Interviewer: “You once told me a story about the Tsar, and how he did something very romantic for his wife?”
Informant: “Oh yeah. He was trying to impress his wife because he knew she loved the winter, and he knew that her birthday is during the summer. I think it was in July. So he kept it as a secret, but he built a very very beautiful palace outside of St. Petersburg. And he hired hundreds of people who would like, make you know like cotton balls? But of course they didn’t have cotton balls, but they were the same substance. So they had to rip that stuff into small pieces and put it on the trees. So when it was her birthday the Tsar actually took his wife to that palace and the whole place looked like it was winter time.”
The palace my information spoke of is Peterhof Palace, which is also known as ‘The Russian Versallies’. Peter the Great built this palace in the early 18th century. In my research I did not find any connection to the construction of this palace being a gift to his second wife, Catherine I. My informant first heard this story from her mother, which suggests that this story has been passed down through the generations. Perhaps the reason why this story has endured over time is because Peter the Great holds a place of high respect in the minds of the Russian people due to the enormous contributions he made to the country, such as the modernization of Russia. Thus, this story serves as a connection to a major time period in Russian history. This story serves as a way to preserve the grand image of Peter the Great in people’s minds. It also gives the ruler a romantic side that lends the legend a more sentimental touch, making this major historical figure more relatable to people today due to the emotional connection this story makes.
My informant was born in 1977, Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia). On completing her undergraduate education in Moscow, she moved to California to earn her graduate degree in theatrical design from Cal State Long Beach. She now works as a faculty member for the USC School for Dramatic Arts. She became a US citizen in 2012.