PHOTO: early 20th century postcard of Nicholas II’s hunting lodge in the Caucasus
The history of the village of Krasnaya Polyana is closely connected with the Romanovs. It was here, in 1864, that the Caucasian War ended. A victory parade and solemn prayer service was attended by the commander-in-chief of the Russian army, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich (1832-1909), who served for 20 years as the Governor General of Caucasus (1862–1882).
In 1898, a decision was made to rename the village of Krasnaya Polyana to the city of Romanovsk [named in honour of the Imperial Family]. After the construction of the highway from Adler [Sochi, Krasnodar Territory of Russia], the flat lands were divided into 300 sections, and the slopes of the mountains – into 70. It was at this time, that the development and settlement of Romanovsk began.
In 1902, on the advice of the mayor of St. Petersburg Daniil Vasilyevich Drachevsky (1858-1918), who owned an estate on the shores of the Black Sea and a dacha in the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana, Emperor Nicholas II leased a plot of land for 40 thousand rubles for a period of 15 years. The forests on the slope of Mount Achishkho were declared a protected area, and only members of the Imperial Family and senior government officials were permitted to hunt there.
PHOTO: Nicholas II’s hunting lodge was constructed in the traditional English style
A new hunting lodge for Nicholas II was constructed in the traditional English style. The three-storey lodge was completed in 1903, and contained 50 rooms. A telephone was installed in the lodge, which connected to the post and telegraph office and security. In addition to the main building, a huntsman’s house was built just below the main building, as well as a stone guardhouse and a protective wall. According to one source, the Emperor showed little interest in the project.
In September 1903, the hunting lodge received its first guests. It is known for certain that Nicholas II himself never visited it. However, the Grand Dukes Alexander (1866-1933) and Sergei Mikhailovich (1869-1918) frequently visited the hunting lodge. When members of the Imperial Family were not in residence, the hunting lodge was also open to tourists visiting the region. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the lodge was rarely visited by the grand dukes, all of whom had dedicated themselves to the war effort.
In 1920, Nicholas II’s hunting lodge was nationalized, and became the “property of the people”. Initially it housed a sanatorium for the Red Army.
During World War II, the building was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers. They were brought here for the health benefits of the mountain-sea climate of Krasnaya Polyana. By 1945, more than 120 doctors and nurses staffed the hospital.
PHOTO: the abandoned hunting lodge of Nicholas II, as it looked in the mid-1990s
In the post-war period, Joseph Stalin visited Krasnaya Polyana, visiting the former hunting lodge, which by that time had fallen into disrepair. In 1949, Stalin gave the order to restore the building, and to build a path connecting the lodge with the main building of the Red Army sanatorium.
In 1961, the house and the accompanying sanatorium buildings were transferred to the Central House of Sports of the Soviet Army. In 1963, construction began on the buildings of the Krasnaya Polyana military camp site, situated one kilometer from the former tsar’s hunting lodge. In 1965, the building officially became part of the Krasnaya Polyana camp site of the USSR Ministry of Defense.
In 1967, work began on the intensified modernization of the camp site, as a result of which an observation deck, a parking lot, a public toilet, and a restaurant were constructed. The hunting lodge itself became a 4-star hotel with a restaurant. Guest rooms were decorated with Persian carpets, crystal vases and porcelain. The rooms were equipped with modern bathrooms.
Until the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the tsar’s hunting lodge was still in good condition. At the decisive stage of Perestroika, the building was transferred into the hands of an anonymous private individual.
PHOTO: the former hunting lodge of Nicholas II, as it looks today
In the first half of the 1990s, the building was privately owned by a legal entity registered in the Cayman Islands. The former hunting lodge itself was used as an ordinary hotel. In 1995, the building was abandoned, as was the restaurant, the latter of which had been very popular in the 1980s. Before abandoning the building, its owners stripped it of all its interior decoration, and also exposed the windows.
In 2008, the lodge fell into the possession of Elena Baturina, the wife of the mayor of Moscow, a billionaire according to Forbes. By 2011-2012, the former tsar’s hunting lodge had fallen into a terrible state of neglect and disrepair, the entrance to the building was completely exposed to the elements as well as vandalism.
In May 2013, work began on the reconstruction of the former lodge, with its completion scheduled by February 2014, for the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The former hunting lodge of Nicholas II in the village of Krasnaya Polyana did not open its doors to visitors during the Olympic Games. Instead, the building and the adjacent territory were purchased by a private individual. Sadly, almost nothing remained of the historic buildings former appearance, following the reconstruction. Entrance to the territory is now prohibited.
© Paul Gilbert. 1 May 2021
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