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The Presidential Library's materials reveal the history of the Summer Garden

5 April 2021

"We observe the alley of the Summer Garden in Saint-Petersburg of Peter the Great's times. Today hospitable Admiral Pyotr Mikhailov gave a feast to his "comrades" in the service..." - we read in the book Pictures on Russian History (1913) by Sergei Knyazkov, the famous researcher of Saint-Petersburg. This publication describes the drawing by Alexander Benois In the Summer Garden in the reign of Peter the Great. "With a clear heart and face", he walks along the alley of the garden. It's a hot day, and Tsar Peter, who usually is not very concerned about his dress and manners and who liked to walk the streets without a hat, wanders in the garden, even without the wig...".

...317 years ago, on April 5, 1704, Peter I gave an order to Tikhon Streshnev, the head of the Razryadny Prikaz: "Soon after receiving my letter, please, don't hesitate to send with the gardener all perfume flowers from Izmailovo to Petersburg''. This date, April 5, is considered the birthday of the Summer Garden.

The Presidential Library's portal features an electronic collection that includes documents on the history of the Summer Garden, as well as postcards, paintings, photo sets and explaining texts.

Thanks to these materials, it is possible to find out that the tsar himself drafted the plan of the park, which at the beginning had only annual or "summer" flowers that gave the name to the garden. Already at the beginning of June of 1704, by the order of Peter I, carts with flowers and seeds came from Europe to Saint-Petersburg.

"The construction of Peter's palaces was as roaring as all his activities. Let's recall a number of his houses and palaces, built in almost all the cities where he was... <...> ...The same was the building of the Summer Palace. This palace may be considered the most valuable, as a witness of that interesting time. It was the turning point and establishment of new Russia, which is also inseparably connected with the new capital that opened the "window to Europe" and quickly took a prominent place as a centre of industry and trade", writes Eugene Lansere, the artist and a great expert of Northern capital, in the publication The Summer Palace of Peter the Great (1929).

Together with the Summer Palace, the first fountains were arranged on the territory of the garden and the first marble sculptures were erected. As the book Pictures on Russian History reports, a marble statue of Venus was so beloved by Peter I that he ordered to guard it. There was arranged the pavilion, where the tsar usually reposed. The sovereign both liked to rest for a while in a secluded place and make a mass celebration when business did not interfere with the fun.

The Summer Garden traditionally hosted the tsar's name-day celebrations and the day of "glorious victoria" - the victory over the Swedes in the Battle of Poltava. The party began at five o'clock in the evening. By this time, on the vast lawn of the garden - Tsaritsin's meadow, the Preobrazhensky and Semyonovsky Regiments were gathered. "The Tsar treated the soldiers, bringing wine and beer in wooden cups", writes Knyazkov.

"The festive in the Summer Garden and other celebrations were carried out by the restrictions published in 1718 on how assemblies should be arranged", notes the author of the publication Pictures on Russian History. - These rules stated that "the assembly is a French word, which cannot be expressed in one Russian word. It should be considered a free meeting not only for fun but also for business. Here you can see each other and talk about your needs and also learn the latest news... This paragraph describes the order of these assemblies. The owner of the house, where the assembly should be, must announce to people by letter or other messages about the place where all people are invited to come, both men and women. It does not start before five or four and does not continue after ten".

As Sergei Knyazkov highlights in Pictures on Russian History, the sovereign launched the holidays not only for fun. "Peter the Great", states Prince Shcherbatov in his essay On the Destruction of Morals in Russia, "...tried to introduce sciences, arts and crafts, military order, trade and proper law in his state, as well as tolerance, communication and splendour...".

The splendour of the Summer Garden was secured by the tsar's persistence in achieving the goal and the golden hands of Russian and European workers. Splendour is not for the sake of splendour, but the glory and prosperity of Russia. Celebrations are not for the sake of celebrations: "Assemblies, public gatherings, masquerades, gala dinners, festivities in honor of the glorious events of the reign, established by Peter the Great, were of great educational value at that time. They organised social life, taught people to live and have fun together".