Russian Federation

Oranienbaum Palace restoration to be completed by 2013

Work on the 18th-century royal residence is set to be finished two years ahead of schedule and at about 50% of the estimated cost

The restoration of the Oranienbaum palace estate near St Petersburg is expected to be completed by 2013, two years ahead of schedule, and at about 50% of the price forecasted before the global economic crisis began.

Oranienbaum’s director said the government met financial pledges for reconstruction in 2009, but it needs Rub500m ($17m) every year for the next four years, or a total of Rub2bn ($68m). In 2009, officials predicted that the reconstruction, which began in 2005, would finish in 2015 and cost close to Rub5bn ($170m).

Restoration is planned for the Grand Menshikov Palace, Oranienbaum’s largest palace; the Chinese Palace built by Catherine the Great and the Peter III Palace, which has a picture gallery. Oranienbaum, located 40 kilometers southwest of St Petersburg, was built in the early 18th century by Peter the Great’s closest associate, Prince Alexander Menshikov.

“We hope to open the first five rooms in the Menshikov Palace next summer,” said Elena Kalnitskaya, general director of the Peterhof and Oranienbaum Palace Estate Museums. “The palace has never been opened to the public, since it was previously used by the military. None of the original interiors have survived.”

Kalnitskaya dismissed rumours that the palace will be used for government needs and functions, as happened with the nearby Konstantin Palace complex restored between 2001 and 2003 and turned into an official residence for the Russian president.

“Oranienbaum will function solely as a palace estate museum open to the public, and as a branch of the Peterhof Museum,” said Kalnitskaya, referring to Oranienbaum’s merger with the nearby Peterhof Estate Museum in 2007.

“The restoration of the Chinese Palace is the most difficult part of the project and requires installing a hydro-insulation system,” said Kalnitskaya. Built without a foundation, the 18th-century palace’s greatest threat is ground moisture. The UK branch of the World Monuments Fund has begun work on the Chinese Palace and has fixed the building’s leaking roof and broken drainpipes.

“Because of its uniqueness, importance and the quality of its interiors the Chinese Palace must be preserved as part of the world’s heritage,” said Cathy Giangrande, a development consultant at the fund.

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