Oranienbaum -- Russia's Ellis Island in 1766-67!

This page was begun on 15 June 2001 -- rak.

Oranienbaum, now known as Lomonosov, is a very small Russian port on the Baltic, some 25 kilometers west of St. Petersburg.  The original name was derived from German and meant "orange tree";  in the passion to remove things German the town was renamed for a famous Russian scientist and educator.

Page references are to the Beratz book citied in Peter and Catherine above.

"Here the clean-shaven Germans saw for the first time Russian peasants, whose unkempt beards attracted the special attention of many of the emigrants, for never in their lives had they seen anything like it (p.46)."

Catherine II had her summer palace in Oranienbaum.  She had a canal dug right up to its front gate and it is said that when in town she would greet new colonists in German from her front balcony.  Thanks to the combined efforts of John Klein and Ed Hoak I was able to visit the town and the place grounds in May 2001.

The following pictures are thumbnails.  Click on them to enlarge to original size.

This palace is huge and not in good repair although it did not suffer damage during WWII because it was west of the German army which was trying to go northeast to take St. Petersburg, then called Leningrad.  orpalace2.JPG (89746 bytes)  My first picture is taken looking south from the front gate.  The place was just too big to get either the east or the west end in the photo.  orpalace1.JPG (69081 bytes)  This second picture is taken closer looking a bit more to the east.  The third picture orpalace3.JPG (106968 bytes)  Is taken yet more closely and shows the entire west wing.  Both the east and west wings end symmetrically in structures like that in the right side of this picture.  Looking north from the front of the palace you see the front gate  orfrontgate.JPG (94574 bytes)  through which you can see the remains of the canal on which German colonists were brought to accept Catherine's greetings.  Next is a view of the remains of the canal taken by placing my camera through the ironwork of the front gate.  orfrontcanal.JPG (13083 bytes)  As you can see the highway has been built across cutting the canal off from the palace grounds.  My own guess is that in the old days it came right on through the front gate up to the front of the palace itself.

Next is a view of part of the current dock area.  ordocks1.JPG (79776 bytes)  My guess is that these docks are built on fill dumped after 1767.  Just at the southern head of this dock area are some old buildings.  ordockbldgs.JPG (88006 bytes)  The dock area pictured above is on beyond the yellow building.  Turning 90 degrees to the left of where the building picture was taken you see an old abandoned canal.  orbackcanal.JPG (96662 bytes)  My guess is that the left bank of this canal was about where the original Oranienbaum docks were on the Baltic at the time our people arrive there in 1766-67.  The following map, although not terribly clear, shows fairly good detail of the area.  ormap1.JPG (52161 bytes)  The Baltic Sea is the blue on the north and east.  The dock area I photographed is the first rectangular blue inlet on the right side of the picture.  The buildings I photographed are at the head of that inlet, between it and the train station which is the black rectangle.  Catherine's summer palace is shown in the lower right-hand corner.  My pictures are of the C shaped front which faces the yellow road on this map.  The canal which came up to the front gate is the narrow blue line going from the front of the palace out almost to the Sea.  Sorry, the map is not clearer.  I will try to get some help on that.  As you can see from this next photo and from the map, the train station retains the Oranienbaum name. orname.JPG (17764 bytes)  In the Russian alphabet P is our R, H is our N, a backwards N is our I, the thing that looks like a funny small b is a our capital B, and a Y is our U.

According to Beratz, some colonists stayed just a few days in Oranienbaum, others, two to four weeks, and some as many as 6 weeks.  At least one group had to build themselves huts from branches (p.46).  It may well have been that there were some barracks.  Pleve, p.111 says

"On April 30, 1764, Count Orlov approached the Empress with a proposal to send the colonists from Kronstadt to Oranienbaum, where temporary quarters would be established.  It was planned to use wood barracks constructed for soldiers from Holstein who had been in Russia.  In the opinion of the Chancery, after repair the barracks would be completely suitable for temporary housing [passage supplied by Steve Schreiber]."

Just down the road from Catherine's summer palace, less than .5 kilometer there are some old barracks, which originally were log structures which later were sided over.  They are now deserted but have not been so for long.  They are about in the same shape as was a log house a distant relative of mine built in the Kentucky hills about 1800 and which I saw and photographed last year.  Here are three pictures.  there are about ten such barracks still standing.  orbarracks1.JPG (167736 bytes)  orbarracks2.JPG (166941 bytes)  orbarracks3.JPG (81687 bytes)  It is tempting to imagine that our ancestors rested here before their journey on into Russia.  Perhaps one day we will find out if they did.

For the last two legs of the journey to the Volga, click On To The Volga.

For reports on visits to ancestral villages in Russia, click here.