LITERARY ST. PETERSBURG
St. Petersburg has a deep connection with Russian literature. Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol and Nabokov all spent considerable time in the city and wrote about it their works. . Wandering around St. Petersburg’s canals and streets and taking its grand buildings and sights, it becomes clear what inspired them. It sometimes seems like you can’t wlak down a street or turn a corner and not find yourself at some place with literary connections. Momentoes found at St. Petersburg literary sites include Nabokov’s scrabble, set, Dostoevsky’s hat. Brodsky’s A.T.&T. Call card, Blok’s pencil case.
Among the places of interest are: 1) the Pushkin Apartment Museum (Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki 12), where the poet wrote his masterpieces and died following a duel in 1837; the Aleksander Blok Museum (Ulitsa Dekabristov 57), the apartment occupied by the poet from 1912 to his death in 1921. The Dostoyevsky Museum (Kuznechnyy Pereulok 5/2), where he wrote The Brothers Kazamarov; and the Nabokov House Museum (Bol’shaya Morskaya Ulitsa 47), where the author of Lolita was born and his manuscripts and butterfly collection are currently being kept. The house that Joseph Brodsky lived in as a teenager in the 1950s with his parents is on 24 Liteiny Prospekt. There is a large plaque and a bust of the poet.
Dostoyevsky arguable has more of hold on St. Petersburg than any other writer, save maye Pushkin. It is possible to find places mentioned in his books and follow the steps of some of his characters The so-called “Dostoyevsky Zone” is a group of streets centered around Sennaya Square. The “Crime and Punishment’s” protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov “lived” at Grazhanskaya Ulitsa 19/5). Many episodes in “The Idiot” and “Crime and Punishment” take place on the Catherine Canal. In this same area is an unusual monument commemorating Gogol’s story The Nose (Prospekt Voznesensky 36).
Café Brodyachaya Sobaka (Stray Dog) on Ital’yanskaya Ulitsa was once salon that was at the center of St. Petersburg’s cultural life during the Silver Age of Russian Poetry. Among the regulars here were Alexei Tolstoy, Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Literaturnoye Cafe (Nevsky Prospekt 18) has major figures in literature and other fields since 1816. Pushkin is among those that dined here.
Anna Akhmatova Museum
Anna Akhmatova Museum (east of the Russian Museum, 34 Fontanka, with an entrance on Liteiny Street) is a communal apartment in an annex of the former Sheremetyev Palace, where Russia's most famous female poet live mostly alone between 1922 and 1952. One of the smallest and most moving museums in Russia, it is housed in the small bleak room in a communal apartment and is nearly empty, except for a table, her Bible, some of her books, and drawings and silhouettes made by friends.
Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) was the embodiment of the hard-living and long-suffering Russia poet. Tall, dark and exotically beautiful, she lived through the Bolshevik Revolution, the Stalinist terror and the 900-day Nazi blockade of Leningrad. She was described by her disciple, Joseph Brodsky, as "the keening muse." On her own life she said, it was "written by Kafka and acted like Chaplin."
Akhmatova founded the Acemist movement and produced earthy love poetry that was especially popular with women. During much of career she was forced into silence by Soviet authorities. Her friend Nadezhada Mandelstam said, "Akhmatova's strength lay in her refusal to accept the untruth of the time in which she lived. The manner in which she uttered her 'No' was a real feat on nonacceptance."
In Akhmatova's time six families were jammed into six room of communal flat she lived in. Her son Lee Gumilev and her lover Nikolai Punin were arrested here. Between 1935 and 1940 she wrote Requiem. There used to be more in the room. Over the years her soap dish, a Modigliani drawing and rare Egyptian brooch were pilfered by visitors. There are no bookshelves or cabinets (she kept her books hidden). There are no manuscripts because she burned them after her friends memorized them.
There is an exhibit with photos of Akhmatova, her son, her husband, and literary friends such as Alexander Blok and Osip Mandelstam, a reproduction of the Modigliani portrait, her books by Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Sophocles and Dante, and some mementoes from for a gulag and her exile in Tashkent. About two miles north of he museum is the Central Leningrad prison. After her son was arrested in 1935 Akhmatova spent 17 months outside the prison trying to find out what had become of him. The Stray Dog Café, where Akhmatova used to hold court in the 1910s, reopened in 2001 and hosts poetry reading, performance art, one-man plays and musical performances.
Pushkin's Home Museum
Pushkin's Home Museum (Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki 12, on the Mokya River about a block from the Hermitage) is where the famous poet died after a duel on January 27, 1837. Located between two charming bridges, the house was only Pushkin's home for about a year. Pushkin's short vest, pieced by the bullet that killed him in a duel, is on display here along with a lock of his hair. Works by Wordsworth and Southey lie on his desk unopened.
Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1836) is Russia's greatest and most beloved poet. He was so prolific he gave away his plots to Gogol and inspired more than 4,000 pieces in art, music and literature. Based on the number of books written about him (1,614 in 1999 in the Library of Congress collection), Pushkin was is the world's 19th most famous person. He ranks behind Jesus and Wagner but ahead of Gandhi and Beethoven
Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) contains exhibits on Tolstoy, Gogol, Turgenev, Gorky and others; It is the first and largest national museum devoted to Pushkin as well other Russian writers. The collection began with items from a commemorative Pushkin Exhibition 1899 and today contains more than 200,000 pieces, including documentaries, historical and everyday materials relating to the life and works of Russian writers of the 18th-20th centuries. The museum open for tours and individual visitors every day except Saturday and Sunday.
A visit to the museum begins with a tour of the magnificent Colonia domed hall in the center of the building, which is now a venue for conferences, concerts and presentations. Sections of the permanent exhibition devoted to the literature of the 18th century, GR Derzhavin, AS Pushkin, VA Zhukovsky, NV Gogol, MY Lermontov, LN Tolstoy, IS Turgenev, IA Goncharov, AK Tolstoy, JP Polonsky, AI Fet, FM Dostoevsky, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (KR). One of the halls is dedicated to the literature of the Silver Age.
Dostoevsky's St. Petersburg
Dostoevsky's St. Petersburg (Sennaya Ploshchad Metro Station):is centered south of Nevsky Prospect, around Sennaya Square. Dostoevsky moved 20 times in the 30 years he lived in St. Petersburg. He often rented corner apartments so he could feel isolated from people and get a view of a church or cathedral. His poverty, many scholars believe, helped drive Dostoevsky to write and gave his work it edge.
Dostoevsky wrote much of “Crime and Punishment” in a cell-like apartment on the Kaznacheyskaya, a cobblestone street where he lived three times in three different apartments. Bob Cullen wrote in Smithsonian magazine: “We entered his apartment building via a dark, dank passage that seemed as if it had not been painted since Dostoevsky’s time.”
Steve Dougherty wrote in the New York Times: “To tour Petersburg's outlying districts, I enlist the help of... Anna Maslennikov, a St. Petersburg State University languages professor... She and her husband, Nikita, a St. Petersburg architect, pick me up at the Astoria for an afternoon tour of their city. Last night's dusting of snow has melted, but the snow is still deep in the city's parks, and most side streets are slick with packed snow and ice, making driving an adventure. But Nikita wheels his Volvo with aplomb as he navigates the winding embankment along the canal. “The money lender was murdered there,” he says, pointing out a flatiron building. It takes a moment to realize he's talking not about an actual homicide but one of the most famous in literature — the killing of the pawnbroker in Dostoyevsky's “Crime and Punishment.” [Source: Steve Dougherty, New York Times, December 31, 2006]
“A few blocks away, we stop in front of an otherwise nondescript building that was used by Dostoyevsky as the boardinghouse where his protagonist, the murderer Raskolnikov, lived. At the corner of the building, just above street level, is a relief sculpture of the author depicted not as himself, but as his creation, in a long cloak, skulking up a figurative flight of back stairs. “Dostoyevsky was a precise and meticulous geographer,” Nikita says. “Even though he never spells out the place names, he details everything so accurately, anyone who lives in St. Petersburg knows exactly the street or river or building he describes.”
Semonovsky Square: the Site of Dostoevsky’s Mock Execution
Semonovsky Square(Sennaya Ploshchad Metro Station) is where disobedient soldiers were flogged and criminal executed during tsarist times. Fyodor Dostoevsky was brought here with 21 others on December 22, 1849 to be publicly executed after spending eight months in prison for taking part in a political discussion group. The condemned men were dressed in white burial gowns, given their last rites, and tied to whipping posts in groups of three. The men listened to a sermon and then, one by one, keeled and kissed the cross. Noblemen, including Dostoevsky, had a sword broken over their heads.
Just as the drums had started to roll and the firing squad was ordered to get ready to shoot, a royal courier arrived with a stay of execution and told the men they had been sentenced to hard labor in Siberia instead. It was too late for one of the men. He went insane right on the spot. Another shouted, "The Good Tsar! Long Live the Tsar!" According to some reports of the event, Dostoevsky suffered an epileptic seizure. The whole affair was scripted by Tsar Nicholas I himself as a warning to political dissidents.
Describing the experience, Dostoevsky wrote his brother, "Never has there seethed in me such an abundant and healthy kind of spiritual life as now. Whether it will sustain the body I do not know...Now my life will change. I shall be born again in a new form. Brother! I swear to you that I shall not lose hope and shall keep pure my mind and heart. I shall be born again for the best. That is hope, all my comfort. The Square was reconfigured for the worst by the Communists. An old church that was there in Dostoevsky's time was torn down.
Dostoevsky Museum (5/2 Kuznechny Pereulok) is located in the two-story building apartment where the famous author wrote his last novel, “The Brothers Karammazov,” and “The Double: A Petersburg Poem”. He died there in 1881. His study is left exactly as it was the day he died and the clock displays the exact hour of his death. The exhibits at the museum — officially called the The F. M. Dostoyevsky Literary Memorial Museum — contain manuscripts and notes as well as pictures of the novelist and his family, paintings of the French Revolution, portraits of his literary friends, likenesses of Christ, manuscripts covered with revisions and books he read including his Bible.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky lived in the apartment twice during his life: first for a short period in 1846 in the beginnings of his career, and later from October 1878 until his death in January 1881. The apartment has been reconstructed based on the memoirs of his wife and his friends. When the house was made into a museum in 1971, eighteen layers of wallpaper — some green, ornately detailed wallpaper that was dated 1878 — was taken off. The set up of the study was based on photographs of it taken in the writer's time.
Parts of The Dostoyevsky Museum: 1) The Writer’s Memorial Apartment, the museum's central part; 2) The Literary Exhibit, dedicated to the writer's biography and creation; 3) The Exhibit Halls, for exhibits of contemporary art; and 4) The Theater, in which the White Theater presents its performances, as well as the museum's partner theaters: "Puppet Format", "Takoy Theatre", and other local, national, and international theaters. Over the years, the museum's collection has increased many times over. It currently includes a large collection of graphic and applied art and a significant collection of photographs. The museum library holds about 24,000 volumes and a small collection of manuscripts. The collection has continued growing due to gifts from visitors, friends of the museum, and Dostoevsky scholars.
Crime and Punishment's St. Petersburg
Dostoevsky's “Crime and Punishment begins: "On a very hot evening at the beginning of July, a young man left his little room at the top of a house in S Lane, went out into the street, and as though unable to make up his mind." "S Lane" is a reference to Stolyarnin Lane (now Przhevalsky Street), where Dostoevsky lived for several years. "K Bridge" in the novel is reference to Kokushkin Bridge, another St. Peterburg landmark.
Much of the novel takes place around Griboyedev Canal, an area that has not been gentrified and is still run-down and as dark as it was in Dostoevsky's time, when it was known as Ekaterinsky Canal. It is possible to trace the 730 steppes of the “Crime and Punishment” protagonist Rodion Rasholnikov followed on his way to kill the money lender with an ax. Cross a bridge, pass Yusupov Palace gardens and look for a large six-story building facing the canal to 25 Prospekt Rimsky-Korsakov. The people living in the building are used to having their bells rung and being asked by tourists if they are at the right place.
Kokushkin Bridge (next to Ploschad Mira) is where Rasholnikov gazed into the murky waters to determine his future after killing the money lender with an ax. He thought briefly of throwing the murder weapon in the water but changed his after see passing barges. Other Crime and Punishment Places include the pawnbroker;s apartment (Groboyedova 104 on Griboyedev Canal)
Fyodor Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum
Fyodor Dostoevsky Literary Memorial Museum (Grazhdanskaya 19) is the most likely location of Raskolnikov's house. It is two blocks from Kokushkin Bridge and the place where “Crime and Punishment” begins. Also known as the House of Raskolnikov, it is a tall building with a memorial on the outside. Grazhdanskaya was formally known Srednaya Meshchanskaya.
The different is located at the corner of 19 Grazhdanskaya Street and 5 Stolyarny Pereulok. Dostoevsky pilgrims visit the fifth-floor attic, where Raskolnikov was said to have lived. Graffiti like "Rodya, I understand you," "Why did she die?" and "Rodya, I know where another old woman lives” covers the walls. Local resident's will show you where Raskolnikov found his ax.
Raskolnikov is one of the best-recognised characters of Russian literature, as the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment. An ex-student, living in a tiny room he barely had money to pay for, he walks through the streets of St Petersburg, and a plot forms in his mind to kill an elderly money lender. He carries out the plan, but then the guilt of the crime takes over his mind, driving him to the edge of sanity.
Nabokov House Museum (Bol’shaya Morskaya Ulitsa 47), where the author of Lolita was born and his manuscripts and butterfly collection are currently being kept. Since 2008, when the Museum became part of the St.Petersburg State University, its collection has significantly increased and a long-awaited restoration of the rooms was begun.
The museum occupies the first floor, where the former dining room, the drawing room and the library room have retained much of their original look. The former “committee” room where the original interior has not survived is now used as the exhibition hall. In to fulfilling its duties as a museum, the facility conducts academic programs, among them annual Nabokov Readings in April, summer school for students, international Nabokov conferences, as well as public lectures, seminars and literary readings.
The Nabokov Museum was opened in 1998 as a non-governmental cultural institution. Since 2008 it has been a division of the St. Petersburg State University Faculty of Philology and Arts. When the museum was first opened there were very few things in the museum collection. However, over the years the Museum has accumulated a significant collection and a large library which is open to the visitors.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020