Ushkova’s House is one of the most expensive and beautiful wedding gifts in the history of Kazan, the best example of the breadth of the merchant's soul. Built in the late 19th-century House, the residence of the Ushkov family of merchants and industrialists is now known as a city library with fascinating catalogs and stunning interiors that leave lots of room for research and exploration.
While studying at the Kazan Imperial University Faculty of Natural Sciences, Alexey Ushkov, heir to the chemical industry empire of Ushkov merchants, married Zinaida Vysotskaya, the daughter of the Professor of Surgical Pathology.
Ushkov gave his wife this extraordinary mansion as a wedding gift. The project was assigned to Karl Mufke, an architect of the Kazan Art School and the University of Kazan. When Mufke asked Konstantin Ushkov, the father of the groom, which style he wanted the house to be, the merchant replied: "Build it in all styles - I have enough money for all of them!”
The architect fulfilled his client’s request. The rooms of the mansion were decorated in different styles- neo-Gothic, Oriental, Asian, Empire, Baroque. A grotto-shaped winter garden deserves a special mentioning. Interior finishing materials were imported from all over the world. Shell for the grotto was brought from the Mediterranean, Chinese panels from China, and window stained glass from France.
The lower floor was occupied by a musical instruments shop and book shop, and the basement housed a print shop. On the upper levels Zinaida Ushkova opened a salon, which was visited by artists, poets and actors. Shalyapin himself performed there.
The house was conceived as a landmark of the merchant dynasty, known for its determination and business acumen. Ushkov chemical plants in Bondyug of Elabuga District (now known as Mendeleyevsk) pleasantly surprised Dmitri Mendeleev himself: the famous chemist arrived there to launch the production of smokeless powder. The scientist believed that Ushkov plants were surpassing foreign manufacturers of similar type.
Alas, the expensive gift did not guarantee family happiness; the Ushkovs only stayed married for three short years. Alexey moved to Moscow and built a house of a similar style on Prechistenka Street, after getting married to Alexandra Balashova, the Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater.
After the Bolshevik Revolution the house was turned into a large communal apartment complex but was saved by the wife of the leader of the world proletariat (Lenin) and member of the State Commission of Education Nadezhda Krupskaya who accidentally saw the house during a business visit to Kazan.
In 1919 the public library which is currently known as the National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan, was moved here.