After the October Revolution of 1917, all the park-and-palace complexes became national property. On 28 March 1918, the imperial residence at Peterhof was nationalized and transformed into a museum zone by a decree of the Council of People's Commissars of the Petrograd Workers' Commune. On 18 May 1918, a large party of workers - Peterhof's first museum visitors - arrived from Petrograd for a tour of the Great Palace, and this was the beginning of a new life for the former residence of the tsars. Soon Peterhof's popularity as one of the most important Russian cultural and historical complexes was equal to its reputation as a favourite place of relaxation for Leningraders. Between 1939 and 1941, more than one and a half million people visited the palaces and parks annually, and attended popular festivals held in Peterhof.
In the first few months of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, the staff of the Peterhof museums took all possible measures to save the art collections. Pictures, statues, and many thousands of objects of applied art were taken away to Leningrad or to distant parts of the country. Many marble and bronze sculptures were buried in the ground or stowed in secret caches. For twenty-eight months, from 21 September 1941 to 19 January 1944, Peterhof was in enemy-occupied territory. The invaders cut down more than 10,000 of the 30,000 trees in the Lower Park. The walks and lawns were mined, pitted with trenches, dugouts, and craters, and fenced with barbed wire. Centuries-old trees were used to build pill-boxes and bunkers; an abatis to prevent landing operations by Soviet forces was constructed of such trees in the eastern part of the Marly Avenue. The Great Palace was severely damaged by an explosion and a great fire. The Catherine House in the Monplaisir complex and the Orangery were almost entirely destroyed, and the Marly Palace was gutted by the explosion of a delayed-action mine. The Hermitage Pavilion and the Palace of Monplaisir were also severely damaged. The cascades, fountains, sluices, and canals of Peterhof, together with those parts of the hydrotechnical system which fed the Peterhof waterworks with water from Ropsha springs, suffered serious damage or were completely wrecked. The statues of Samson, the Volkhov, the Neva, and the Tritons, together with the lead bas-reliefs of the Great Cascade and many other sculptural works which it had been impossible to remove to safety, were stolen by the invaders.
In 1944, immediately after the liberation of Peterhof (renamed Petrodvorets by an edict of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, dated 27 January 1944) work began on removing the mines and clearing up the park. On 17 June 1945 the Lower Park was opened to the public and on 25 August of the following year the water-jets of the Water Avenue, the Terrace Fountains, and the Great Fountains began to play once more, as did those on the base of the Samson, and the Siren and Naiad Fountains. On 14 September 1947 a powerful column of water once more soared up over the group of Samson Rending Open the Jaws of the Lion, now reproduced by Vastly Simonov. Between 1947 and 1950, Nikolay Dydykin, Igor Krestovsky, and Victor Ellonen reproduced the group of Tritons, the Volkhov, and the Neva respectively. Leningrad sculptors and master restorers executed twenty-nine lead bas-reliefs for the Great Cascade, and in recent years they have made 110 corbels, eighteen herms, all the large and small masks, and the bronze shell-shaped bowls for the decoration of the central stairway. For the cascades, fountains, and different buildings, over 330 sculptures have been reproduced from surviving specimens and photographs, using bronze, lead, and sheet copper: mythological characters and figures of dragons, dolphins, turtles, and ducks; also a number of vases, and various decorative details. The fountains and cascades themselves were restored. Architects, marble and granite workers, gilders and fountain builders all took part in the work and their labours have yielded a rich harvest. More than 160 fountains and three cascades, supplied as formerly by a gravity-fed water systems and a complicated network of reservoirs and sluices, once again delight the onlooker with the beauty of their sparkling waters.
The Palace of Monplaisir has been restored by Alexander Hessen, and opened to the public. The Hermitage, the facades of the Orangery and the Marly Palace, and the Petrine Aviary have also resumed their former aspect. The restoration of the Great Palace, the main building of the Peterhof ensemble, has been completed under the direction of Vasily Savkov and Evgeniya Kazanskaya, the authors of the restoration project. By 1958, the facades had regained their original splendour and the high Baroque roof, crowned in the middle by a gilded vase, had been restored, as had the cupolas with their embossed relief decoration, the wrought iron grilles of the balconies, and the moulded bas-reliefs of the pediments. In May 1964, the first rooms of the Great Palace were opened to visitors: the Portrait Room, adorned once more by those of its pictures which had survived, and three state rooms, the Divan Room, the Bedroom, and the Partridge Room, all of which were decorated with gilded carvings and damask and silk wall coverings, and had painted ceilings.
Considerable sums are allotted by the State annually for the restoration of the Peterhof ensemble: an expression of the care of the Russia's Government for the preservation of cultural monuments. The restoration of Peterhof is conducted on a strictly scientific basis. Archival research and the study of materials to be used in the restoration work have been persistently carried out, over the years, by a large body of art scholars and historians, of museum workers and restorers of St Petersburg. The best of the restorers were awarded the State prizes of Russia, and gold and silver medals and diplomas of Russia's Academy of Arts. Among them were the architects Vastly Savkov and Evgeniya Kazanskaya; Yakov Kazakov, Leonid Liubimov, Boris Mickiewicz, and Rudolf Sausen, restorers of paintings; Igor Krestovsky, Libya Shvetskaya, Galina Mikhailova, and Edward Maslennikov, sculptors; Georgy Tsygankov, modeller of decorative sculpture; Ivan Antonov, parquet-maker, and Boris Gerschelman, wood carver.
The gardens are also being restored. The formal Upper Gardens, with the geometric layout of their enclosures and pathways, and the fountains and marble statues of their vast parterre, have been reconstructed, and work has begun on the Marly Area in the Lower Park, where the planting of trees and shrubs, the pavilions, and all trelliswork decorations have been reproduced exactly as they were. Work is also under way on a project to re-create the formal layout of the smaller gardens and the decoration of the walks.
The restored park of Peterhof is now, as it was before, a favourite place for popular festivals, especially in summer time. Tens of thousands of people come down by hydrofoil, by bus, by car, or on the suburban railway, to enjoy the beauty of the dancing and streaming waters, sparkling in the sun or tinted by coloured lights during the summer white night, and to watch the ballets, performed in a setting of falling cascades and playing fountains.
Risen like the legendary Phoenix from the ashes, Peterhof delights one with its radiant, festive beauty, its harmonious union of nature and art, of architecture, sculpture, and water. It overwhelms the onlooker with the inexhaustible energy of its fountains and cascades, and the iridescent play of its streams and sprays, one moment hardly splashing at all, and the next moment creating an almost symphonic harmony of sound. Peterhof-Petrodvorets, celebrated by poets and immortalized by painters, has regained all the magnificence appropriate to this triumphal monument, infused with the glory of the past and the poetry of art.
The Great Palace
and the Great Cascade.
The palace of Marly.
(View across the water-garden).
The Great Palace:
The Great Hall
The Great Cascade.
The western cascade
The Garden of Bacchus:
view from the top
of the Marly Cascade.
The Great (Sea) Canal
and The Great Cascade.
View from the Finland Gulf.