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Ice Palace

Dispatch from St. Petersburg | Published : 22/Feb/2006 23:00

Ice House
In 1740 the Russian tsarina Anna Ioannovna signed off on the idea of celebrating the recent peace treaty with Turkey (and, coincidentally, a decade anniversary of her throne) by erecting an “Ice Palace” in front of her own (stone) palace and organizing a mock wedding of her clowns. The ice house project itself was hardly a joke, overseen by a notable “starchitect” of the Russian capital at the time - Peter Eropkin. Partly, it was an attempt by one of his bosses, a certain Volynsky, to win the empress over after critizing her German ministers. The project was a smashing success, but that didn’t save either of them. Both Volynsky and Eropkin were executed by the same empress less than a year later. And four months after that, she herself died (we seriously doubt that the pangs of conscience were the cause). All in all, a typical Russian story.

Ice House

Blissfully oblivioius to the historical parallels, an “ice studio” headed by Valery Gromov decided to create a “modern interpretation” of the ice palace project, some 266 years later. We are happy to report that the team stayed true to this aggressive goal. So true, in fact, that the web site↣ (icestudio.ru) of the studio features a “splash” page built in the best traditions of Russian servitude, complete with a portrait of and a quote from the current head of state - in this case, Vladimir Putin.

Ice House

In all fairness to the artists, the project is impressive. A bit too impressive, perhaps, since way too many Petersburgers turned out to see it. We stand humbled by their endurance. Only in Russia can people be content with waiting in two lines in winter - 1.5 hours (!) to get their tickes and half an hour more to actually enter the territory of the “ice palace”.

Luckily, photos from the outside were permitted, which allows us to bring you the pictures without too much sacrifice on our part.

Ice House
Photographs: Ostap