275th Anniversary of the First Cadet Corps
in the Menshikov Palace
4 September 2007 - 13 January 2008
The exhibition devoted to the 275th anniversary of the First Cadet Corps
has been opened in one of the first stone buildings of Saint Petersburg
- the Menshikov Palace. With its history of almost three hundred years,
the building evokes associations with the destinies of outstanding individuals
who lived in the 18th - 20th centuries, many of which played a significant
role in Russian history.
The First Cadet Corps was based in the Menshikov Palace from 1731-32 until
Empress Anna Ioannovna's decree of 29 July 1731 read: "In order that
szlachta should be taught theory from their childhood and qualified for
practice thereafter establish a cadet corps... "
General Field Marshal, President of the Military Collegium, Count Burchard
Ch. von Munnich became the organizer and the first director of the Corps,
which was named 'Knight's Academy' after his manner. The name persisted
in the 18th century as the military school was one of the cultural centres
and sightseeing attractions of the capital.
The first 56 cadets started their classes at the corps on 17 February
1732. The date was later regarded as its foundation day.
The reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was the bloom of literary activities
carried out by Alexander Sumarokov and Mikhail Kheraskov in the Corps,
as well as the birth and huge success of the Cadet Theatre.
Under Empress Catherine II, the educational system of the Corps was reorganized
to be in line with the Enlightenment. Ivan Betskoy drew up the Corps Regulations
and these were approved. The corps was renamed as the Imperial Army Szlachta
Cadet Corps. A large contribution to the upbringing and education of cadets
was made by Fedor (Fridrich) Anhalt.
Emperor Paul I appointed Mikhail Golenishchev-Kutuzov as the chief director
who focused on military sciences: tactics which were taught by Mikhail
Kutuzov himself, fortification, artillery, and topography.
Emperor Nicholas I was not well disposed to the Cadet Corps because of
the involvement of some of the cadets in the Decembrist Uprising of 1825
but he later changed his attitude. On 25 June 1831, Nicholas I became
the patron of the First Cadet Corps. A solemn three-day celebration of
the corps' centenary was held in 1832.
Following the military education reform, the Cadet Corps was transformed
into educational institutions of the Military Department in 1862 in order
to train candidates for entering military schools. As a result, the First
Cadet Corps was reorganized as the First Military Gymnasium of Saint Petersburg
and was relocated, leaving its historical accommodation, the Menshikov
Palace, for a period of 1864 to 1887, and the patronage of the Russian
emperors was thus discontinued.
Under the initiative of Emperor Alexander III, the First Cadet Corps returned
to its historical building with the first restoration work carried out
in the Menshikov Palace in 1888-1896. The restored historical rooms were
allocated for the Cadet Corps Museum.
The 175th anniversary celebrated in 1907 has a special place in the series
of anniversary festivities of the Corps. That was the last anniversary
festivity held in the Menshikov Palace, and for which Emperor Nicholas
II assumed the patronage of the Corps. The exposition shows materials
devoted to the 1907 festivities including the portrait of Nicholas II
in front of the First Cadet Corps painted by Osip Braz.
A special part of the exhibition is devoted to the Cadet Corps Museum
which continued its existence in the Menshikov Palace until 1928 despite
the discontinuation of the Corps. It shows materials from the archives
of the last museum director, Alexander Krutetsky, which were donated to
the State Hermitage Museum by his grandchildren.
The exhibition includes about two hundred exhibits from the collections
of the State Hermitage Museum, the State Museum for the History of Saint-Petersburg,
the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering, and Signal Corps,
the Museum of Applied Arts of the Stieglitz Arts and Crafts Academy, as
well as the Tsarskoye Selo State Park-Museum, which describe the milestones
in the history of the First Cadet Corps. These are pieces of fine, decorative
and applied arts, clothing, armament, and medals, as well as manuscripts,
prints, and photos. Many of the items are exhibited and published for
the first time.
An illustrated catalogue (issued by the State Hermitage Publishing House)
has been prepared and published for the exhibition. Olga Andreeva, a researcher
at the Menshikov Palace Department of the State Hermitage Museum is the
A grenadier cadet cap of the Army Szlachta Cadet
An "Achiever" medal for cadets of the
Army Szlachta Cadet Corps
The lithograph "His Serene Highness Prince Menshikov's house and
garden plan as they looked under his possession"
The avenue down the Neva River between St. Isaac's
Church and the Cadet Corps
The memorial plaque on the foundation of the Szlachta
A graduate badge of the First Cadet Corps, Saint
Early 20th century
Photo "Cadets aged 6 to 12 years of the Imperial
Army Szlachta Cadet Corps"