Moscow Highway

Moskovskoye Shosse, or Moscow Highway, was originally the road that led to the royal residence in Tsarskoye Selo, built in the 18th century, and continued on to Veliky Novgorod and Moscow. Moscow Highway was also referred to as the Main Moscow Road, or Novgorod Road. The highway is now part of the European route E105, stretching from Norway to Crimea. The 90km section between St. Petersburg and Maryino Estate has plenty of sights and landmarks that will easily take a whole day to explore. It is advisable to drive there. It is worth one’s while to spend one or two days exploring Tsarskoye Selo alone.    

Yuri Belinsky/TASS

Pavlovsk, a small town on the River Slavyanka, grew around the Pavlovsk Palace. Many a great writer and poet gravitated to Pavlovsk. The poet Anna Akhmatova wrote about Pavlovsk. The characters in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot stay at a dacha near Pavlovsk. The writer and historian Nikolai Kara.m.zin and the poet Vasily Zhukovsky visited Pavlovsk. There were some Finnish villages here in the 18th century. Catherine II’s hunting parties roamed the local forests. Catherine gave this land to her son Pavel, the future Emperor Paul I, in December 1777, and the history of Pavlovsk, then the village of Pavlovskoye, began. Two houses were built, and some parks and flower gardens planted soon after the future emperor received his deed. In 1786, the modest houses were replaced with a palace modelled on Palladian villas, designed by Charles Cameron. A beautiful landscaped park was planted around the palace. The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, designed by Giacomo Quarenghi, was built on the estate in 1784 (current address: Sadovaya Ulitsa 17).

Paul, who had a complicated relationship with his mother, did not like Pavlovskoye. He gave the estate to his wife Maria Fyodorovna, and moved his own summer residence to Gatchina. When Maria Fyodorovna was the hostess, the most magnificent flowers bloomed in the Pavlovsk Park, and the best parties were staged in the palace. When she died, social life pretty much came to a standstill in Pavlovsk, and remained so until 1838, when Pavlovsk became the final destination of Russia’s first railway. From then on, music concerts for the nobility would be staged from time to time inside the Pavlovsk railway station. Johann Strauss (junior) would conduct his waltzes here more than once later on in the 19th century, and he was not the only prominent musician to perform here. Pavlovsk and its surroundings became a popular dacha destination at the end of the 19th century. Pavlovsk was renamed Slutsk from 1918 to 1944 in honour of Vera Slutskaya, a revolutionary who died here. Little remained of the palace and the park after the Great Patriotic War. Some of the valuables were removed by the Soviet Army before the Nazis took over. The rest was stolen or destroyed by the Nazis. It took until 1957 to restore the palace and the park. The whole complex is under UNESCO protection since 1989.

Askhat Bardynov/Welcome2018.com

This land was Catherine I’s gift to her brother Karl Skavronsky, who received his earlship together with the estate in 1727. The Russian for “earl” being “graf,” the place came to be known as Grafskaya Slavyanka. The estate would pass on by inheritance within the Skavronsky family until it came into the hands of one Giulio Litta, the Italian earl who married Ekaterina Engelgardt, the widow of Pavel Skavronsky. The Italian had a castle built on the property, bedecked with knight’s armour suits and shields. In 1829 the estate passed to Yulia Skavronskaya (Samoilova), who had the house remodelled.  

It was a nice big house with several living rooms, numerous bedrooms, a library, a billiards room, and a study. There were lion statues on either side of the staircase. Yulia Samoilova received many guests, including members of the Masonic Order. In 1847 the estate became property of Nicholas I and was renamed Tsarskaya (Tsar’s) Slavyanka. An orphanage was opened at Tsarskaya Slavyanka at the end of the 19th century. In 1919 the Red Army kicked the white guard troops of Yudenich out of the community, and the place was subsequently renamed Krasnaya (Red) Slavyanka. Samoilova’s Dacha, which was the new, Soviet unofficial name for the estate, became Scientists’ House in the 1920s. The Nazi Blue Division used the estate as its headquarters during the Great Patriotic War. The mansion was destroyed during the liberation of Slavyanka in 1943. After the 2nd World War, the estate became the grounds of Dinamo Factory, which manufactured sporting goods. The ruins of Samoilova’s Dacha became private property in 2012.  

Askhat Bardynov/Welcome2018.com

Ulyanovka, formerly Sablino, was a sandstone quarry from in the 18th through 20th centuries. Sandstone was used in the manufacturing of glass, bricks and building stones. This was a tiny village until many families moved here from Yaroslavl in the early 19th century. The local peasants bought out their village in the early 1830s, according to this archival record dated 1838: “Sablino village belongs to free grain growers. The population headcount according to the latest census is 53 males and 56 females.” The place to see here is the Sablino geo-ecological park: the caves, waterfalls, canyon, and erosional rocks. These are the former St. Petersburg quarries. The 19th century poet Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy also had his estate here, named Pustynka, but only its outlines can be guessed. Tolstoy received members of the royal family and the writer Ivan Turgenev, among other guests. All that remains from his estate are some very old trees, and a pond with an island in the middle. Legend has it that the great warlord Alexander Nevsky let his troops rest here before a battle in the 13th century. It is claimed that the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin lived in Sablino for a whole year about a hundred years ago. They say that the Soviet poet Olga Berggolts spent a summer here. They also say that the incumbent President of Russia Vladimir Putin was admitted to the Pioneer organization outside Lenin’s house in Sablino.  

Askhat Bardynov/Welcome2018.com

The first part of the double-barrelled name of this place reflects the erstwhile abundance of foxes in the local forests: “lisa” means “fox” in Russian, hence Lisino. “Korpus” is for the forest rangers corps (“korpus” in Russian) and school, established here in 1834. Students of the forest rangers’ school were trained in planting and protecting forests and in timber processing. Members of the royal family were wont to go hunting in the local forests. The landmarks to see here are the 1855 forest rangers’ school building, the 1862 Lisino church, and the royal hunting hut, which is really a palace, built in 1860. All these buildings were designed by Nikolai Benois. Alexander II and his court loved to hunt bears, so the hunting palace was all covered in bear hides. The royal interiors are all gone, and the building is now a dormitory.  

Askhat Bardynov/Welcome2018.com

Luban is a small provincial town. Much of its history is, one way or another, connected with the railroad. You may want to stop in Luban for about an hour, if only to picture how the first St. Petersburg-Moscow train rolled by nearly two hundred years ago. The postal route, mentioned by Alexander Radishchev in his 1790 book A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, traversed Luban. A whole chapter is devoted to this town in Radishchev’s book. The first train rolled past Luban in 1849, and the town got its railway station two years later. The Peter and Paul Church, built by the station in 1867, is dedicated to railway workers. It was designed by the famous Russian architect Konstantin Ton, who also designed the Church of Christ Our Saviour in Moscow. A school of railway engineers opened in Luban in 1868. General Pavel Melnikov, a civil engineer and Russia’s first Railways Minister, was buried outside the church. His remains were moved inside the church following its restoration.   

Askhat Bardynov/Welcome2018.com

Maryino, originally the estate of the Counts Stroganov, subsequently became property of the Princes Golitsin. The widowed countess Sofia Stroganova was a dynamic woman renowned in high society circles. She bought some more land to enlarge her estate in 1817, and she christened the new borough Maryino in honour of Maria Stroganova, the founder of the estate. She also had the house remodelled into what it looks like now. The remodelling design was commissioned from Ivan Kolodin. A beautiful English park was created on the property. Sofia Stroganova contracted most of the planting and landscaping work to Alexander Zandrok, who was known for his beneficial planting and landscaping work in the area. The interiors of the new mansion were distinguished by meticulous attention to detail. The ceilings were painted in the grisaille style. Many paintings and sculptures were brought here from the Stroganovs’ magnificent St. Petersburg residence. The hostess received her high-profile friends in this house, and they frequently went hunting in the surrounding forests. When Sofia Stroganova died, the estate’s social life was over. The art collection was donated to several museums. The Research Institute of Geology and Mining of the Soviet Academy of Sciences moved in in the 1930s. None of Maryino’s luxurious interiors survived the Soviet period. The estate is now in private hands again, but is open to the public.