Designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in 1796, Alexander Palace housed three generations of Russian monarchs before it was abandoned by the royal family in the months preceding the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The palace is located in Tsarskoe Selo, a 1500-acre imperial estate near St. Petersburg. It was built on the order of Catherine the Great as a gift to her grandson Alexander I, to celebrate his wedding to Elizabeth of Baden in 1793. The building was later used as a summer residence by Alexander’s brother, Nicolas I, and then by Alexander’s nephew Nicolas II when he became tsar in 1894. In 1917, the royal family was expelled from the palace by order of Alexander Kerensky, head of the provisional government. Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolshevik regime one year later. From then until World War II the palace remained uninhabited; it functioned as a museum until German forces converted the building into their military headquarters for the duration of their occupation. Later, Alexander Palace served as a naval command base and research station, until the mid-1990s when WMF assisted with efforts to convert the palace into a museum.
How We Helped
Parts of Alexander Palace had fallen into serious disrepair by 1994 when it garnered local interest as a potential museum and WMF provided funds toward condition assessments and planning for public access to a suite of rooms to be utilized as museum space. Shortly after its placement on the 1996 Watch, the palace was added to the list of institutions operated by the Museum-Preserve of Tsarskoe Selo, which agreed to manage the upkeep of the property and its tourist facilities. In September 1996, WMF helped with emergency renovations to the roof over the Nicholas II wing of the palace, comprising approximately one-third of the building’s total roof structure. Alexander Palace is now an exhibition space dedicated to the final years of Tsarist Russia, and it houses a collection of personal effects and historical documents related to Nicholas II and his family.
Why It Matters
One of the few Tsarist residences left relatively intact following World War II, Alexander Palace provides a window into royal life during pre-communist Russia. For its historical value as the setting of Nicholas II’s final years, and for its artistic merits as a much-celebrated work of sumptuously decorated neoclassical architecture, the palace is an important national heritage site.