• Dec 3, 2019

In St. Petersburg look for again the answer to a question from where in the Hermitage the first cat appeared.

Peter I's Pet: history of a cat of Vasily

the First imperial cat in the Winter Palace

According to the official version of a cat Peter I brought from Holland where it went with a goodwill visit. The cat was named primordially Russian name Vasily and left to live in the palace. Once in the spring, walking on the Summer garden, Vasily met Marta, a cat of the Dutch blood. And it happened that Vaska became the primogenitor of all Hermitage cats who protect richness of the Winter Palace to this day.

Other version from where the cat appeared

Nobody tries to call warm affection of Peter I for the pet in question to this day, and here about origin of a cat of Vasily there are disputes. The Vologda local historians defend the version that the tsar met the favourite in their city.

Residents of Vologda carefully store a story about it and transfer from generation to generation: through pictures and fairy tales. One of them says that Peter saw a cat on construction and naval shipyard of Vologda at the Dutch merchant and admired to his surprising abilities to catching of mice. The cat so was pleasant a cat to the tsar that it could not leave it any more.

Why to Peter cat

The cat brought by Peter was a fine myshelov and well fulfilled the duties. Initially this purpose was also pursued by the tsar, having lodged a cat in the residence, in the people it was known for a long time that better than cats nobody coped with catching of mice and protection of grocery stocks. For it provided to animals a shelter and the minimum leaving.

European attitude towards cats

Long before becoming the tsar, Peter I long time lived abroad from where he also brought the "boudoir" attitude towards animals. If in Russia from time immemorial keeping of a cat was connected generally with extermination of rodents and safety of grain, then already in Petrovsky times of a cat gradually entered a social life of the state. And the emperor because of visual similarity in the people was often compared to a cat, handing down amusing pamphlets and playful humourous catchphrases about the tsar cat.

Privileged position of a cat

As the love at court to moustached myshelova increased, also their status was raised. Cats even more often became favourites of representatives of eminent houses and contained in magnificent conditions. They say that Peter I so loved the pet that he forgave him any pranks.

Peter I's daughter Elizabeth Petrovna had especially warm feelings for cats. She issued a number of the decrees regulating their contents at court. So, cats were allocated with the right to walk about freely on the imperial residence, to feed moustached it was necessary not simple beef or mutton, and by all means to deliver for them a game — hazel grouses and black grouses.

Elizabeth also entered fashion for thoroughbred cats. It for the fabulous sums ordered for itself in Europe expensive Persian cats who were delivered from the countries of the Muslim East and were considered then as a big rarity. These smart cats looked already absolutely differently, than a cat Vasily: they were excessively manerna, are spoiled and whimsical.

Boring social life

On Vask's legend, having appeared in the Winter Palace, got acquainted with fantastic beings of an ermitama who for centuries protected the imperial yard. If are capable to trust the legend, to see them only clean soul of a being. Ermitam a cat was pleasant, and they began to train it in all subtleties of court etiquette: how gracefully to lie on a velvet padded stool or pretentiously to rub about imperial jack boots. But the social life quickly bored Vasily, and, carrying with passion to travel, the cat soon "settled" on the sea vessel the ship rat catcher.

Since then Hermitage cats became indispensable attribute of life of the Winter Palace. Cats lived there and during war of 1812, and after the October revolution, and at the power of Councils, but, unfortunately, all died out during the Siege of Leningrad during the Great Patriotic War. It turned out later that the city literally all teemed with rats, and then the decision to bring to Leningrad the best rat catchers from regions was made. Thus, in the destroyed city there arrived over 5 thousand cats and cats, a part of whom lodged in the Hermitage. Over time the problem of rats was solved, and cats and remained one of the most mysterious legends of the Winter Palace. The authoritative British edition The Telegraph called Hermitage cats of "one of the most unusual sights in the world".

Presently fifty cats live in the Winter Palace. In halls with expositions they do not appear as for them there is enough work in other premises of the museum. Each animal has the passport and all necessary inoculations, a separate soft rug for rest and a bowl for food. And all fifty carry a proud rank of "the qualified specialist in protection of museum values from rats".

Since 2012, in St. Petersburg the Day of a Hermitage cat when the museum organizes exhibitions, games and other celebrations in honor of cats — officially legalized staff of the Hermitage since imperial Russia is celebrated annually on May 25-26.

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