The Ostankino Estate MuseumRussian: Muzey-usadba Ostankino or Музей-усадьба Останкино is a magnificent historical museum embodying the luxurious life of Muscovite aristocrats in ancient times. The Ostankino Estate took several centuries to take on its present-day look, but it was Nikolai Sheremetev (1751-1809), a Russian nobleman and theatrical art connoisseur who gave this property a special splendor in the late 18th century. The estate park and Ostankino pondRussian: Ostankinskiy prud or Останкинский пруд are amongst the favourite strolling destinations for Muscovites living in this area. The Church of the Life-Giving TrinityRussian: Tserkov Zhivonachalnoy Troitsy or Церковь Живоначальной Троицы, built between 1677 and 1692 in the highly ornate uzorochye stylecharacterized by intricate forms, an abundance of decor, a complexity of composition and a picturesque silhouette popular in the 18th-century Russian architecture, is an outstanding example of architecture at Ostankino.
The site where the Ostankino TV TowerRussian: Ostankinskaya telebashnya or Останкинская телебашня stands today used to be the village of OstankinoRussian: Останкино (formerly OstashkovoRussian: Осташково, Moscow RegionRussian: Moskovskaya oblast or Московская область). In 1743, Count Pyotr Sheremetev received it as a dowry for his marriage to Countess Varvara Cherkasskaya, a member of another aristocratic Russian family and daughter of the Chancellor of Russia, Alexey Cherkassky. The Sheremetevs owned Ostankino until the Russian revolution of 1917.
This estate embodied the patriarchal Russia associated with countryside Russian gentry, as opposed to Europe-oriented bureaucratic St. Petersburg society. When St. Petersburg became the capital city of the Russian Empire, Moscow remained the centre of gravity for Russian aristocrats, whose estates began to embody a special culture described by many 19th-century Russian writers. It was a blend of European-style social events and salons, lavish celebrations of religious and popular holidays, serf theatre performances and collections of international art. Life at Ostankino is an example of how this was lived out by the aristocracy.
As we have mentioned, it was Nikolai Sheremetev who created the external appearance of the Ostankino Palace. An heir to a huge fortune, he had no need to work for a living, so he fully devoted himself to the theatre. He decided to select a troupe of actors from his own serfs and had them trained by Russian and foreign acting instructors. Eager to create a modern theatre that would befit the newly formed troupe, he undertook the construction of the Ostankino theatrical palace in 1790.
Originally designed by renowned Italian architect Francesco Camporesi, the Ostankino Palace was centred around the theatre, unlike other estates. It was also Sheremetev who came up with another original idea – to have a sectional floor, which easily transformed the theatre into a ballroom at any time. Interestingly, the palace was entirely built of wood. Renowned architects I. Starov and G. Quarenghi were also involved to work on the project, while Sheremetev’s serf architects supervised construction works on the site.
FLOURISHING AND DECLINE
The Ostankino Estate was renowned for its sumptuous interior. Every single piece of wood inside that house was said to be carved, and the palace hosted lavish receptions for top government officials and foreign guests. Sheremetev’s fascination with theatre led to a love affair with a serf actress and singer named Praskovya Kovalyova, who had been given, just like other actors, a euphonic stage pseudonym Zhemchugova (zhemchug meaning ‘pearls’ in Russia). Eventually, Kovalyova was granted freedom, and Sheremetev and she had a secret wedding in 1801. The serf theatre, however, did not last very long. At some point, Sheremetev lost interest in it, and all the actors went back to being maids, laundry girls, butlers and waiters.
In 1856, Emperor Alexander IIthe Emperor of Russia from 1855 until his assassination in 1881 stayed a week here before his coronation. In preparation for the emperor’s visit, the Palace underwent a full-scale renovation, including the theatre, in which the sectional floor was replaced with a permanent one, and the auditorium became a greenhouse. The abolishment of serfdom in 1861 came as a bitter blow to the estate. The impoverished owners were forced to rent the estate’s premises to summer visitors, and the palace gradually lost its splendour.
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Estate turned into a museum
In 1918, in the aftermath of the October revolution of 1917, Ostankino was nationalized and became the Museum of Serf LifeRussian: Muzey krepostnogo byta or Музей крепостного быта. The museum has since changed its name, but it still exists. The Ostankino Estate has been under a massive reconstruction since 2013, and the museum is currently closed to the public, which is a pity, because there is much to see. The museum boasts rich collections comprising exhibits that came to it from the estate itself, including rare samples of 18th-century wallpaper and one of Russia’s most extensive hand fan collections. The abundance of objects provides an accurate picture of the lifestyle of the Russian nobility in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
The museum’s official website is available in Russian and English. You can check the schedule of exhibitions currently hosted by other venues and take an online virtual tour of the palace and the park.
Visitors can also pay a visit to another interesting architectural landmark at Ostankino, the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, commissioned by the then owner of the village, Prince Mikhail Cherkassky, and built between 1677 and 1692. The church is built in the ornamental uzorochye style, a unique architectural style of the 17th-century Russia, characterized by abundant and ornate decoration. The bell tower was built in 1878 in the neo-Russian style, echoing the original uzorochye. The lower part of the iconostasis has come down to us from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The church once had two relics of the Sheremetevs, a portable folding icon that belonged to Field Marshal Boris Sheremetev and a Spanish wooden sculpture titled, The Lamentation over ChristRussian: Plach po Khristu or Плач по Христу. Both of these relics are now displayed at the Ostankino Estate Museum.© 2016-2023 moscovery.com