This will be George Bush's first visit to Tsarskoye Selo, while Vladimir Putin was there many times

On Friday, the presidents of Russia and the USA and their wives will visit the Catherine Palace situated in the Tsarskoye Selo museum-preserve (in the town of Pushkin, a suburb of St. Petersburg, which was one of the country residences of the Russian emperors). This will be the first time that George Bush will visit Tsarskoye Selo, whereas Vladimir Putin has been there many times, RIA Novosti was told in the Tsarskoye Selo museum-preserve.

No special excursion round the museum has been planned for George Bush and Vladimir Putin. They will hold negotiations in the Blue Drawing Room, the biggest state hall of all those designed in the Catherine Palace by architect Charles Cameron in 1781-1783.

While the Presidents conduct negotiations, their wives Lyudmila Putin and Laura Bush, will be taken round the museum by its director Ivan Sautov. The ladies will be shown the Antikammer (anti-chambers) - three small state halls of the palace situated opposite Rastrelli's main halls. During the rule of Catherine II one of these chambers served as a billiard room for the empress, another was used for staging home plays, whose actors were members of the royal family and their courtiers. Early in the 20th century, one of these chambers was turned into a kind of gymhall with horizontal bars used by the children of the last Russian emperor.

In the course of the past 15 years restoration work has been underway in the Anti-Chambers, and only high-ranking guests were shown their interior decoration and the work that is being done there. Vladimir Putin and Queen Elizabeth II of Britain have already been there. It is expected that the Chambers will be open for visitors in 2003.

RIA Novosti was told that, to enable the wives of the Russian and American Presidents to get an idea of how the Tsarskoye Selo experts work, small workshops will be opened in one of the Anti-Chambers where amber carvers, parquet specialists and gilders will be at work.

The construction of the Grand Tsarskoye Selo Palace (from 1910 called Catherine's Palace) began in the first quarter of the 18th century. In August 1724, a celebration on the occasion of the construction of the chambers of Catherine I was held. It was attended by Peter I.

The first reconstruction of the palace - under Yelizaveta Petrovna - was headed by Francesco Rastrelli. The palace which he created with interiors decorated with gilded carvings, amber and mirrors, is considered one of the masterpieces of Russian baroque. In the course of two centuries Tsarskoye Selo served as the summer residence of the Russian emperors.

The historical art museum in the Catherine Palace was opened in 1918. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) the palaces and parks were destroyed by the German Nazi invaders. Their restoration continues to this day. In January 1983, by a decision of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR, the Tsarskoye Selo palaces and parks were given the status of a preserve. At present, the museums have more than 20,000 displays, including a collection of weapons which belonged to the Russian emperors, of paintings, decorative applied art, furniture, and amber articles created by West European and Russian masters.

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