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love stories

Love, which wasnt daunted by difficulties

Nikolay Sheremetev a senator, a chief-chamberlain of the Court, a Maecenas, the founder of Staropriimny House in Moscow and the owner of one of the best theatres where the actors were his serfs (June,28 1751 January,2 1809).

Praskovya Kovaliova (the stage-name is Zhemchugova) a serf actress of the Sheremetevs theatre, the wife of N. Sheremetev (June,20 1768 February,23 1805).


Nikolay came of the noble family. He was the son of Count Peter Sheremetev and Varvara, Princess Cherkasskaya. Nikolay was christened on the 1st of June in the famous Fountain House in St. Petersburg in the St. Varvara Church. Nikolay got a brilliant house education, which was completed by the four-year journey abroad.

Praskovya was born when the young Count was 17 years old in the family of blacksmiths in Yaroslavl Uyezd. Parasha got education at the serf theatre of Sheremetev. The words of many songs tell us about the meeting of Nikolay and Parasha. There is a legend that their first meeting happened in the surroundings of Voshchazhnikovo Village, which was the part of the Sheremetevs lands from 1706 to 1917. Later, N. Sheremetev founded a chapel on the place of their meeting, but, unfortunately, it was destroyed. By his order the church was built in the village in 1805.

So, the young Parasha became Praskovya very soon. She was accommodated in the outhouse where actresses lived. In that way her girlish life changed. But nobody could suppose that the Counts attention to the serf girl would turn into real passion and long relations. She liked singing very mush; she loved Nikolay and prayed. What about? We can only conjecture.

Praskovya performed 50 opera parts on the stage of the theatre. In 1788 Nikolay Sheremetev and Praskovya began to live together in the Sheremetev Palace. That action was misunderstood to their contemporaries.

Nikolay inherited the Fountain House after his fathers death, and in 1795 they moved to St. Petersburg. Once Pavel I attended one of the home concerts in the Fountain House and presented Zhemchugova a precious stone.

In 1798 Praskovya got freedom, 3 years later her relatives became free, too. Her father became the Moscow merchant of the first guild. Only in February, 1801 they married in Moscow in the parish of the Church of Simeon Stolpnich (it is situated in Povarskaya Street). On the 3rd of February in 1803 their son Dmitry was born. He was named in honour to Dmitry Rostovskoy, whose portrait, together with her fathers portrait, Praskovya kept in her room.

Praskovya died from tuberculosis when their son Dmitry was 3 weeks old. There was another version of her death. M. Pilyaev wrote in his book Forgotten Past of St. Petersburg Surroundings: this virtuous woman died from poison she was poisoned by house-serfs after the childbirth. But this version wasnt proved.

Before the death Praskovya asked Tatyana Shlikova, her friend and a former dancer at the Sheremetevs theatre, not to leave her son. And Tatyana kept her promise given to Praskovya. She devoted all her life to Dmitrys education.

Praskovya was buried in the Lavra of Alexander Nevsky. The verses on her tombstone were full of grief and sorrow.

N. Sheremetev wrote in the letter to his sister Countess V. Razumovskaya (1803 February, 26) that his loss was exorbitant, he lost a wife and a friend.

After the death of Praskovya Nikolay Sheremetev devoted his life to the charity as his wife wanted. According to the will of Prascovya, he gave poor brides and craftsmen the part of his capital. He also found a Staropriimny House in Moscow.

Here is a brief note About Foundation of the Staropriimny House in Moscow.
100 indigent people, both men and women, will get accommodation, food, dress and other things they need.
50 poor people, both men and women, will get free medical treatment.
Moreover, every year these sums were intended for social needs:
1. 20 orphaned girls will share 6000 rubles as their trousseaus.
2. 500 rubles for helping 50 poor families and those, who were lacking in foodstuffs necessary for life.
3. 400 rubles for supporting craftsmen with families by supplying them with instruments and materials.
4. 5000 rubles for making donations to churches, burring poor people and other similar things.
On the opening day of the Staropriimny House 50000 rubles are intended for social needs.

Nikolay Sheremetev died on the 2nd of January in 1809 in the house of Countess Potiomkina. His own house was being decorated for the holiday in honour of Prussian Kings visit at that moment.
He was buried in the Lavra of Alexander Nevsky. According to his will, the funeral was frugal and money for his burial was distributed to beggars.

Grand opening of the Staropriimny House happened in a year after the death of Nikolay Sheremetev. It is written in the Russian bibliographic dictionary that during the first 60 years of existence Staropriimny House in Moscow helped much poor people: 50000 people got medical treatment there, several tens of thousands of people got grants, and besides, several tens of thousands of poor brides got trousseau, moreover, from 100 to 170 aged people lived in the almshouse annually. (1911, page 165)

After the death of Nikolay Sheremetev his son Dmitry headed the Staropriimny House. He was a Maecenas, a military man, a countcillor of State. Dmitry died in 1871. His son wrote: He died at that time when he was passing his parlour from the sofa to the writing-table he fell and died on the spot.

Since 1923 Staropriimny House became the Sclifosovsky First-Aid Institute and then it was a scientific-research center Medical Museum.

It is interesting that Anna Ahmatova, the famous Russian poetess, lived in the Fountain House for 30 years and once she even saw a silhouette of the serf actress and the hostess of the palace.

The last shelter of Anna Ahmatova was the Sklifasovsky First-Aid Institute (the very Staropriimny House in Moscow) where she died. In 1925 Pavel Sheremetev, the great-grandson of Nikolay and Praskovya, a curator of the museum Ostankino, wrote with sorrow about human ingratitude in his poem A Trip to Baden-Baden.


These materials are used in the article:
P. Bessonov. Praskov'ya I. - Countess Sheremet'eva. Moscow, 1872.
From the documents of N. Sheremet'ev.//Russian archive.1896, vol.8.
, 1900.


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