Kuskovo Estate: How the Russian Versailles was built

August 17
Culture

Kuskovo is first mentioned at the end of the 16th century as a property of the Sheremetev family. Documents describing the origins of the estate and how it has changed are kept at the Moscow Main Archive.

Kuskovo belonged to the Sheremetev family for more than 300 years, until 1918. During this time, the estate’s architectural and park complex was created. In 1623–1624, there was a wooden church, a boyar courtyard and housing for serfs. In accordance with the fashion back then, the estate had an English garden adorned with streams, ponds, waterfalls, picturesque hills and gullies.

The main landscape artefacts and sites appeared in Kuskovo in the 1780s. The walkways with neatly trimmed trees, floral carpets and smooth lawns became a kind of labyrinth, some of them ending in mirrored dead ends or painted trompe l'oeil perspectives that concealed the real space. In the 18th century, the estate was even nicknamed Versailles because it looked like the residence of the French kings.

The park also had an attractive greenhouse where laurel, lemon, orange, coffee and other exotic trees grew as high as in their natural habitat.

The 1907 “Dacha reference book and guide to the Moscow suburbs” said: “There are lots of dachas at different prices in the huge forest area near the park, but the cheapest are in the densely populated Gai Grove on the way to Kosino. The Gai entertainment garden with a theatre is located there.”

The forest had birch groves, paths and centuries-old oaks and lindens, which, according to experts, could be considered valuable. Unfortunately, due to the vast number of dachas being built, the old Kuskovo Park almost ceased to exist at the beginning of the 20th century. Its state in the first decades of Soviet power can be judged from a description in a 1928 guidebook: “Of course, after a hundred and fifty years the park is far from what it was at the time of Catherine, when an army of serf gardeners groomed it like an odalisque, trimmed its lush green curls and watered the flower beds. Now during leisure time, a worker walks along its paths, critically examining noseless and armless marble gods and goddesses.”

In 1918, Kuskovo received the status of a museum estate. The museum exhibitions feature collections of porcelain, ceramics and glassware from the State Museum of Ceramics transferred to Kuskovo in 1932. During World War II, the estate housed barracks for cadets of the sniper training instructor school.

Improvement works have been carried out in the park since 2011. The central part of the estate was adorned with cast-iron benches modelled after those from the 18th –19th centuries. Experts carried out drainage and planted trees in the only French formal garden in Moscow. In addition, an aerial theatre was recreated in Kuskovo (a unique example of the synthesis of architectural, park and scenic art), the pond was cleaned and its banks repaired and strengthened.

Moscow culture online

Source: mos.ru

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