Rundāle Palace is one of the two major baroque palaces built for the Dukes of Courland in what is now Latvia, the other being Jelgava Palace. The palace was built in two periods, from 1736 until 1740 and from 1764 until 1768. It was constructed to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli as a summer residence of Ernst Johann von Biron, the Duke of Courland. Following Biron's fall from grace, the palace stood empty until the 1760s, when Rastrelli returned to complete its interior decoration.
After Duchy of Courland and Semigallia was absorbed by the Russian Empire in 1795, Catherine the Great presented the palace to Count Valerian Zubov, the youngest brother of her lover, Prince Platon Zubov. He spent his declining years there after the death of Valerian Zubov in 1804. His young widow, Thekla Walentinowicz, a local landowner's daughter, remarried Count Shuvalov, thus bringing the palace to the Shuvalov family, with whom it remained until the German occupation in World War I when the German army established a hospital and a commandant's office there.
The palace suffered serious damage in 1919 during the Latvian War of Independence. In 1920, part of the premises were occupied by the local school. In 1933, Rundāle Palace was taken over by the State History Museum of Latvia. It was dealt a serious blow after World War II, when the grain storehouse was set up in the premises and later, the former duke's dining room was transformed into the school's gymnasium. Only in 1972 was a permanent Rundāle Palace Museum established.
The palace is one of the major tourist destinations in Latvia. It is also used for the accommodation of notable guests, such as the leaders of foreign nations. The palace and the surrounding gardens are now a museum.References:
For centuries, the Astrakhan Kremlin was inapproachable stronghold in the south-eastern border of the Russia. The first construction of the Kremlin began in 1587-1588 under the guidance of I.G. Vorodkov, a lector of Discharge Order. He laid the first wooden fortress with powerful solid walls and towers. The place of construction was chosen on the hill, known as “Rabbit” or “Zayachii” in Russian.
During the reign of Ivan IV The Terrible and Boris Godunov the wooden fortress was rebuilt into a stone one. For the development of Kremlin walls and towers state-owned official masters were headed from Moscow to Astrakhan. For best results executives used the old, but very strong Tatar plinths which were brought from the ruins of the cities of the Golden Horde towns. Stone citadel was built by the type of Moscow Kremlin.
Next two centuries have become relatively calm for the Kremlin. Its buildings were repaired, rebuilt and renewed. However, in the beginning of 20th century after the October Revolution access to the Kremlin was closed. Instead it was transformed as a military post, where groups of Red Guards were formed the Military Revolutionary Committee was placed.
In January 1918 Astrakhan Kremlin was once again in the middle of fateful events, when supporters of Soviet power fought with Astrkhan Cossaks. They attacked The Red Army that was entrenched in the Kremlin, from roofs of nearby buildings. Serious destruction was caused to the Kremlin after this battle. In 1919 the Army was reorganized under the leadership of Kirov to protect the outfall of Volga and to defeat the White Guard troops and foreign interventionists.
Only after the end of the World War II the town opened the access to the Kremlin. At the same time Kremlin ceases to be subject of military purposes. In the mid-20th century significant restoration works were held, due to which many buildings, requiring urgent repairs were saved.
In 1974 the Astrakhan Kremlin became a museum. Nowadays citizens and tourists of Astrakhan have the access to museum exhibits of the lifestyle of the Astrakhan Garrison. Moreover they can see Casual Suits archers and scorers, elements of their weapons and ammunition, the exhibition dedicated to the history of popular uprisings and corporal punishment. In 2011, after the restoration of the kremlin, Guardhouse exposition was opened, which tells about the life of Astrakhan military garrison of the 19th century.
Construction of Assumption Cathedral began in 1699 and lasted almost 12 years. The bell tower was erected in 1710. The exterior of the Cathedral was decorated with molded brick and carved with white stone. Windows and dome heads were framed by columns in the style of Corinthian décor and semicircular arches were filled with paintings with biblical plot. Three of such arches were arranged on each side of the temple.
The cathedral was divided into two floors: the upper church is dedicated to the honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Tall and light temple was intended for ceremonial worships during warm months. The lower church which is dark lightened and surrounded by the gallery columns.