The history of the estate that used to be known far beyond Tambov province started at the end of the 18th century when small Sosnovka village was granted to General Christopher Benkendorf by Emperor Paul I. After Christoper Benkendorf’s death, Sosnovka was inherited by his sons – Alexander and Konstantin – and to their descendants later.
By the end of the 19th century Sosnovka had had 5 schools, a post office, a savings bank office and a hospital. Two large fairs were organized – St. George Fair and The Exaltation Fair. St. George Fair used to trade horses, the Exaltation Fair – grains and cattle.
Two two-storey manor houses made of stone and wood were the center of Sosnovka estate. Nearby there was a system of ponds, planted pine trees and a symmetrically designed park. Both houses had cellars that have been preserved to these days. They are the only traces left of Count Benkendorf once living here in luxury. Today the dilapidated cellars that can be entered through the semi-circular window cases are used as a playground by local kids.
The estate is famous for Maurice Baring, the young English diplomat, well-known Russophile, literary man, playwright and prosaist, who had been a frequent guest in the estate. He met Benkendorf while working as a secretary at English embassy in Copenhagen. The Benkendorfs loved Baring. Countess Sophia used to say: “He is a troll at the borderline between the human and fairy-tale worlds”. Mr. Baring was fond of the whole Benkendorf household starting with the housekeeper and the French chef to hunting dogs, watchdogs and lapdogs. He used to call his visits to Sosnovka the happiest times of his life. Here they hunted, played tennis, read Mark Twain’s books in German aloud to the light of kerosene lamp, played cards and rode troikas. In Sosnovka Baring learned to eat caviar and speak Russian. Benkendorf read Pushkin’s and A.K. Tolstoy’s books with him.