The history of the Rozhdestveno estate in the 18th-19th centuries
The history of the Rozhdestveno estate in the 20th century
The Batovo estate
The Vyra estate
Vladimir Nabokov

The history of the Rozhdestveno estate in the 20th century

Manor of the Rozhdestveno EstateFront staircase in RozhdestvenoV.D.Nabokov and his wife cycling

The Rozhdestveno estate belongs to the neighbourhood of the village of Siverskaya. This area has been given the name of "Little Switzerland" due to the scenery hilly banks of local streams and rivers covered with rich vegetation and the peculiar microclimate.

The Rozhdestveno estate, owing its name to the Rozhdestva Bogoroditsy Church (Church of the Nativity of Our Lady), was laid by N. Efremov, the head of Count A.Bezborodko's office, in 1787. It has changed the owners several times until being bought by Nabokov's grandfather Ivan Rukavishnikov, a gold manufacturer and millionaire.

The beautiful estate house on the high bank of the river soared among linden-trees and oaks.

Its lay-out in the so called Italian style has been preserved since the times of the first owner. Three facades of the house were decorated with porticos supported by Ionic columns and the main facade with the wide front staircase had a columned loggia. All porticos were crowned with triangular frontons. A rectangular belvedere, an indispensable detail of the late 18th century estates, with a by-pass gallery towered above the roof.

The big hall intended for balls and receptions with the by-pass gallery at the first floor level was designed as the center of the house. Ceremonial rooms were situated on the ground floor, while premises of the first floor made up the living space. Household facilities were placed in the basement.

A park of the landscape type was laid southwest of the house. It was designed using the natural forest tract bounded with local relief and existing roads. Axled and ring alleys were arranged in the park and a parterre lawn with the main drive - in front of the house.

A lot of household constructions including a poultry-yard, stables and green-houses were built in the estate when it belonged to the Rukavishnikovs.

Construction of the new Rozhdestva Bogoroditsy Church was initiated and sponsored by Ivan Rukavishnikov. It was consecrated in 1883. Later the burial-vault of the Rukavishnikovs family was placed next to the church.

The history of the Rozhdestveno estate in the 20th century
Drawing by a German soldier   House in Rozhdestveno after the fire

The Rozhdestveno estate was inherited by Vassily Rukavishikov after his father's death in 1901. For the most time he lived abroad and died in Italy in 1916. With no children of his own, he willed his entire property including Rozhdestveno to his dear nephew Vladimir Nabokov.

It was not long though that Vladimir owned Rozhdestveno. In 1917 the Socialist revolution broke out and the estate was nationalized. In 1919 the Nabokovs were forced to leave Russia forever. The house was decreed a museum by local authorities. The family property and belongings were sorted out. Pieces of greater value were handed over to the Gatchina Palace -Museum and those considered of no value were either distributed among organizations or sold out. In 1924 books, paintings, furniture and photo-albums were removed from the estate but, unfortunately, their location remains unknown.

During Great Patriotic War a German unit was quartered in the estate.

When retreating, the fascists tried to destroy the larger premises of the estate but it was only the bridge that was blown up. However, the air-blast destroyed one of the house facades and restoration was conducted after the war.

The Batovo estate
Manor of the Batovo estate  M.Korf in her estate in Batovo

Batovo was a family estate of the Nabokovs.

Since 1800 it has been owned by the Ryleevs family. It was often visited by Russian poet Kondraty Ryleev, one of the leaders of the Decembrists - a nobility conspiracy against the tsarist family. On the Decembrists uprising being crushed, Kondraty Ryleev was executed. Hence the name of the main alley in the Batovo estate park - Alley of the Hanged - and the name of one of the rooms - Room of Ghosts.

Batovo was bought by Baroness Nina Korf in the mid 19th century. She later sold it to her daughter Maria and her daughter's husband - Dmitry Nabokov. One of their children, Vladimir Nabokov, became the leader of the Party of Constitutional Democrats and a member of the Provisional Government in 1917. His son, who was also given the name of Vladimir, was destined to be a famous writer.

After her husband's death in 1904, Maria Korf still lived in the estate all the year round. She was a remarkable person. As locals recalled, she used to swim in the Oredezh river till its freezing-over and even shot at wolves. Every summer a lot of her grandchildren came to the "dacha" and she built a separate house not far from the main building to stay there in her own world.

Besides the manor and detached house of Maria Korf, there was a lot of household constructions in the park.

After the revolution a local community house was arranged in the estate but it burnt down in the fire in 1925.

The Vyra estate
Manor of the Vyra estate  E.Nabokova with a dog in Vyra

The Vyra estate lying not far from Batovo got its name from the village of Vyra located in 2 kilometres. It belonged to Ivan Rukavishnikov and was his daughter Elena's dowry when she married Vladimir Nabokov in 1898. They met each other when cycling around Batovo and Vyra.

Five children were born into their family, one of them being Vladimir Nabokov, a future writer, poet, translator and entomologist. Later on, Vladimir pictured the magic world of the old estate in his writings. The lambent and moving description of the house of his childhood can be found in his novel "Mashen'ka".

A veterinary college was arranged in the Vyra estate after the revolution.

The building has not survived through the years of Great Patriotic War. The area was captured by the Germans, and the headquarters of General von Paulus was set up in the estate. It was burnt down in the battles of 1944.

Vladimir Nabokov
V.V.Nabokov with his parentsThe arms of the Nabokovs family  The Nabokovs E.Nabokova and her family  Banks of the Oredezh River

As Vladimir Nabokov mentioned, his life was divided into four equal periods - Russian, German, American and Swiss ones.

He was born on April 23, 1899 in St.Petersburg.

Between 1911 and 1916 he was a student at the Tenishevsky College in St.Petersburg. He began writing back at school and in 1916 his first poems were published in 500 copies. In late 1917 the Nabokovs found themselves in Crimea and left Russia in March 1919.

Vladimir Nabokov entered the Trinity College of Cambridge University in 1919. When at the college, he majored in Russian and French literature. Being a student, he wrote verse penetrated with the feeling of loneliness, very often depicting his beloved Vyra. As he later marked, "the true story of my being at an English university was the story of my travail to hold Russia".

After graduating with honours in 1923, he moved to Berlin where his father has been editing "Rul'(Rudder)" newspaper, one of the most known of more than 40 Russian language periodicals published in Berlin of those days. On January 7, 1920 the first publication of Vladimir Nabokov under the name of Vl. Sirin appeared on its pages. He sent verse, reviews and chess problems to "Rul'". The first novel by Nabokov, "Mashen'ka", was printed by the "Slovo(Word)" publishers in 1926.

In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, daughter of a lawyer and timber merchant. In 1934 a son named Dmitry was born into their family. Both in Berlin and Paris, where they moved in 1937, the living was made mostly on translating and teaching English, French and tennis.

Escaping from fascist occupation, the family moved to the USA in 1940 and in 1945 Nabokov became a US citizen. He worked for the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University in 1942-1948, was a professor at Cornwell University in 1948-1958 and taught literature at Harvard University in 1951-1952.

When living in the USA and later in Switzerland, Vladimir Nabokov not only created his own writings, both in English and Russian, but made a great input in introducing western world to classical Russian literature. He wrote a book about Nikolai Gogol, translated "Slovo o polku Igoreve"("Oration on the Prince Igor's regiment") and verse by Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov and Fiodor Tyutchev into English. In 1964 his English translation of the Pushkin's novel in verse "Evgeny Onegin" with detailed commentaries was published.

Vladimir Nabokov died on July 2, 1977 in Vienna and was buried in Switzerland.