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Livadia Palace (Yalta)

Town of Livadiya, Yalta (tel.: (+38 0654) 31-55-79, 31-00-98, 31-55-81, 31-55-62).

The history of the Livadia Palace started from 1834 when Leo Potocki, the Polish magnate, acquired Livadiya and built a palace designed by K. I. Ashliman (1808–1893). His gardener, Dellinger, landscaped a 40 desiatina park (desiatina is archaic Russian land measure, 1 desiatina equals 1.09 ha) around the palace.

In 1860, the empress, the wife of Alexander II, became the owner of the estate.

The new owners refurbished the vineyard that was planted as long ago as at the time of Potocki, and started reconstruction of the palace. Construction of the Small Palace to the design of I. A. Monighetti was also started. It was meant for the hire, the future emperor Alexander III. Appearance and the interiors of the Small Palace resembled the Bakhchisaray Palace setting the pace for many buildings along the South Coast of Crimea of that time (it was destroyed during the Great Patriotic War and a sports ground was constructed in its place).

In 1891, the tsar's estate was expanded by means of Oreanda town purchased from hires of Great Duke Konstantin. The estate became as large as 350 desiatinas.

The last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, was giving the estate as his summer residence.

By the 20th century, the Livadian Palaces — Big and Small — no longer met the needs of the imperial family. The Small Palace was really small, and the Big Palace fell into disrepair. In 1904, after the palace had been inspected, it was decided to demolish it and build a new one.

Nikolay Petrovich Krasnov, the Yalta architect, was assigned to design and construct the new palace.

During the year of 1909, Krasnov had been working on the design. And on the 23rd of April, 1910, the building was commissioned. Construction of the palace was quick and no money had been spared to make it a reality.

Two and a half thousand workmen laboured for 17 months day and night by the light of torches to demolish the palace. After the old building had been removed, the area was drained, and the collecting galleries were arranged. Then, many concrete piles were driven into the ground, and reinforced concrete slabs and foundation were laid. Next, the walls were erected of Inkerman stone. After the construction was finished, the face of the walls was treated with fluosilicate, in other words it was coated with a special chemical compound (silicofluoride) preserving the stone from erosion and contamination. The interior details were made in Moscow and other cities according to the drawings of Krasnov.

At the time of the construction of the White Palace, two other buildings, as well as some other constructions, were also built — one building was for the Minister of the Imperial Court, Baron Frederiks, and the other was the retinue building. Building of the White Palace cost 2 million rubbles, and all the other facilities including interiors, new roads, partial reconstruction of the park cost an additional 2 million.

Krasnov managed to successfully inscribe the palace into the surrounding landscape and situate the building in such a way that all its sides were absolutely open for the sun. The palace is widely regarded as the summit of N. P. Krasnov's creativity that gave him a title of academician at St. Petersburg Academy of Art as well as other projects for the design of other palaces and buildings of the Coast.

After the Revolution, Livadiya became a health resort.

In April, 1925, the last-minute preparations to host unusual guests — 150 peasant-vacationers — were undertaken in the White Livadian Palace. 230 people more had to be accommodated in the retinue building and other buildings.

At the last moment, other words appeared at the gate arch. Instead of "Livadiya is an estate of His Imperial Majesty" it was written "The peasant resort — Livadiya". It was the first health resort for peasants in the Soviet country and in the world.

By the 1st of May, 220 peasants came to Livadiya. The peasant resort was officially opened on 28 June 1925. In February of 1945, the Yalta (Crimean) Conference of the coalition state leaders — the USSR, the USA, and the UK — was held here.

The complex ceased to exist just over 9 months since the South Coast of Crimea was liberated. The health resort buildings of the Soviet time were razed in Livadiya. The Small Palace lied in ruins; the so called retinue building, burned by fascists before their setback, stood as a gloomy sooty giant. The White Livadian Palace was the only building that survived.

The round-table Conference took place in the largest room of the palace — the White Hall (former gala dining room). The American delegation was accommodated here as well. The leader of the American delegation, the US president, F. D. Roosevelt, occupied the former waiting room and the grand study.

After more than ten years, a trade-union resort was opened in Livadiya again. This event followed the hard work on the restoration of outbuildings, a power station, a health beach, and equipment for the examination and treatment rooms. Finally, everything was finished. On the 16th of September, 1953, the resort was opened for 400 people. Over the years, the amount of resort accommodation increased, and it became one of the largest specialised health resorts in Crimea.

In July, 1974, the first tourists visited the White Palace. Now, there are two sections in the palace: the memorial one and the area for the exposition of art works.

Architectural ensemble of the palace.

The surviving drawings of Krasnov (now kept in the funds of the Yalta History Museum) let us follow his creative idea a little.

First the architect supposed to make a square palace with the main entrance from the East. However, the plan had been changed. When looking at the palace, the east facade is sort of outstretched and asymmetrical. The external stairway with galleries appears to be at the left corner, and towers are from the right. The central entrance is shifted to the north facade and made in the form of a prominent porch with three semi-circular arches supported by the paired elegant Corinthian columns (pay attention to the great marble carving). The architect planned an interesting "cascade" of volumes from the North — from the three-storied tower on the left to the one-storied dining room on the right.

As for the southern facade facing the sea, its left side, we think, looks a bit weighted. From the West, a Byzantine style church adjoins the palace. Monighetti rebuilt the church of the Potocki's catholic chapel. Krasnov had to keep it and include it in the composition of the palace ensemble. Though it does not keep with the palace architecture, we should pay tribute to the designer who managed to skilfully "hide" this.

It is here, near the church, where the most amazing part of the palace is — the Italian patio. The patio is surrounded with the arcade of semi-circular arches based on Doric columns. String cornices of the cross dome go from the capitals and form a shady stanzas. Harmonious proportions, clear rhythm of the arches and columns, light balustrade over the arches, austere square windows of the second floor, alleys leading to a small fountain in the centre, and finally evergreen plants evoke sensation of harmony and peace. The marble sofas with high backs and arms in the form of griffins do not conflict with the patio architecture, however.

Entrance to the Italian patio from the church side is closed with metal forged gates made by Ural specialists. The gates have an exceptionally fine appearance. The nature of the flower design of the gates is very close to the motifs of the Italian Renaissance.

It should be noted that the use of metal details (gates, laced trellises, Florentine lanterns) in the palace architecture, which are very prominent in the light background, has appeared to be very successful.

What conclusion do you come to after visiting the palace? Of course, the patio and the decoration of the central entrance are borrowed from Italian architecture of the Renaissance. But if we take the whole building, it is a bright example of eclecticism when the architect combines or remakes at his own discretion the art elements of various styles.

Taste of the customer is clearly felt in the decor of the interiors and rooms (there are 58 rooms in the palace). Everything is designed for external effect; everything has to amaze with riches, luxury, and the floridity of workmanship. Particular grandeur can be seen in the large dining room with its splendid sculptures, in the entrance hall with its 1st century Roman influence, in the waiting room which resembles the Hall of Council in the Venice Doge's Palace, in the study in the "Jacob" style, and in the English billiard room.

Construction of the White Palace was finished in September of 1911, and the retinue buildings were built a bit later. From 1912 to 1914, some adornments such as vases, benches, and a well were arranged near the palace. Obviously the chimera (A chimera is a mythical monster with lion jaws, the body of a goat, and a snake tail. There is a legend that the chimera fences out fiends.) leaning over the ornamental well at the corner of the eastern facade appeared at the same time. It is as if flown from the doorway of the Notre-Dame Cathedral! A small column of grey marble with Arabic inscriptions near the bell loft (nearby the western facade) is also of much interest.

For some reason, it had been long considered to be a gift from a Persian shah. In 1960, the Arabist of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, Zarina-zade Gasan Husein Guli-ogly, translated the inscriptions. It appeared that these were poems and only one of them (14 in total) was written in Arabic, the others were in Turkish.

"His Majesty Shah, Sultan, Victor", and etc. in the same vein is praised with flowers of Oriental style with many poetic metaphors and comparisons. The year 1838 (or 1839) suggests that it is about the Turkish Sultan Mahmoud II. Apparently the column with the inscriptions came to Livadiya as a trophy after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878.

Just over the column, a fountain was mounted over a small spring as long ago as in 1863. It is made of white marble and resembles the Bakhchisaray Fountain in its shape.

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Livadia Palace