11, Millionnaya Street – The History of the House and its Inhabitants
Millionnaya Street ranks high among the central streets of St.Petersburg. It appeared much earlier than Nevsky Prospect, just several years after the city’s foundation.
In the 1720s Millionnaya Street was already built over with stone houses of the Russian aristocrats who wanted to be closer to the Tsar’s residence (the Winter Palace). At the time there were three separate land pots with houses in the territory of today’s house No.11 in Millionnaya Street.
Prince Vasily Vladimirovich Dolgorukov (1667-1746), a member of an ancient Russian prince’s family and an outstanding commander in the days of Peter the Great, owned one of those houses (in which Ermitage Hotel is located now). He distinguished himself in the Poltava battle and was rewarded with the highest Russian order of St. Apostle Andrew for his valour. Although Prince V.V. Dolgorukov was liked by Peter the Great, he was against many of the Tsar’s reforms and fell in disgrace because he dared to defend Peter’s son Alexey who was accused of making a plot against his father. It was only after Peter’s death, the Prince V.V. Dolgorukov could return from exile and continue his career. Tsar Peter II appointed him to be a member of the Supreme Secret Council, and Tsarina Anna Ioanovna appointed him to be the President of the Military Board. But Dolgorukov’s straightforwardness and honesty let him down again. In 1731 Prince V.V. Dolgorukov was arrested as he was denounced by Prince von Hessen-Homburg for insulting the sovereign. His death sentence was changed for the imprisonment in Schliesselburg Fortress and later for the exile in Solovets Monastery. Only ten years later the new Empress, the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizaveta Petrovna returned Prince V.V. Dolgorukov (who was said to be her godfather) from exile and reinstated him in all his ranks, titles and possessions. The Prince deceased in St.Petersburg at the age of 79. He left no descendants, and his house in Millionnaya Street changed the owners several times.
In the 1790s Dolgorukov’s house belonged to captain P.P. Rogozinsky. Two neighboring houses with land plots stretching from the Neva River to Millionnaya Street belonged to the founder of Odessa, Admiral O.M. de Ribas.
In 1798 Emperor Paul (1754-1801) charmed by Princess Anna Petrovna Lopukhina (1777-1805) whom he had met one year earlier, during his coronation in Moscow, offered her father through his favorite Kutaisov to leave Moscow and to move to St.Petersburg together with his wife and daughters. Senator Peter Vasilyevich Lopukhin hat to make his choice: either to accept the Tsar’s offer and to get the Prince’s title and million wealth or, in case of refusal, to fall in disgrace and to be exiled to the Eastern Siberia. The wise parent preferred to accept Paul’s offer and therefore he got the Prosecutor-General position in the capital. So it was necessary to find the fitting home for the Lopukhins family. By the order of Paul I the State Treasury purchased the houses of Admiral O.M. de Ribas, and when the Lopukhins arrived from Moscow they could move into the house on the Neva River Embankment immediately.
Princess Anna Petrovna was given the position at court which bound her to be always present in the retinue of Paul’s wife Empress Maria Fyodorovna and to accompany the Tsar’s family to all the residences outside of St.Petersburg. Thanks to the fact that Lopukhina had a room of her own in each palace, Emperor Paul could meet her every day, and he conceived a strong and continuous passion for her. Since Lopukhina was unambitious, modest and imaginative, the Tsar’s feeling were a great burden for her, ad when Paul became too demanding, the girl confessed that her heart belonged to Prince Paul Gavrilovich Gagarin who participated in the military operations at that time. The Emperor created no obstacles to the marriage of his favorite. Moreover, Paul ordered to Suvorov to send Gagarin as a victory messenger. Having brought such good news to Paul’s residence in Gatchina in 1799, the lucky fiancé obtained the Emperor’s consent to marry Princess Anna, and he was made a Colonel and later Adjutant General.
The generous monarch made Anna Petrovna a gift of both houses of de Ribas together with the neighboring house of Rogozinsky purchased in addition by the State Treasury. Paul also ordered the architect Giacomo Quarenghi to design the reconstruction of all the three houses facing the Neva River into one house (presently No.10, Palace Embankment). In the same year, in 1799 (even before the wedding of Lopukhina and Gagarin that took place only on February 8, 1800) the design was ready, and in summer 1800 the reconstruction was already finished. It is small wonder, knowing the frantic haste and impatience of Paul I.
The Emperor got the chance of visiting Princess Gagarina in this “love nest” without hindrance. Prince Gagarin forgave his wife that unfaithfulness with the Emperor, and he derived advantage from the situation naming his wife a “benefactress”. Until his very death Paul was still in love with Princess Gagarina, he was deeply and sincerely attached to her, he considered her to be his only friend, and only with her Paul could escape from all his worries.
The new Emperor Alexander I appointed Prince P.G. Gagarin the Russian Ambassador in Italy, and Paul Gavrilovich had to leave Russia together with Anna Petrovna. Now Gagarin treated his wife badly, he made her transfer all her properties to him. The Princess could not bear such an attitude and shortly after their return to Russia in 1805 she suddenly died of tuberculosis at the age of 28. Her husband Prince P.G. Gagarin became the new owner of the house. After his wife’s death Prince Gagarin turned to be eccentric: he isolated himself in his house filled with ill stray dogs lying on the sofas and armchairs. A whole room was occupied by birds flying freely. The Prince neglected his personal appearance. He walked along the streets wearing his old dressing-gown but being accompanied by his liveried footman.
In 1810s-1830s the part of the house which was not occupied be the Prince himself well-known secular lioness E.P. Lunina and A.A. Olenina settled down. The famous Russian poets A.S. Pushkin and A.S. Griboedov were among their frequenters. In 1831 Paul Gavrilovich Gagarin changed his lifestyle and married a ballerina Maria Ivanovna Spiridonova. After his death in 1850 the big land plot with all the houses facing the Neva River and Millionnaya Street was inherited by their daughter Princess Natalya Pavlovna (1837-1912), who married an officer of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Dmitrievich Zherebtsov. Mrs. Zherebtsova ordered the reconstruction of all the houses facing Palace Embankment and Millionnaya Street into one income house. Architect Ludwig Franzevich Fontana finished the reconstruction within 3 years. Fontana did an incredible job at No.11, Millionnaya Street, as he used the motifs of the mid-XVIII century French architecture (the so-called Louis XV style with its refined restraint) in the facade decorations. Later architect Fontana became famous for designing Grand Hotel Europe, Suvorinsky (now Big Drama) Theatre, etc.
The future of the house was as follows: N.P. Zherebtsova owned the house until her death in 1912, and then it was inherited by her son Dmitry Agapyevich Voronin. After the revolution of 1917 the building was nationalized and used as a dwelling house.