Governor-General Yeropkin’s mansion: A house frequented by Pushkin

February 7

The Department of Cultural Heritage has registered Yeropkin’s Mansion located at 38 Ostozhenka Street Bldg.1 as a listed building. Initially it was a two-storey structure built between 1764 and 1772. The architect, Matvei Kazakov, in his plans, made use of parts of the old palace that stood in its place in the early 18th century and belonged to Alexei Makarov, a cabinet secretary of Peter the Great who was in charge of the emperor’s secret papers, and Count Dmitry Koltsov-Mosalsky.

In 1771, Empress Catherine II granted Pyotr Yeropkin estates with 4,000 serfs, which Yeropkin refused to accept. This earned him huge respect in Moscow. He also turned down the empress’s invitation to move into a house on Tverskaya Street assigned to governors-general and continued living in his own mansion.

“The Yeropkins were famous for their hospitality; the doors of their home were always open. They had marvellous balls, which poet Alexander Pushkin used to attend as a youngster. The rooms of the place were luxuriously decorated, and there was even a family chapel ,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, head of the Department of Cultural Heritage.

Much of the interior design of the mansion has survived to this very day.

“What are particularly valuable are the fan-vault openings as well as the lion masks over the ground floor windows, the coat of arms and the décor on the outside of the structure, some of which is carved out of limestone. Other unique features are the cast iron pillars and the columns of the family chapel of St Mary Magdalene, the rosette mouldings, as well as the stoves put in place in the second half of the 19th century. The staircases have wrought iron banisters cast between the 18th century and the second half of the 19th century. All the restoration work to be carried out on this property will only be implemented according to an approved object of protection,” Alexei Yemelyanov explained.

Another protected thing is the cast iron flooring with solar signs in the middle of each tile and a decorative corner feature, and acanthus palmettes (the acanthus is one of the most common foliage ornaments that have been used since olden times). Other valuable parts of the property are the interior decoration of the family chapel of St Mary Magdalene, the monumental easel paintings of the early 20th century, decorative ornamental paintings and parts of the first-floor corridor.

After Yeropkin’s death, the mansion was inherited by his nephews, the Novosiltsovs, and after them, by the family of counts Gagarin. In 1806, the building was sold to the Moscow Merchant Society, which turned it into an Imperial Commercial School for the children of well-to-do city residents and merchants.

Both vocational and humanitarian subjects were taught at the school, from which famous Russians such as physicist Sergei Vavilov, writer Ivan Goncharov and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov graduated.

From 1807 to 1808, the mansion was rebuilt and extended under the guidance of Domenico Gilardi, an Italian architect who worked primarily in Moscow. Its reconstruction after the Great 1812 Fire of Moscow included the addition of another floor, a classical façade and a porch.

Paintings by Viktor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Nesterov can be found in the family chapel of St Mary Magdalene, which was added to the building in 1817.

The place was handed over to the Moscow Institute for Modern Languages in 1930. Its name has been changed many times since then, and it is now called the Moscow State Linguistic University.

Miraculously the place survived the Great Patriotic War, when it turned out that the bomb that had targeted the institute’s yard was filled with sand. After the war, a monument was put up in the front garden of the building to commemorate the volunteers who gathered there before marching to the frontline.

Pyotr Yeropkin (1724-1805), a Russian military leader and statesman, a participant of the Seven Years’ War, a senator and Moscow Governor-General (1786-1790).

Matvei Kazakov (1738-1812), a Russian architect whose plans were used to rebuild central Moscow in the early classical Palladian style, inspired by the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, during the reign of Empress Catherine II. He is considered the most famous representative of the Russian pseudo-Gothic style and designed Russia’s first standardised buildings. His most famous architectural achievements include the Moscow University building on Mokhovaya Street, the Governor-General’s Mansion on Tverskaya and the Kremlin Senate.


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