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Peter's park
History through the eyes of the architect


The recreation park in Petrozavodsk is situated on the first coastal terrace of Onego Lake. Here in the beginning of XVIII century Petrozavodsk was founded when on August 29, 1703, the governor-general of Karelia, Ingria and Estlandia his Highness prince Alexander D.Menshikov under Peter's I instruction has put the first stone in the basis of domain shop of Shujskogo (further Petrovsky) metallurgical and armory factory which became the basis of the city to be. Rough growth of Petrovsky factories also promoted to growth of the new settlement. In the first decade of the existence the large village with the same name - Petrovsky factories - became the largest settlement of Olonetsky uyezd (district).

Peter I has visited Petrovsky factories a few times for acquaintance with trend of affairs at the enterprises, and also coming to get treatment in the Spa "Marcial waters".

For the tsar and his Highness prince Menshikov in the large village palaces were built. The imperial palace was constructed, probably, to Peter's first arrival (no later than 1719) near to the fortress. Under the available inventory the palace had 11 rooms. To our time the drawing of one of the palace's facades remained. Other materials concerning external shape of this building were not found, as the author of this construction is also unknown, however, knowing Peter's tastes and style of that time it is possible to imagine the internal furniture and the lay-out of the palace, having addressed to Peter's summer palace in Letny (Summer) garden of Saint Petersburg built in 1710-1712 years by architect D.Trezini and kept up to now.

In one of his first visits of Petrovsky factories the tsar has begun the land improvement in the large village, having planted the first trees of the future Birch grove around of the palace. The matter is that the territory in the mouth of Lososinka river earlier covered with rich fur-tree forest (where the settlement was began to be constructed) in short time was cleared of wood used for building needs, and also for rescue from mosquitoes and midges living in abundance in the local taiga.

Peter I did not simply planted and arranged the waste ground around the palace. By the plan of first Karelian regional specialist T.Balandin, representing the settlement of 1720th, the garden planted by Peter presented the high-grade park composition connected to aesthetic principles of baroque gardens of France of XVII century. Baroque style in landscape architecture has revealed itself in pronouncedly symmetric, rich in planning design and plastic compositions as though opposed to ease and freedom of wildlife. This style has received the most full and significant expression in France in XVI-XVII, therefore regular compositionally rich gardens are called French style. Andre Lenotr, one of the best masters of landscape gardening art, has constructed the well-known Versailles near Paris where splendor and fancifulness of style have found the reflection in creation of artificial nature: clipped trees, big smooth mirrors of pools in graceful carved stone frames, and intricate figures of flower beds.

The French style brought by Peter to Russia from his travel to Europe has become apparent first of all in the lay-out of city and country manors: in front of the house facing the street with its main facade there was a front court yard called kurdoner. Behind the house the regular garden facing usually the bank of the river or other extensive water space was laid out. Such planning structure became customary in Russia, and its sample is the lay-out of the imperial manor in Petrovsky factories.

In this tiny complex (width of the garden was about 100 m, its length as far as the walls of fortress was less than 200 m) we find all indispensable elements of a "French" park. First of all it is a strong composite axis which is a core of all regularly planned space of ensemble is the central widest avenue of the park which begins from the water mirror of a small pond directly ahead of the central projection of the palace on the uppermost mark of park. Going down the relief the central avenue is finished by the prospect of Onego lake similarly to prospects of Peterhof, directed to the water smooth surface of the gulf of Finland.

In its average part the park looked like parterre - the open part generated by clipped bushes and flower beds and surrounded on perimeter by straight lines of birches. "The birches were planted linearly on both sides of avenues, and elms, mountain ashes, bird cherry trees, maples and occasionally pines and fur-trees were planted in curtains," - T.Balandin writes by memoirs of old residents. The birch prevailed in plantings, therefore the park was subsequently called the Birch grove. In Russian regular parks local breeds of trees and a bushes were usually used, and in parterres cowberry shrub and even green onions were planted.

In approximately 70 meters from the palace towards the lake in the territory of park the cult construction Peter's marching church was placed. Active inclusion of the church in the structure of ensemble was a tribute to baroque compositions of XVII century.

We do not know who was the author of the lay-out of this imperial manor: it could be Peter himself who often participated in development of plans of different parts of St.Petersburg, although possibly it was Domenicko Trezini being the first and leading architect of Petersburg police office. Peter also revealed exclusive interest to arranging of flower parterres near his palaces. A number of the documents confirming his personal participation in this business and testifying to his competence of landscape architecture remained.

The birch garden planted by Peter's I palace, has become the start for construction of the first park in our city. In the first officially authorized general plan of Petrozavodsk confirmed by Ekaterina II in 1785 and that grounded the regular lay-out of the city the Birch grove (though without the palace) was marked as a landscape element to be kept in memory of Peter I. Any construction there was forbidden. By the end of XVIII century when the center of Petrozavodsk due to construction of Alexandrovsky factory has moved to the Round Square Church of Peter and Paul in the last fashion and the Birch grove have remained in the former settlement as unique monuments of its former prosperity. The housing estate has moved to the coastal slopes of Onego by virtue of convenience of fishing craft and water supply of the population that have stayed there. Earthen military strengthenings were leveled to plant kitchen gardens, Peter's I and A.D.Menshikov's palaces, administrative and trading buildings have decayed and were demolished, constructions of former Petrovsky factories have turned to ruins.

T.Balandin's plan accomplished by him in 1810 and showing us condition of the factory settlement in 1720-s was made "...of the insignificant ruins remained from the earthen fortress, a blast furnace... a former palace, a pond, a palisade and the Birch garden in remains... ", that is according to the traces remained by the beginning of XIX century. Former Petrovsky park became desolated. Its name of the Birch grove appeared not casually at the end of XVIII century, describing it not so much through planning accomplishment, but only by the form of its plantings. There was no Peter I, owner of the manor, and his palace, near which the garden was planted for decorating the courtier life, assemblies, and reception of visitors, was lost. Absence of the owner of Petrovsky park was the first and the principal cause of its decline. Because regular parterre garden which it was demanded permanent care and enough efforts to keep it in good condition, which, apparently, was not provided.

For the sake of justice it is necessary to note that in 1730 chief of Petrovsky factories Zimmerman made requests to Berg-board and Senate about restoration of the palace and maintenance of the garden, but they have achieved no result.

On the several trees of remained small-leaved linden (being the oldest plantings in the recreation Park) planted in 1775 it is possible to draw a conclusion on some attempts of preservation and development of the garden as townspeople's place for walks. From a manor, although tiny park, it turns into a so-called public garden that have started to appear in Russia already in the beginning of XVIII century.

To restore the French style of the park, apparently, nobody tried. Already by the middle of XVIII century new aesthetic ideas dominated in landscape gardening art. The classicism which replace baroque in architecture and sculpture has revealed itself in tendency to simplicity of antique forms, and in painting, poetry and landscape architecture it is close to romanticism, idealization of wildlife and its natural aesthetic qualities. To replace precisely regularly planned parterres, clumps, and pools the lay-out without direct lines has come - a garden in which all its elements and details were as though created by nature. Most intensively these ideas have started to develop in England in XVIII century and have were realized in the best samples of the English landscape gardens, therefore free landscape lay-out of parks is frequently called English. Thus, it has turned out that the subsequent attempts of restoration of Petrovsky garden were undertaken in the style more according to English sample.

The park was greatly damaged by the storm which has fallen on the town on June 5, 1803. 73 trees of Peter's time were tumbled down. Provincial authorities of the beginning of XIX century paid not enough attention to Petrovsky garden which as a matter of fact by then was located in town periphery. Though the park in Drevlianka, a summer residence of governor-general T.I.Tutolmin, despite of its remoteness was popular among the higher crust of the society. In general, in those times it was fashionable for the townspeople to walk on the new parkway in the English street (later Mariinskaya street).

Alexander's I visit to our city to 1819 became the turning point in history of Petrovsky garden. It is possible to see rather detailed description of this visit in A.A.Fullon's diary, who in 1819-1833 filled the post of Olonetsky mining chief. After observing Alexandrovsky factory and the town the tsar has wished to get familiarized with Petrovsky garden as with the memorial place related to Peter I, the founder of Petrozavodsk. However, to get in this garden Alexander I "had to open the gate himself with sufficient difficulty."

It is indicative, that local authorities have put Petrovsky garden in the order after Alexander's I visit. Later in his diary A.A.Fullon notices, that there "...Recently by diligence of... Olonetsky civil governor Rykhlevsky and of other officials it has been constructed... a few pavilions, in one of which... in 1824 cast-iron bust of Sovereign of the emperor Peter the Great was put up". A.A.Fullon has ordered to cast Peter's I bust, and in April of 1824 the governor of Olonets A.I.Rykhlevsky has ordered to establish the bust of the founder of the city in Petrovsky garden on the stone where, according to legends, there was an altar of marching church of Peter I. In the same year above this monument wooden Gothic pavilion was constructed, which existed till 1850. Later the bust was moved to other place in the upper part of the park, where now there is a platform in front of the summer theatre. After establishment of the Soviet authority in Petrozavodsk Peter's bust was removed and upon opening of Marcial Waters Sanatorium in 1964 it was moved there. As for the stone of the altar of marching church of Peter I it exists in the park and until now, since it makes the basis of the sculpture of the naked girl. Most likely that if in 1903 there was a cast-iron plate attached instead of a wooden one with an inscription about the marching church located there, then the memory of it would be more strong, and no girls (even so cute) would have been put on the altar.

At the governor Andrey Ivanovich Rykhlevsky the area occupied by the garden was also expanded, and plantings were renewed. Subsequently, at formation of Olonets eparchy in 1828, the governor's summer residence in Derevianka was handed in the possession of members of higher orders of clergy, and the park "in English style" appeared to be lost for the secular society which was an additional impulse to arrangement of Petrovsky garden.

In the second half of nineteenth century the responsibility of maintenance of the city garden was imposed on municipal duma, and at scarcity of local means the public historical garden was not disregarded. So, in 1855 works on accomplishment of the garden to the sum of 1135 roubles were made. In those times it was a very large sum. When in 1858 Alexander II has desired to visit Petrozavodsk, the fathers of the city were not ashamed to show historical Petrovsky garden to the tsar. The contemporary enthusiastically describes Alexander's walks: "... He has awarded the public garden with the visiting where some birches planted by hands of Peter the Great are kept, who initiated this summer national promenades. Upon passing by some avenues and having looked at the stone serving there a bottom of marching tarpaulin church of Peter I... came into pavilion where the local society gathers for dances and hearing of music; therefrom... he ascended to the top belvedere from which he admired the open picturesque view of Onego lake and Zaretsky the part of the city."

In 1885 with the means donated by private persons significant works on putting the public garden in order were accomplished. The pond first of all was cleared of dust and dirt, slopes of the pond were impose with cobble stones, the bottom was stacked with stones and plugged with fine rubbles. In front of the pond the big platform surrounded with a hawthorn was arranged. Avenues were put in order. Due to the fact that the garden has received territorial development towards Lososinka river 20 ashes, 60 poplars, 20 oaks and 300 young plants of hawthorn were in addition ordered from Krasnoselsky nursery forest near Saint Petersburg and planted. From local deciduous breeds more than 200 birches, lindens, maples, mountain ashes and fur-trees were planted. Under instructions of the governor Grigoriev columns with inscriptions were made to indicate the places of former location of Peter's marching church and palace.

Since 1898 the garden for six years was given to guardianship of national sobriety which has taken up the maintenance of the garden with the right to hold entertainment for people in it on Sundays: skittles games, children's games, selling tea and soft drinks in the pavilions constructed specially for it. "On the most abrupt place of precipice over the the river the guardianship arranges special covered canopy of beautiful architecture.

From here the fine view of Onego and of the mouth of Lososinka river which seething and noisy current reminds waterfalls, - I.I.Blagoveshchensky marks in his sketch in 1903 and then concludes, - Petrovsky garden due to cares of administration and representatives of public management is in serviceable condition and serves as a place of walks of public which crowds there especially in celebratory and Sundays."

The great contribution to development and accomplishment of the Big public garden was still brought by private persons. Merchant Ivanovsky has continued development of attractions in the park having established roundabout there in 1891. In 1900 merchant G.E.Pimenov has constructed a dancing pavilion with a parquet floor there, and around of the garden the fencing was renewed. The area of the park thenmade only 1.82 hectares.

In 1903 the public garden was in the center of anniversary celebrations related to the 200-th anniversary of Petrozavodsk. "Olonets provincial bulletin" wrote that this significant anniversary was celebrated in a worthy manner. It was desirable to pay attention that in this celebrating the leading role was played by the objects related to the founder of city Peter I and located in historical Petrovsky garden, kept "in serviceable condition". "Olonets provincial bulletin" continued: "Celebrations have begun in Petropavlovsk cathedral constructed by Peter the Great... From the temple the solemn procession... goes... to the historical public garden and enters it through lateral gate. Passing the avenues of the garden, by the central platform with Peter's I bust, the procession goes to the saw-mill of merchant of M.N.Pikin. On one of the bottom avenues opposite the place where there was Peter's marching church the procession has stopped; here deacon proclaimed eternal memory to Peter I."

By the way, Mark Nikolaevich Pikin in 1897 when electric illumination in Petrozavodsk was still a wonder, was the first person who established the dynamo-machine and electrified manufacture on the saw-mill, and who has installed free-of-charge electrical equipment in the public garden, "wishing to give it more graceful look through illumination". By 1930 the territory of the city park has extended, having included sites of Peter's and Paul's and Resurrection cathedrals burned down in 1924, and also the former Nickolai's shelter together with its gardens and the kitchen garden. Former Petrovsky garden was gradually increasing and began to be referred to as the Recreation Park. Recreation parks combine functions of walking, exposition, sports, entertaining, being huge open-air clubs, or as they were called in 1930-s, "combines of improving work, entertainments and political and educational activity." During the Great Patriotic War the park has suffered greatly: the significant part of trees was cut down, flower beds and park constructions were destroyed.

In the post-war years the great attention was paid to putting of the Recreation Park in order. Many Karelian architects took part in designing and construction of park pavilions, constructions and attractions. The summer movie theatre was of great interest from the architectural point of view being constructed in the park in 1949 under the project of architect M.G.Starchenko (unfortunately, it burned down in 1970-s). In this building design the author used associations with traditional constructions of Karelian wooden architecture. In 1955-1960 the project of reconstruction and expansion of the park (architects T.V.Antokhina and others, engineer and specialist in planting trees and gardens G.A.Zeveke) was developed and carried out. Under the project the park was developed aside Onego lake for which purpose remains of Lososinsky saw-mill were demolished, numerous warehouses of fire wood and saw-timbers were removed.

Due to construction of the tourist complex "Karelia" in by Kommunzhilproekt organization the project of accomplishment of the mouth of Lososinka river from Zaretsky (B.Pimenov's) bridge up to the coastal line of the lake was executed. The author of the project Yu.Yu.Karma has in addition given outline offers on reconstruction of all park which part is flood-lands. In these offers it was provided to fix the place of location of Petrovsky factory's shops on the right coast of Lososinka with a memorable sign, and to arrange a museum of history of the city in the building of power station. Unfortunately, the project has remained unfulfilled, and the flood-lands of Lososinka river within the limits of park territory remains extremely uncared.

Now there's almost no flower decoration in the park. All zone of recreation is crossed with the set of tracks testifying to absence of purposeful planning actions.

Old lindens and elms gradually die and turn through diligence of unknown skilled craftsman in to wooden sculptures, often of rather low aesthetic quality. The park, as well as 200 years ago, seems to experience the period of decline and demands urgent reconstructive and regenerative measures. Rich history of Petrovsky garden, which site is connected to birth of our city, should find reflection in its composition, both in the lay-out, and in the style of gardening. The park kept even in Ekaterina's times as memorial should be sated with "reminders" on history of Petrozavodsk. There is simply no "reminders" here, and the public attracted into the dying park with amusement, does not guess at all, that this place is a "cradle" of our city. Generally, fragments of regular parterre with appropriate flower decoration, partial restoration of birch plantings, memorable marks on the locations of Peter's I and A.D.Menshikov's palaces can appear here, restoration of Peter's and Paul's cathedral should not be excluded also. It is not fantasy at all. In 1996-2000 in the territory of the park, in historical nucleus of Petrozavodsk, students of the Faculty of History of PetrSU under A.M.Spiridonov's supervision accomplished archeological researches. For 5 field seasons they have opened 600 sq. m. where the rests of buildings and constructions built here about 300 years ago are investigated, the large collection of the subjects connected to manufacture on Petrovsky armory and life of settlement's inhabitants is collected. These unique materials in part enable to restore and include in the museum the monuments of history of our city related to the time of its foundation. As against Saint Petersburg, the coeval of Petrozavodsk, we have not kept any building or construction of Peter's time. This is only the park in which that "cradle" was settled down and which in XIX century was referred to as Petrovsky.

While one reads descriptions of celebrating of the 200-th anniversary of Petrozavodsk he feels sad that after 100 years celebrating 300-th anniversary of the city we can not repeat the route of that solemn procession in the places related to Peter I, in the old park which all the same very much deserves the named of Petrovsky.


The material is published in the newspaper "Karelia" N36 from April 4, 2002


Created November 16, 2000
Last Updated June 17, 2003
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