Peter the Great’s House in Polotsk
Many people who came to Polotsk to see Saint Sophia’s Cathedral didn’t suspect what a house was on Nizhne-Pokrovskaya Street. If you come up to it then you can get to know due to a small plate that it’s a historical monument of Belarus. It is supposed that Peter the Great lived there.
Peter the Great’s House appeared on the wooden building place back in 1692. During the Second World War, the memorable building was damaged, but it didn’t have an impact on its exterior. It is notable that the plate with the mentioning of the great ruler was placed on the house in the 50’s of the last century. It is a one-storeyed construction in the shape of an irregular rectangular, with high windows. The entrace door, opened for every comer, is decorated with rich composition of carved elements. Baroque features are clearly discernable in architectural appearance of the building.
A library named after Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, a classic of Russian literature was located in the building for a long time. A monument to the great writer can be seen in front of the house. Nowadays a unique exhibit “A stroll down Nizhne-Pokrovskaya Street” has been placed there, which is devoted to the historical peripetia of one street, which the onlooker will know a lot of new about: what kind of people inhabited it, what the interior furniture of houses looked like, what tableware was used by people. The onlookers have an opportunity to carry back in the past as if in a time machine and to see everything with their own eyes.
Why did the Russian sovereign visit Polotsk and stay at this house then? The answer is simple. Belarus was used as a place of arms for the realization of personal war ambitions by the venerable neighbours for a long time. Peter the Great also didn’t overlook Belarus. It was connected with the long and bloody Northern war, in which Belarus was used as a theatre of hostilities. During the Great Northern War, Grand Duke of Lithuania August II was an ally of Russia, which aim was to get the desirable access to the Baltic sea. The Northern War was inconsistent for common Belarusians: someone supported the Russians, someone – the Swedes. Therefore a long stay of Peter the Great wasn’t welcomed by the majority in Polotsk. It concerned especially the Uniates. That’s why historians connect the killing of the Uniate priests with the personality of Peter.
Initially, Peter the Great was in Polotsk when passing through to meet August II. Then numerous Russian army headed by Menshikov was stationed near the township for a long time. And Peter the Great paid homage by visiting the oldest town in Belarus in June 1705. He lived in the house and monastic cells with his son Alexey, count Sheremetev and his loyal prince Menshikov. The legend says that Peter the Great considered to make Polotsk a stronghold. The ruler was in Polotsk in summer 1705, where his activities for the benefit of the Russian state became especially productive.
Peter the Great’s House is very popular among tourists in Polotsk, because the personality of Peter is discrepant, but grand and monumental. And it is hard to argue with.