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In February 1744 a fourteen years old princess Sophia Fredericka Augusta Dorothea Anhalt-Zerbst came to Russia to be introduced to the Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna and to her future husband, the heir to the Russian throne, Grand Duke Pyotor Feodorovich whose wife she would become a year later. The young princess from a tiny German principality was startled with this strange country, with its immense spaces, increadible scale of construction, entertainment, scheming. Saint-Petrsburg of Peter the Great, the city - fortress, the ship-yard and the port was transforming into the city of palaces during the reign of Elizaveta. She saw the majestic and pompous building of the royal residence being constructed while life inside the temporary wooden palace of the "merry" Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, neither less luxurious than the new one, was full of splendour and idleness. Prince de Ligne, Austrian diplomat, said that Catherine distingwished herself with great gifts and subtle intellect... Her ambitions were unlimited but she was able to guide them towards sensible aims.

On June 28, 1762 as a result of political coup d'etat she was proclaimed Empress Catherine II who was later called by her contemporaries and descendants "Catherine the Great", the period of her reign is known as "the magnificent age".

Being captivated by the ideas of European Enlightment Catherine II reconstructed pompous and pretentious interiors of the Winter palace according to the new tastes. Next to the palace meant for "pleasant entertainments and merry amusements" she commissioned to construct in line with Versailles fashion a building of the "Hermitage" which means "the dwelling of a hermit". The rooms of her "Hermitage" were decorated with paintings, bronze and carved stones that very soon could not be housed in the Small hermitage and then the Great Hermitage started to be built. When Catherine II bought masterpieces of the famous masters, sometimes even the whole art galleries, from European nobility she not only satisfied her own ambitions but also with every new purchase she suggested startled Europe - kings, bankers, philosophers - a thought that Russia flourished and prospered under the scepter of the powerful monarch. The enlightened Empress also took delight in theatre. The first theatrical performances were held in the Small Hermitage, in 1783 she commissioned to construct a building of the Hermitage Theatre.

"The court of Catherine, - wrote Count de Segur in 1780-s, - was the meeting place of all European monarchs and celebrities of her age. Before her reign Petersburg built in the cold and ice was almost unnoticed, insignificant town in Asia. During her reign Russia became a European country. Saint-Petersburg occupied an important place among the capitals of the educated world and the Russian throne raised as high as the most powerful and significant thrones".

 
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The Hermitage
 
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Related Links:
The official homepage of the State Hermitage Museum: www.hermitagemuseum.org

Complete playbill of all St. Petersburg,Russia theatres, shows, concerts, etcComplete playbill of all St. Petersburg,Russia theatres, shows, concerts, etc. !
World-known music festival "The Stars of the White Nights". Artistic director - Valery Gergiev (Mariinky (Kirov) Opera and Ballet)World-known music festival "The Stars of the White Nights".
Artistic director - Valery Gergiev (Mariinky (Kirov) Opera and Ballet)

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