The Winter Palace (Russian: Зи́мний дворе́ц) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was, from 1732 to 1917, the official residence of the Russian monarchs. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great’s original Winter Palace, the present and fourth Winter Palace was built and altered almost continuously between the late 1730s and 1837, when it was severely damaged by fire and immediately rebuilt. The storming of the palace in 1917 as depicted in Soviet paintings and Eisenstein’s 1927 film October became an iconic symbol of the Russian Revolution.
The palace was constructed on a monumental scale that was intended to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. From the palace, the Tsar ruled over 22,400,000 square kilometres (8,600,000 sq mi) (almost 1/6 of the Earth’s landmass) and over 125 million subjects by the end of the 19th century. It was designed by many architects, most notably Bartolomeo Rastrelli, in what came to be known as the Elizabethan Baroque style. The green-and-white palace has the shape of an elongated rectangle, and its principal façade is 250 m long and 100 ft (30 m) high. The Winter Palace has been calculated to contain 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows, 1,500 rooms and 117 staircases. The rebuilding of 1837 left the exterior unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned in a variety of tastes and styles, leading the palace to be described as a “19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style.”
In 1905, the Bloody Sunday massacre occurred when demonstrators marched toward the Winter Palace, but by this time the Imperial Family had chosen to live in the more secure and secluded Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, and returned to the Winter Palace only for the most formal and rarest state occasions. Following the February Revolution of 1917, the palace was for a short time the seat of the Russian Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky. Later that same year, the palace was stormed by a detachment of Red Army soldiers and sailors—a defining moment in the birth of the Soviet state. On a less glorious note, the month-long looting of the palace’s wine cellars during this troubled period led to what has been described as “the greatest hangover in history”. Today, the restored palace forms part of the complex of buildings housing the Hermitage Museum.