The Chesme Column was erected in 1774–78 in the Landscape Park (the Catherine Park) to the design of Antonio Rinaldi to celebrate Russian naval victories in the recent war against Turkey (1768–74).
On 24 June 1770 ten Russian battleships and seven frigates under the command of Count Alexei Orlov and Admiral Grigory Spiridov defeated and put to flight a Turkish fleet of sixteen battleships and more than 100 frigates, galleys, brigantines and lesser vessels. This encounter took place in the Chios Strait and was a prelude to the Battle of Chesme on 26 June, when Russians under the command of Rear Admiral Samuel Greig set fire to the entire Turkish fleet.
In November 1770 a Russian detachment operating in the Mediterranean took the island of Mytilene (Lesbos) with naval support. The enemy was put to flight and the remnants of Turkey’s naval forces destroyed. It was to these three great victories that Catherine II dedicated the monument at Tsarskoye Selo. The Cheseme Column thus commemorates three battles: Chios, Chesme and Mytilene.
The Doric column hewn from three pieces of white and pink Olonets marble is decorated with rostra (ships’ prows) and crowned by an eagle trampling a crescent moon. On three sides of the grey marble pedestal are bronze bas-reliefs depicting the sea battles, while a marble plaque attached to the south side of the pedestal tells the story of the victories. The monument stands on a granite stylobate in the form of a truncated pyramid that rises straight out of the water. A grilled arch in the centre of the pyramid gives access to a flight of stone steps that lead up to the pedestal of the column.
The Chesme Column was glorified by Alexander Pushkin in his “Memories at Tsarskoye Selo”.
The Chesme Column was damaged considerably during the Second World War. The original bronze bas-reliefs were lost. In 1994–96 the reliefs were recreated to a project drawn up by the architect Alexander Kedrinsky, and in June 1996, to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy, they were installed in their former places.