Once upon a time there lived a Russian Count, Count Zavadovsky. He had a great deal of money and power and one person he loved. The women he loved was unobtainable but his loved lasted for more then half a century. Count Zavadovsky has been dead now for more then two hundred years but the love he held for the Empress, Catherine the Great, lives on in the Village of Lyalichi. The Count built for the Empress a grand country palace and an immense park just to try to make her happy and to encourage her to become his wife. The ghosts of this love affair seduce you as you walk around Lyalichi because there is a very romantic story to be told here and the spirits of the past want to tell you the story that they have experienced first  hand. The grand old oak trees want to bend right down and whisper in your ear about the happiness and sadness that they have seen here.  




So, where is it you ask?


The village of Lyalichi is in the Surazh district which is in the Bryansk Region of Russia and not far from the Ukraine. The history of Lyalichi goes way way back because it is such a beautiful area of Russia.  The "Old Village" was originally three kilometers to the north of the present-day village. At one time it was controlled by the Polish-Latvian State and these "foreigners" were tossed out by the Kazaks of Bogdan Khmelnitsky.  The inhabitants of the Old Village were sentenced to be "left without a roof over their heads" and Polish chastisers burned down the whole settlement. Those that stayed alive decided not to go back to their former village.  The new settlement was founded in an out-of-the-way forest on the bank of the the small river Shelkovka. Its founder is considered to be a man by the name of "Lyalya" and hence you get the name of the new village as "Lyalichi".



The first written record or mention of Lyalichi was made in 1654 when the village was included in the property of Polish magnate Abramovich. After the Polish invaders were ejected,  Lyalichi was ruled by the Mglinskava Ratusha, a form of local government. During this period, the peasants had a relatively free lifestyle but over time government authorities based in Mglin gradually appropriated the lands and the peasants themselves. They became serfs or slaves to the landholders. The village and the villagers of Lyalichi gradually fell under the dominion of the Kazak, Maksim Borozda. After his death, according to the charter of 1726, Lyalichi was gifted to Lieutenant Anton Deterden who had married Borozdna' s widow. When Deterden died the village reverted to the Mglinskaya Ratusha and then ultimately passed into the hands of the the Royal family and was included in the list of Royal villages. The Tsars used these "royal villages" to reward persons for service to the Royal family. If a royal village was given to someone for services rendered the people of the village were given along with the land.


During the time of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) the village of Lyalichi was given to Count Peter Zavadovsky. The Count had been a loyal supporter throughout Catherine's reign serving in many cabinet posts, including education and finance, and was an "official" court lover of the the Empress early in her reign. Zavadovsky transformed Lyalichi into a "monument of love" by creating a large park like estate after the English or French fashion, built a church, St. Catherine, dedicated to the Empress and built a palace complex utilizing the genius of the famous Italian architect Jacomo Quarenghi.



Often the the estate of Lyalichi was referred to as a "little piece of St. Petersburg" because the buildings were so stately and the grounds so beautiful. There is a very good reason for this because the court architect, Jocomo Quarenghi, who had a tremendous influence on the construction of St. Perersburg (Smolny, Hermitage Theatre, Alexander's Palace) was also retained over a ten year period to construct Lyalichi. Thus in the years 1790-1797 this famed architect threw his heart and soul into building the monument of love for Zavadovsky.


The estate itself was enclosed by a 12 kilometer stone wall. The central building was three stories high and the two wings were  two stories high creating a palace complex of 365 rooms, one for each day of the year. Just behind the house was a landscaped garden in the English style with pavilions, greenhouses and various ponds. There were many paths that wound their way among the century old oak trees to the large fruit garden. A "summer palace" was built within the park along with  a "Temple of Gratitude". There were many "classical" themes exemplified in the many statutes and small structures that together constituted what is called the Palladian school of architecture.


Now, of course, the estate is in a state of ruins and where beauty and harmony once reigned now dereliction and decay rule. But, for those that want to "investigate" the Lyalichi estate they will find that it is a little microcosm that sheds light on the understanding of Russian history. It has small "rings" just like the growth rings of the old oak tree and each of these "rings" tells the investigator what happened in this little corner of Russia at one period of time and by extension the whole of Russia.




(From the book "Lyalichi. The Monument to Love” by G.Pikina and W.Pollock) LYALICHI:THE MONUMENT TO LOVE