among unspoiled wilderness and woods of north-western Russia. Alexander II made updates and renovations in the Main Gatchina Palace. Alexander III of Russia made Gatchina his prime residence, after experiencing a shock and stress of his father's assassination and the palace became known as 'The Citadel of Autocracy' after the Tsar's reactionary policies. He lived most of his time in Gatchina Palace. During his reign, Alexander III introduced major technological modernization in the Gatchina Palace and parks, such as electric lights, telephone network, non-freezing water pipes and modern sewage system. Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, spent his youth in the Gatchina Palace. His mother, Empress Maria Fedorovna, widow of Alexander III, was the patron of the city of Gatchina and Gatchina Palace and parks. 20th century history. Gatchina was honored as the best-kept city of Russia at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris (Exposition Universelle (1900)). The quality of life, education, medical services and public safety in Gatchina were recognized as the best, and it was recommended as an example for other cities in Russia. One of the first airfields in Russia was establishes in Gatchina at the end of the 19th century. The pilot Pyotr Nesterov was trained at Gatchina airfield and made his first long-distance flight from Gatchina to Kiev in the 1900s. At that time, an aviation industry was developing in Gatchina, eventually becoming one of the first centers of aviation and engine technology in Russia. During the WWI major medical hospitals in Gatchina were patronized by the Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Maria Fedorovna, the mother of Nicholas II, his wife the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, as well as their daughters: the Grand Duchess Olga, the Grand Duchess Tatiana, the Grand Duchess Maria, and the Grand Duchess Anastasia. During the 1900s, Gatchina remained one of the official Imperial Residences of the Tsar Nicholas II, who was presiding over annual military parades and celebrations of the Imperial Russian Army garrisons, stationed in Gatchina until 1917. According to the some sources[9], "in May 1918, in the former imperial palace, one of the first museums in the country was opened for the victorious popular masses" of the Russian Revolution. From 1918 to 1941, the Gatchina Palace and parks were open to public as a national museum. In 1923–1929, the town was called Trotsk (Троцк) after Leon Trotsky. After Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party and Trotsky was exiled, the town was called Krasnogvardeysk (Красногварде́йск), or "Red Guard City" until 1944, when the original name was returned and the city has been called Gatchina ever since. The Nazi Germans looted much of the Gatchina palace collections of art, while staying in the palace for almost three years during the Great Patriotic War (World War II). The Gatchina Palace and park was severely vandalized and destroyed by the retreating Nazis Germans. The extent of devastation was extraordinary, and initially was considered irreparable damage. Restoration works took over 60 years, in order to restore some of the original handcrafted interiors of the Gatchina Palace. Some pieces of the art collection were recovered after the WWII and returned to Gatchina. One section of the Gatchina Palace is now partially completed and certain state rooms and the Arsenal Halls are now open to the public. Other areas of the Palace, including those of Tsar Alexander III, remain closed and unrestored.

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