A wooden fortress was built by Russians on the place of Pavlovsk and was known from at least 13th century as part of an Administrative division of Novgorod Land. The fortress and the entire region were later captured by the Swedes. On 13 August 1702, the Russian army led by Peter the Great and Fyodor Apraksin met Swedes at the Izhora River and pushed them to the fortress. For several days, the Swedish Army was reinforcing their positions but were expelled upon a surprise frontal attack.
Paul I, an avid fan of the military, had long dreamed of building a stone fortress on the ruins of the Swedish forts. After he became an emperor, in 1796, he hired the Italian architect Vincenzo Brenna and raised money for the project. By 1798 Brenna raised a Gothic folly, Bip fortress, which fascinated Paul so much that he listed it on the Army register of real fortresses. After the death of Catherine, Paul and Brenna expanded the Pavlovsk estate with real military barracks, officers’ quarters and a hospital.
Catherine the Great liked the nature in Pavlovsk area and frequently visited it for hunting trips. In December 1777, she assigned to her son, Paul I, 362 desyatinas (977 acres; 395 ha) of land along the Slavyanka River, together with forests, arable land and two small villages with peasants. This was a present to Paul and his wife Maria Feodorovna on the occasion of the birth of their first son, the future Emperor Alexander I of Russia. This date is considered the founding date of the Pavlovskoye village (the name Pavlovsk derives from Paul’s name in Russian, Pavel). Catherine commissioned the Scottish architect Charles Cameron, who had previously done much work for her in the nearby Tsarskoye Selo, to design a palace and a park in Pavlovskoye.
Between 1782 and 1786 Cameron built the original palace core that survives to date, the Temple of Friendship, Private Gardens, Aviary, Apollo Colonnade and the Lime Avenue. He also planned the original landscape including the huge English park with numerous temples, colonnades, bridges, and statues. The Temple of Friendship was the first building in Pavlovsk, followed by the main palace. However, Cameron’s Pavlovsk was far from Paul’s vision of what an imperial residence should be: it lacked moats, forts and all other military assortments so dear to Paul; «Cameron created a markedly private world for the Grand Duke. The palace could have belonged to anyone. not to the tsar of Russia in waiting.» Constrained financially, Paul and Maria closely watched Cameron’s progress and regularly curbed his far-reaching, expensive plans. Between 1786 and 1789 Cameron’s duties in Pavlovsk passed to Brenna.
Paul personally hired Brenna, then employed by Stanisław Kostka Potocki, in 1782, and used him in 1783–1785 to visualize his architectural fantasies. Brenna left Cameron’s palace core intact, extending it with side wings; although he remodeled the interiors, they bear traces of Cameron’s style to date. However, Maria’s private suite and the militaria displayed in public halls are attributed to Brenna alone.
In 1794, the population of Pavlovskoye counted 300 people, mostly peasants and palace servants. There was a stone church, a free public school for peasants and three hospitals: regular, military and for invalids. Later, an agriculture school and the first in Russia school for the deaf were established in Pavlovskoye. Between 1807 and 1810, the school for the deaf was located in the Bip fortress. Later, a military regiment was stationed and practiced there. Theatrical performances were regularly staged first in the palace and since 1794 in the theater built nearby by Brenna.
Pavel favored as his residence Gatchina to Pavlovskoye, and therefore, since 1788 the latter was managed by his wife who had contributed most to its well-being. Maria Feodorovna enjoyed animal husbandry (she used to milk cows herself) and thus built a large farm at the edge of the park and a wooden pavilion for studies. She was also a skilled artist, a member of Berlin Academy of Arts, and her numerous handicrafts still remain in the palace. A large collection of books was accumulated in the palace by her efforts. In 1796, the village received a status of a town and renamed to Pavlovsk.
Ball in Pavlovsk on the occasion of 25th anniversary of the Tsarskoye Selo Railways
After Paul’s death in 1801 the palace was proclaimed a residence of his widow, Maria Feodorovna. During that time, it was frequently visited by famous poets and novelists including Sergey Glinka, Nikolay Karamzin and Ivan Krylov. Vasily Zhukovsky was a regular reader for Maria Feodorovna and the teacher of Russian language and literature for Princess Charlotte of Württemberg, the wife of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia who inherited Pavlovsk after the death of Maria Feodorovna in 1828. Michael Pavlovich spent his childhood in Pavlovsk, and then cared much about the city. Being a military person, he mostly improved well-being of the military corps staged near Pavlovsk and built barracks, riding stables, forge and workshops. But he also improved the roads of Pavlovsk, donated significant amounts to the church and established an orphanage and a school for middle-class childre
In the 19th century, Pavlovsk became a favorite summer retreat for well-to-do inhabitants of the Russian capital. The life of Pavlovsk’s dachniki was described by Dostoyevsky, who frequently visited the town, in his novel The Idiot. To facilitate transportation, the first railway in Russia, the Tsarskoe Selo Railways, was built around 1836. The first test runs were performed between Pavlovsk and Tsarskoye Selo using carriages horse-drawn over the rails. Regular trains powered by steam locomotives began operating between Pavlovsk and St. Petersburg from May 1838. Aiming to promote the railways, the train terminal of Pavlovsk was built in 1836–1838 as an entertaining center. It then regularly hosted evening festivities, and Johann Strauss II (1856), Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann and Feodor Chaliapin were among the celebrities who performed there. The station was called ‘Vauxhall Pavilion’, and its fame eventually caused the modified from Vauxhall word «Vokzal» to enter the Russian language, with the meaning «substantial railway station building».
Michael Pavlovich died in 1849 leaving no heir, and thus Pavlovsk became property of a son of Nicholas I, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich of Russia. Konstantin Nikolayevich established in 1872 an art gallery and a museum in the palace and opened them for public access. He also promoted construction in 1876 of a laboratory dedicated to meteorology and study of magnetic fields on the outskirts of the park. Pavlovsk became a popular residence and by 1874 had 323 summer cottages. The celebrities living here included Alexander Brullov, Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg and Vladimir Sollogub.
On April 30, 1909 a young officer, Colonel Oleg Pantyukhov, organized the first Russian Scout troop Beaver (Бобр, Bobr) in Pavlovsk. In 1910, General Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement, visited Nicholas II in Tsarskoye Selo. They had a pleasant conversation, and a Scouting badge was issued to Tsarevich Alexei. In 1914, Pantyukhov established a society called Russian Scout (Русский Скаут, Russkiy Skaut). The first Russian Scout campfire was lit in the woods of Pavlovsk Park. After the October Revolution of 1917, and during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1920, most of the Scoutmasters and many Scouts fought in the ranks of the White Army and interventionists against the Red Army; the Scout movement was therefore regarded negatively in the Soviet Union and disbanded after the war.
After the October Revolution of 1917, the Pavlovsk palace and park were nationalized and converted to a public-access museum. In a general motion to replace the Tsar’s name, the town was renamed to Slutsk, after revolutionary Vera Slutskaya who died nearby in 1917. Later it was often mentioned in the documents under a double name Slutsk (Pavlovsk), and eventually regained the old name in 1944.
Pavlovsk suffered much from the German occupation during World War II (16 September 1941 – 24 January 1944) – the entire water system of the park and about 70,000 trees were destroyed, the palace was severely damaged by the fire of January 1944, and about 40% of exhibitions were stolen or destroyed (the rest was evacuated to Siberia before arrival of the Germans). The old train station was burned down and rebuilt in the 1950s by A. E. Levinson. The town was liberated as a result of the Krasnoye Selo–Ropsha Offensive. Restoration works started in 1944 and were completed by 1973. Nowadays about 1.5 million tourists visit Pavlovsk annually.
In 1954, Pavlovsk was transferred under the jurisdiction of St. Petersburg. In 1989, it was included into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as part of the Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments. In 2003, historical names were returned to dozens of streets of Pavlovsk which were renamed during the Soviet time.