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by Olga DROBNICH, landscape architect, Traditional Russian Culture Center "Preobrazhenskoye", Moscow
About 140 km west of Moscow, on one of the banks of the river Inoch, there lies a scenic place, Porechye, the country estate of Count S. Uvarov, President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Russia's Minister of Public Education. In the 1840s it became a cultural mecca for scholars, writers and literati. Its wonderful library, art museum and rich archeological collection, its giant park and conservatory with exotic plants - aside from their esthetic value - were of significant scientific interest, too.
Sergei Uvarov was born in St. Petersburg in 1786. His father, Semyon Uvarov, had a lieutenant-colonel's rank and served for a time as Catherine Il's aide - decamp; and his mother, Daria Ivanovna, was an alumna of the Smolny Convent Institute in St. Petersburg. Upon receiving excellent private tuition at home, Sergei went to France and Germany for further education. The capable young man had a perfect command of French and German, and could even write verses and prose in these languages. In addition, he was conversant with classical Greeks and Romans. As undergraduate of Gottingen University, Sergei Uvarov got acquainted with many European scholars and corresponded with them in later years. An ardent admirer of the great Goethe, the young man had the good luck to meet him now and then.
Uvarov junior began his career in 1801 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served at Russian embassies in Vienna and in Versailles. But soon, for family reasons, Uvarov had to leave his diplomatic career and return home. In 1811 he resumed public career at the Ministry of Public Education and was appointed warden (administrator) of the St. Petersburg School District. At that time he wrote and published works on classical antiquity, and took an active part in public life. Uvarov became member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences honoris causa. In 1815 he was one of the organizers of the famous literary club "Arzamas" which brought together young men fond of their mother tongue, literature and history. Among its members were the great Russian poet Pushkin, and such eminent poets of the day as V. Zhukovsky, K. Batyushkov and P. Vyazemsky. Besides, the club had among its members D. Bludov, a statesman, D. Kavelin, Director of St. Petersburg University, D. Severin, a career diplomat, and other personalities.
In 1818 came another appointment: Uvarov, then thirty two years old, became President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, a post he held till the end of his days. He did quite a lot for the Academy- reorganizing its structure, Uvarov secured more funds to finance its activities. He brought fresh blood into this research and scholarly institution. Uvarov arranged several field expeditions, and founded the now famous observatory at Pulkovo. At his initia-
tive a Department of Oriental Languages was set up at the Academy of Sciences in 1822 and at St. Petersburg University; and in 1823 an Ecole Orientate was opened at the Foreign Office.
Early in 1832, that is six years after Nikolai (Nicholas) I had acceded to the throne as Russia's emperor, Sergei Uvarov was appointed Assistant Minister of Public Education and the following year, in 1833, headed this ministry. While in office - which he held for sixteen years-Uvarov left a good legacy: more than 700 schools, many museums, botanical gardens, observatories, libraries, laboratories and scientific societies. During his incumbency a university was founded in Kiev; the old tradition was revived of sending young Russian scientists abroad for further education; classical education (with the focus on Old Greek and Latin) was introduced, and opened were secondary schools with majors in the hard sciences. Also, the statutes of classical grammar schools (gymnasia) and universities were reformed; and a standing Archeological Commission was instituted in 1834.
An edict signed by Emperor Nikolai on July 1, 1846, bestowed a count's hereditary title on Uvarov, and from that day on his coat-of-arms carried the words of the motto: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Narodnost ("National Roots").
The count, however, did not hold with the tough policy of the government in the wake of the revolutionary turmoil of 1848 in Europe, and he retired as Minister of Public Education, but continued as President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Count Uvarov spent most of his time in Moscow or else at Porechye, his country estate, a major historic site up until 1917.
This "abode of sciences and arts" attracted men of letters, savants and artists. The annual Academic Conversations, or conferences with lectures and reports, developed into a plausible tradition. The Russian historian and educator M. Pogodin (member of the Science Academy), for example, made a report on the period of imposters ("pretenders" seeking the throne) in Russian history. Academician I. Davydov made two reports, one dealing with esthetic values, and the other, on a relationship between psychology and physiology; S. Khazarov, the artist, spoke about esthetic laws as materialized in architecture. T. Granovsky, a historian and Moscow University professor, looked into transitional epochs in human history; Academician D. Perevoshchikov, astronomer and mathematician, delved into the intriguing subject of the proper motion of the solar system...
To house the museum collections and the library Count Uvarov put up a two-story stone palace in the classical style, though without the traditional long suite of rooms and with no ball-hall. The architect was D. Gigliardi of Italy. The palatial mansion was topped by an all-glass belvedere, or skylight mounted above the central exhibition hall.
Let's travel back into the 19th century and walk about this unique museum. Entering the main entrance of the manor, we go up the front staircase decorated on either side by 17 marble statues and two bas-reliefs, the handiwork of Italian sculptors. The stairway takes us to the first floor. Below, way over to the left, are the halls of the ground floor. In the grand drawing-room we feast our eyes on the figures of Dionysus (Bacchus) and Ariadna, and the dancing nymphs, the work of the school of the Italian sculptor A. Canova (1752 - 1822). The murals show superb views of Athens, Rome, Jerusalem and Constantinople as well as a scene of Venice as depicted by B. Canaletto (1720 - 1780) of Italy, along with several copies of A. Kaufmann (1741 - 1807), a German painter and drawer... There are many other pictures, too. The southern porch of the palace overlooks the park with its exotic centaurs.
We continue our make-believe tour of the manor. Its smaller drawing-room displays a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted by the Englishman G. Dawe (1781 - 1829), landscapes by A. Locatelli of Italy (1660/65 - 1741), four views of Derpt (the official name of present Tartu, Estonia, in 1222 - 1893), and works by V. Jacobi which he executed by the electroplating technique.
A collection of engravings is kept in the count's study. It includes a plate of Raphael's Madonna by English painter W. Miiller; a portrait of Count A. Harcourt (1601 - 1666), a French marshal, produced by the master engraver A. Masson (1636 - 1700). Of special value is a marble bust of Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), foreign member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, by the celebrated French sculptor J. Houdon (1741 - 1828).
The billiards room exhibits an array of family portraits, while the dining-hall has portraits of the Russian monarchs Nikolai I, Peter I and Yelizaveta (Elizabeth), and of the poets: Goethe (1749 - 1832), elected to the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences as honorary member and V. Zhukovsky (1783 - 1852); also, the portrait of the Russian artist O. Kiprensky (1818) painted at Uvarov's request. Here we can also admire the originals of the great masters: Raphael (1483 - 1520), Guercino (1591 - 1666), Pietro da Cortona (Berrettini, 1596 - 1669), and Rubens (1577 - 1640).
The library occupies two rooms on the first floor. One, a specious hall illuminated from the skylight, is decorated with nine marble busts; an arcade connects it with the central hall of antique art. In between the arches rise large Egyptian caryatids of marble, with an 18th-century Italian copy of Venus of Medici - the size of the original-in the middle. Two copper plates are on the walls: one showing the geographical coordinates of the Porechye village calculated by the astronomer D. Perevoshchikov on August 27, 1846; and the other - a magnetic dip at Porechye on Count Uvarov's 60th birthday.
We enter the museum's central hall. Its magnificence is enhanced by the
giant vaults and the round glass dome with daylight streaming in; potted tropical plants and nice white-marble statues-all that and other things add to the majesty. Rising in the middle is a work of the 2nd-century Roman art - the Altemps oval urn with the god of wine and merry-making, Bacchus, pictured in low relief. In the 18th century this urn was among the decor of the Altemps Palazzo in Rome, and in 1843 Uvarov brought it from Italy.
Quite nearby, we see two colossal figures sculpted by the famous C. Finelli (1782 - 1853): one, of Ceres holding the young Iaso in her hand, and the other - of Minerva. The same sculptor also created two groups of nymphs next to the side walls of the hall, with other nymphs in the corners by L. Bartolini (1777 - 1850), each holding a brass chandelier. On display are also the splendid copies of Apollo and Venus, Euthynous and Achilles, Ariadna and Ajax; and close by are the statues of Homer and Maenad (Bacchante), and six oversize busts of the great men of the Renaissance: Machiavelli, Dante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Ariosto and Tasso, sculptured by Santarelli for Count Uvarov when he sojourned in Rome.
The next hall exhibits a collections of bronze figures of different schools and ages. These include superb works of the 16th - century Flemish sculptor G. Bologna (Jean Boulogne, 1524 - 1608). By contrast, their somewhat formal style is toned down by an authentic classical sculpture of Juno (Hera), and two large vases of porphyry. Mention should be made of the rarities dug up in 1843 in the ruins of Etruria - namely a big bronze vase (so the Etruscans did not use clay only, as believed before) and a few other articles of bronze and cast iron.
We cannot help but admire a small Venetian vase of ivory (exquisite workmanship!) and specimens of the old Venetian art of particolored glass. Kept in the cases are the many bronze items of the old and new Italian schools, and towering in the middle is a huge, three meters tall, malachite vase on a foot.
The cases of Count Uvarov's study store rare copies of old printed books, like the first edition of The Iliad and The Odyssey printed in Florence in 1488. There are also two giant porcelain vases presented to the Porechye estate owner by Emperor Nikolai. Part and parcel of the interiors is a singular mosaic made by artists of the St. Peter Cathedral in Rome. Also in Uvarov's study, we find six bronze figures of great Italians, the handiwork of the Bavarian sculptor L. Schwanthaler (1802 - 1848); an ancient bronze head of Jupiter, and a marble bust of one of the previous owners of the estate, Count Razumovsky (1728 - 1803), the last hetman of the Ukraine and President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences; this work was created by the French sculptor J. Pigal (1714 - 1785).
The small balcony of the study offers an amazing view of the estate grounds, with the main perspective leading from the southern facade of the palace. The panorama is augmented by two silver firs whose silhouettes resemble the cypresses of Italy. The foot of the slope is enlivened by the "Triton" fountain
(А. Р. Popov, 1827 - 1887), an exact copy of the Barberini fountain in Rome and made in Berlin for Count Uvarov.
Now we take a walk about the park. Boasting a stupendous diversity of plant species, it is a masterpiece of landscape gardening indeed. Ground was broken well before Count Sergei Uvarov, and the park took its final body and shape under his son, Alexei Uvarov.
Its summer-houses and statues blend nicely with the natural setting. Water is an intimate part of the landscape - the smooth surface of the ponds and the silvery ribbon of the meandering rivulet lend an exquisite touch of beauty.
Ground walls, ditches and hedges separate the park from a plain, in the north and east with a cast-iron trellis-work and stone wall put up here and there.
Three itineraries for strolls cut across the park grounds. One takes us to an elegant summer-house refectory of wood and cast iron. A lime-tree alley leads to a tall hill on which a park pavilion in the classical style was erected in 1837. According to legend, it was built for the poet Zhukovsky, a close friend of the Uvarovs; this is an exact copy of the poet's parental home at Belyov near Tula.
From this pavilion we take a path going over an arch bridge on to another hill with a monument to Zhukovsky built to the design of architect A. Bryullov (1798 - 1877). A truncated column of dark Pyrenean marble with yellow veins, it rests on a granite pedestal. A bronze lyre surmounts the column. The monument is fenced off by a low railing of cast iron.
Here we come to the nicest place in the park, the "holy water source" - a very cold spring. A grotto was built here decorated with a fresco of the Savior Not Wrought by Hands, a copy from the Byzantine original. The grotto faces a swimming-pool and marble benches. Built above is a pergola with a colonnade and climbers all around.
The longest extension of the park is westwards, up the Inoch. Way over to the left, we see another large pond with two islets, while unfolding in front is a wide valley flanked by a coniferous forest.
Passing the pond and the aged firgrove, we can reach a menagerie on the other side of the Inoch. But if we don't cross this rivulet and walk along its bank, we come to a steep slope on the edge of which there rises a summer pavilion surrounded by slender columns.
Collected in the western part of the estate are coniferous winter-hardy species. Once Uvarov the son came upon a pretty spruce with bizarre cones and the crown. Even though the tree was rather tall, eight meters or so, he took it to the park. The progeny of this spruce are still there. It came to be known as the "common Uvarov spruce".
In the 1850s Count Uvarov senior invited a topnotch expert as his chief gardener. That was E. Titelbach, a professor of botany at Oxford University. The professor inspected and described the park's plants. He singled out the monumental varieties of the oak and pine with a diameter of
the trunk above l meter, and itemized the other arboreal species like lime, elm, silver- leaf poplar, willow, aspen and birch. The botanist noted the winter-hardy species: the silver fir, larch, chestnut, Tatarian maple, alder (its wavy-leaved variety, too), mountain pine, and many others. He made an extensive inventory of the shrubs: wild vine, Kurile tea, clematis, barberry, pincushion and pea shrubs, hawthorns, and so forth.
The Oxford professor planted flowers in large clusters: in the fall of 1862 he had as many as 14,000 bulbs, corms and tubers seeded out - of hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, and the like. He showed much preference for the lilac, too.
The list of perennial flowering plants is just as staggering: these are the phloxes, irises, Carpathian bluebells, lupines, larkspurs, peonies, lilies of the valley, anemones- we can't name them all.
Most of the plants brought to Porechye in the mid-19th century have acclimated fine. Some rare species, entered in the Red Data Book, grow at Porechye only (they include even natives of the Caucasus).
Mr. Titelbach built conservatories, too. One, put up in 1855 and surviving to this day in a half-ruined state, still retains signs of its former magnificence. About 160 m long, the conservatory had glass roofs and walls, and was surrounded by wide terrace of turf. A winter garden, over 17 m tall, was in the middle.
The winter garden interior was a magical sight indeed. The glass arched roof was supported by eight columns of cast iron; built in two rows, they carried potted blooms above, creating the impression of hanging flower-beds. These could be reached by graceful footbridges going up from a small gallery.
Only the hardiest specimens of rare plants were kept in the winter garden: the evergreen magnolia with its large white and fragrant flower-heads; the Brazil laurel (bay); myrtles, the common yew, and many other flowering plants. Nestling at the foot of tall plants were shorter ones: rhododendrons, evergreen snowballs (guelder roses), and the like. Conifers lent more of the charm to the plant kingdom - namely three venerable araucnuts (Araucariae), from 5 to 8 meters tall.
Growing in the western part of the conservatory was a collection of Australian plants: a eucalyptus, acacias, heathers, and cryptomeries. In the compartment nearby were camellias, rhododendrons, araucnuts as well as giant bananas, coffee trees, focuses, crotons and other tropical plants. The mammoth agave (century plant) was certainly a standout: three and a half meters tall, it had a crown
of 13 m in circumference and about 90 oversize leaves. As Professor Titelbach said, it was Europe's largest specimen.
Another conservatory was built next to the eastern side of the winter garden for palm species. It housed a small pond with fountains, the habitat of water plants, turtles, fishes and salamanders. The next compartment was designated for roses and fruit- trees, and the last one was under a vineyard.
Another can-do expert, K. Turmer, tended the Porechye estate. Count Uvarov invited this German forester to Porechye and, after the count's death, he became chief forest warden of the estate. The elite forests he planted out were in no way inferior to the park in grace and beauty. K. Turmer opted for tall-tranked trees. He authored articles on forestry, was an active member of the Moscow branch of the Forestry Society, and cooperated with H. M. Free Economic Society. Herr Turmer merited many awards and decorations, including a gold medal commemorating F. Meier (1783 - 1860), a distinguished forester, agronomist and writer, and a St. Stanislaw Order, 3rd Class.
The President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences Count Uvarov died in Moscow on September 4, 1855. His son, Count Alexei Uvarov (1825 - 1884) inherited Porechye. Uvarov Junior was a man of versatile parts-an eminent archeologist, he founded the Museum of History in Moscow and the Moscow Archeological Society, and was elected honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Today the former Uvarov estate, once the "abode of sciences and arts", is the site of a sanatorium.
Porechye shared the sad lot of many other country estates in Russia. After the February Revolution of 1917 attempts were made to sack and plunder it. Count A. Uvarov's widow, Praskovia, made haste to move to Moscow the family archives, the library of ancient manuscripts (3,200 volumes), the collection of Russian antiquities, the family portraits and a large part of the picture gallery.
In November 1917 a group of anxious scholars in Moscow set up a committee to protect monuments of art and culture from possible encroachments on the part of "ignorant elements". The presiding body of the Moscow Soviet (Council) selected a team from among the committee members and invested them with broad powers, "considering the exceptional artistic and scientific value of the Uvarov collection... for European science". In the spring of 1918 the leftover valuables were moved from the estate, including the library of 100,000 volumes and the ancient Roman sarcophagus.
There were plans to set up a House of Russian Scientists on the estate grounds. Instead, in the autumn of 1927 Narkompros (Department of Education) opened a colony for waifs and homeless children, the besprizorniki. In 1928, at Nadezhda Krupskaya's initiative, a Lenin commune for children was inaugurated there.
The estate gardeners did their utmost to keep the park and the rare collection of conservatory plants properly. In the summer of 1929 a team of experts inspected Porechye. One of them, dendrologist S. Georgiyevsky, published a report in which he gave a detailed description of the Porechye flora. This report was published in 1931 by the All-Russia Institute of Applied Botany (under Academician Nikolai Vavilov). The estate grounds, he wrote, were of immense cultural value, and it was imperative to rehabilitate some of the rare plant species there...
With the outbreak of the war (1941 - 1945) the orphanage was evacuated to the Urals, and so was part of the conservatory plants (moved to the Botanical Gardens in Moscow). In October 1941 the Nazis seized Porechye, and they made a mess of it, destroying the palace and felling the plants and trees.
In 1942, after the Germans had been driven out, Porechye gave asylum to refugees from Nazi-occupied Byelorussia who used up what remained. Part of the estate grounds was set aside for a hospital. With war's end the children's home came back: the orphans were put up in one of the wings of the mansion, and the staff pitched camp in the ruins of the conservatory.
After 1958 - 1959, when the authorities took inventory of Porechye, it received a national historic monument status, and was put under government protection. In 1968 the estate was leased to the Ministry of Electronic Industry of the USSR which wanted to use it for a vacation hotel.
Teams of restoration experts from Moscow inspected the grounds and made the necessary measurements, they studied documents in the archives. The situation was dismal, the estate and its palatial mansion lay in ruins. The restorers could rebuilt only the hall of the ground floor proceeding from what remained of the stucco molding.
Restoration works were resumed in the mid-1980s and then, on a larger scale, in the beginning of 2000, in keeping with the master plan. To begin with, the eastern and western wings of the palace were restored. A comprehensive development plan was adopted for the park. In 2002 - 2003 this work was done by the Moscow-based Traditional Russian Culture Center "Preobrazhenskoye". Today our people are clearing the park grounds from dead plants and weeds, they are restoring pathways and planting an orchard. The next stage of this job, slated for 2004, provides for the reconstruction of the dam and pond.
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