The Russian part of Gdansk’s soul
Russia is yet another country, which is strongly connected to the history of Gdansk. For hundreds of years Russians influenced the identity of Neptune’s City. And as the history usually has it, it was both positive and destructive influence. Learn more form another article by prof. Andrzej Januszajtis!
Gdansk’s being part of the Hanseatic League also had an impact on its relations with Russia, especially taking into account the trading post in Veliky Novogrod, which was also a popular destination among Gdansk merchants.
Inhabitants of Gdansk visiting Petersburg will be surprised when they see the coat of arms which decorates the ornate grate at the entrance to the Sheremetev Palace in Fontanka. Field Marshal Boris Sheremetev received it in 1706 from Emperor Peter the Great, along with Russia’s first ever courtship. The coat of arms was supposed to refer to the alleged “Prussian” legacy of his family. The two crosses under a crown (imperial crown) on a red background are an obvious reference to the Gdansk coat of arms. Similar to our coat of arms, the shield is held by two lions.
The Russians who died in combat in 1734, 1807, 1813, 1914-18 and 1945 have been built three monuments in Gdansk. The first of these, situated on the slopes of Grodzisk, was funded by the imperial government in 1898; the second one, located in the neighbouring Garrison Cemetery, was funded by the Soviet authorities. The third monument, along with the cemetery on Gielguda Street, was revealed during the communist period (in 1951).
From 1716, Russia had a special representative in Gdansk, usually referred to as the resident. 25 such residents had been appointed in total before the outbreak of World War I. The first resident was a Pole – Ludwik Kazimierz Laczynski, the second (1718-1736) – a German named Georg Erdmann, a school friend of Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1768, on a plot of land in the Long Gardens district (purchased in 1723 and where the Three Bears Inn used to stand – which would translate to No 43-45 today, old building No 74), the Russians built their headquarters, first referred to as the Russian Palace, House and, eventually, Consulate. Between 1926 and 1941, it was the residence of the consuls of the Soviet Union – five in total. The building was destroyed in 1945.
On 1 March 1716, Emperor Peter the Great visited Gdansk. While the King of Poland, Augustus II (who arrived in Gdansk on 3 April), could enjoy the luxury of the so-called Royal Townhouses on the Long Market (No 1-4), the Emperor, who was feared by the locals, had to make do with suburban taverns. In one such establishment, Hope’s Inn near Targ Rakowy, he held the wedding reception for his niece. He would also often go to the inner city to marvel at its attractions, e.g. the altar with Memling’s The Last Judgement in the Saint Mary Church, which he liked so much as to offer the city a large sum of money and an exemption from an old tax. The people of Gdansk would rather pay money than part with the work of art. The Emperor’s frivolous behaviour, e.g. in the church, where he stole the city major’s wig and put it on as protection from the cold, is the stuff of legend, and not all such stories have even a grain of truth to them.