The first owners of the Kuzminki estate were G. D. Stroganov and his descendents. In 1722, they were granted the title of Baron.
The Stroganov family was known since the 14th century. During the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible the Stroganovs were granted vast lands in the Transural Region, and the rights to build towns with fortifications and artillery. It was the Stroganovs who hired the unit of the famous Cossack leader Yermak to protect their domain from incursions of Khan Kuchum. Incorporation of Siberia into the Russian state started from the Siberia Khanate ruled by Kuchum, which is commemorated by the images of sables and a bear head present on the coat of arms of the Stroganov family.
In the early 18th century, Tsar Peter the Great endowed the merchants Stroganovs with the lands that belonged to the Nikolo-Ugreshsky and Simonov monasteries, "for the many services and cares taken of the state treasury". Funds of the Stroganovs were used to construct three military ships during the Great Northern War.
The eminent person Grigory Stroganov (1656–1715) was the first owner of the Kuzminki estate. His second wife was Maria Novosiltseva (1677–1733) who became the first lady-in-waiting at the Russian imperial court. This marriage brought three sons, Alexander (1698–1754), Nikolay (1700–1758) and Sergey (1707–1756), who were the founders of three branches of the Stroganov family.
Under Grigory Stroganov, intensive construction works started in Kuzminki. The master's house, household outbuildings, and courts of service people were built. Before there were wastelands, with a single construction being a water mill on the Golyad River. Hence the first name of the estate, the Kozminka Mill.
In 1716, at the request of M. Y. Stroganova a wooden church of Our Lady of Blachernae was erected in Kuzminki. After the church had been built, the estate acquired an additional name, village of Vlakhernskoye (a Russified version of Blachernae).
The name of the church comes from the icon of Our Lady of Blachernae. In turn, the name of the icon refers to its original location in Blachernae, a small village at the coast of Bosporus, near Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey). In the 5th century, an Empress of Byzantium built a monastery there, together with a church of Our Lady that hosted the icon of Blachernae. Even at those times the icon was adored as wonder-working.
After Constantinople had been captured by the Turks, the icon was hidden at the Patriarch's residence. Later, for better safety, it was sent to Mount Athos; in 1653 (1654), it was delivered from there by a merchant as a gift for the Russian Tsar Alexey Mikhaylovich.
However, there exists a legend telling that two icons of Blachernae were sent to Moscow. One of them went to the Dormition Cathedral at the Moscow Kremlin, while the other one was hosted by the church of Blachernae in Kuzminki. The image of Madonna and the Child was done using the rare technique of wax-resin relief; modern researchers date it to the 7th century. At present, the icon is hosted by the State Tretyakov Gallery.
In 1740, after the inheritance of Grigory Stroganov had been divided among his sons, the eldest son Alexander (1698–1754) came into possession of the estate. Under his management, the development works at the Kuzminski estate were continued.
In 1754, after Alexander had died, the estate was inherited by his widow, Maria Stroganova, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Anna Stroganova (1739–1816). After the dispersal of assets had taken place in 1757, the latter was entitled to the full possession of the estate. After a while, Baroness Anna Stroganova married Duke Mikhail Golitsyn (1731–1804). Vlakhernskoye became part of her rich dowry. Since that time, the history of the estate has been inseparably associated with the name of Dukes Golitsyns.
By the middle of the 19th century, the architectural and park ensemble of the estate had been completely shaped; its golden age had come.
After serfdom had been abolished in 1861, the estate became loss-making. Since, in accordance with the majorat law, Vlakhernskoye could not be sold, it was the most lucrative for the owners to rent the buildings as summer houses.
Newspapers started printing the following announcements: "A summer house is for rent, 600 silver roubles for the whole summer. The summer house consists of a two-storey stone house, perfectly furnished; there are wonderful servant quarters under the house. The main house is connected with a kitchen wing by a wooden fence. At the summer house, stables for four horses may be arranged. It occupies a strip near a dam. The summer house is surrounded by water and enjoys the most luxurious location". In the mid-1870s, the "summer house period" of the history of the Kuzminki estate started.
In 1873, a new owner of the estate, Duke Sergey Golitsyn (1843–1915), who was a grandnephew of the famous owner, moved to another estate, Dubrovitsy in Podolsk district of Moscow province. Kuzminki turned into a holiday village that was renowned for its wonderful location, excellent parks, and picturesque ponds.
Summer houses in Kuzminki were relatively expensive. All buildings of the estate served as summer houses. The buildings were expanded by sun-lounges and terraces. The former bitter orange orchard-house was renamed the Orange Summer House, while the former gardener's house was renamed the Grey Summer House. The architectural and park ensemble lost its integrity and excellence. In 1902, an illustrated literary and humour weekly journal, Iskry, printed the following in its Moscow Holiday Locations section: "Indeed, Kuzminki is a nice place; however, the beauty of its nature contributes only a small part to its value as a holiday location. One more thing makes this place dear to inhabitants of Moscow: in only around 24 km (15 miles) from Moscow they may find real rural peace and rest unlike in many other holiday villages that would set you on a path towards a nervous breakdown. Indeed, 32 summer houses carpet the area of around 1,526 sq. metres (380 acres), you may walk in a park without dressing up, and you may be absolutely sure that you will meet nobody. If, on the contrary, you wish to socialize, the only thing you need to do is to walk along the paths preferred by Kuzminki summer residents. On top of that, there is no dust, dirt, rattling trains with their terrible roaring horns, gramophones and other nice things."
In early 20th century, the art expert S. Makovsky wrote with a sad heart: "The house is occupied by summer residents, the ancient furniture is removed and there are common tables and Viennese chairs. The portraits of the Golitsyns are also removed..., while the paintings now hanging on the walls are only some sort of a commercial surrogate for pictorial art. This sad impression stays with you during the whole tour of Kuzminki. How luxurious the place used to be, how many generations used to live here light-heartedly and festively, taking care of the beauty of their "Versailles", of decorating the park, of receiving crowned guests, of fireworks and masked balls during family celebrations! However, leaves and dandelions cover the alleys, algae mats cover the ponds and gazebos are half-dilapidated. Just summer houses are everywhere, thirty-two commercial summer houses occupied by representatives of the "Chekhovian intelligentsia"; and it is somewhat funny to see modern philistines sitting on the terrace of the huge white house featuring the Golitsyn coat of arms."
In the past, the Kuzminski estate was enthusiastically referred to as the "Russian Versailles", because of its grand architecture, the unity of nature and art of the excellent park, its splendid receptions, guest-nights, celebrations and masked balls.
In September of 1999, a permanent exhibition, Kuzminki: from the Past to the Present, was opened at the premises of the Vlakhernskoye-Kuzminki estate of Dukes Golitsyns. Five months later, on the 1st February 2000, the exhibition was transformed into the Kuzminki Russian Country Estate Museum, which is a branch of the Moscow City Museum.
The museum occupies the Servant Wing of the household complex of the estate dubbed "Outskirts" that came into existence in the first third of the 19th century.
The static exposition of the museum is dedicated to the history of the estate and its owners, tells about the estate life during the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century.
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