Nicknamed the Moscow Versailles, Kuskovo estate – the land of sumptuous palaces and magnificent parks – is the former summer retreat of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Tsarist Russia.
Kuskovo’s transformation from a village to a luxurious estate started in 1715 when one of the greatest generals under Peter the Great, Count Boris Sheremetyev, decided to build a country home in the area. Unfortunately, the general died before his project was completed, and it was his son Pyotr who devoted his life and enormous wealth to turning Kuskovo into a residence, the like of which Russia had never seen before.
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As Pyotr Sheremetyev was eager to outdo other Russian nobles, Kuskovo was meant to be nothing less than a match for imperial residences in grandeur and beauty. The count spared no expense – lashings of marble and gold were used everywhere. In its heyday, the estate included a palace, a church and a number of smaller buildings dotted throughout a massive park, filled with sculptures. It also boasted several ponds and even a zoo.
Strictly speaking, the estate was designed for only one purpose – partying. The count entertained in grand style, inviting thousands of guests to his balls and receptions. The centerpiece of the estate, the palace, was not even intended for overnight stays, let alone everyday life.
The 26 rooms of the palace were meant, above all, to impress. They include a silk-wallpapered billiard room, a tapestry room adorned with exquisite Flemish tapestries, a splendid dining hall, and the highlight of the palace – the sumptuously decorated ballroom.
In addition, several charming mansions were put up in the gardens for the count to use during his extravagant parties. Among them are the richly decorated Grotto pavilion, the Italian Cottage, the Dutch House, built as a tribute to Tsar Peter the Great – known for his love of all things Dutch – and the Hermitage, a special pavilion for closest friends and family. Even the servants were not allowed there!
Passed from one generation to another, for years Kuskovo remained one of Russia’s most dazzling summer residences, but eventually it fell into decline. The estate was never fully restored after looting by the French troops during Napoleon’s invasion in 1812 and was dealt a further blow with the abolition of serfdom in 1861 – the Sheremetyevs could no longer afford to maintain their massive park, and most of the land was sold off.
After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks nationalized the estate, and in the 1930s, Kuskovo became home to the Museum of Ceramics, which boasts one of the largest collections of ceramics and glassware from antiquity to the present day.
However, despite its turbulent past, much of Kuskovo’s 18th Century splendor has been preserved. The residence remains a heady mix of wealth, luxury and history – a perfect place for a day out in a fairytale land.