Since its founding in 1703 as Russia's 'window on Europe', St Petersburg has always been at the heart of Russian culture and home to many distinguished Russian writers, poets and playwrights. In particular, the lives of Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky are closely associated with St Petersburg and the city scenery appears in many of their works.
Pushkin's poem The Bronze Horseman refers, of course, to the dramatic monument of Peter the Great that stands in front of the Senate. This poem also refers to the devastating floods of 1824 that killed over 200 people in the city.
Amongst the works of Nikolai Gogol is St Petersburg Tales in which he sees nineteenth-century St Petersburg as a vast metropolis that dwarfs the individual.
Other important authors associated with the city include Ivan Turgenev, Maxim Gorky, A A Blok, Anna Akhamatova and Vladimir Nabakov.
Reflective of the changing attitudes in Russia through the centuries, most of these poets suffered severely for their written words and, ironically, were exiled from or punished by the city that honours their memory today. Tracing their lives through the city opens a fascinating door on both the social and political history of St Petersburg.

Writer Museums

Alexander Pushkin (1799 - 1837) Visit the statue of Pushkin that is in front of the Russian Museum, just off Nevsky Prospect. It was designed by Alexander Opekushin and erected in 1880. The Alexander Pushkin Museum and Memorial Apartment is close by, on the embankment of the River Moika and just a few yards away from Palace Square. The museum is in the apartment where he lived from 1836 to 1837. He died here from a fatal wound, acquired in a dramatic duel defending his wife's honour. Pushkin has been described as the father of Russian literature, as important to the Russians as Shakespeare is to English speakers. In the museum, you can learn about his life and work and what an important figure and inspiration he was to Russia and indeed much of the world. You can also see the study in which he died, the leather couch where he was lying, the clock that has been stopped at the time of his death, a lock of his hair and the vest he wore during the duel. There are also two other exhibitions here, dedicated to historian and writer Nicholay Karamzin and the poet, Vasiliy Zhukovsky.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 - 1881) Visit the Dostoevsky Memorial Museum, situated close to Vladimirskaya metro station. Dostoevsky spent most of his life in St Petersburg and the apartment in which he died has been turned into a museum depicting his life and work. Russian films of his novels are screened here each Sunday. He died here from a throat haemorrhage whilst writing in his diary and the clock in the study has been stopped to show the exact time of his death. Most of his novels, including Poor Folk and The Insulted and Injured, are set in St Petersburg. His own life was entwined with those of his characters and as you walk through the streets you can see much of what inspired him for yourself. The Dostoevsky Memorial Museum offers guided walks of the area - a journey through time. He is buried in the cemetery of Aleksander Nevsky Monastery.

Nikolai Gogol (1809 - 1852) Gogol settled in St Petersburg in 1829. Here he wrote Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka, Taras Bulba, The Inspector General and the first chapters of Dead Souls. Between 1831 and 1834, he taught history at the University of St Petersburg and it was during this time that he met Pushkin, with whom he became great friends and who influenced him a great deal. Gogol wrote several tales set in St Petersburg, including The Overcoat (1842). Find more about his gift for caricature, imagery, and invention at the Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library which houses one of the country's largest collections of nineteenth-century literature.

Ivan Turgenev (1818 - 1883) Turgenev was not born in St Petersburg but studied here between 1834 and 1837 and later completed his master's exam. After working for the Ministry of Interior for a short period, the success of two of his story-poems encouraged him to devote his life to literature. However, his opinions brought him a month of detention in St Petersburg and he was put under house arrest for 18 months. A number of his plays were performed at the Alexandrinsky Theatre.

Maxim Gorky (1868 - 1936) Maxim Gorky was born in Novgorod (later named 'Gorky' in his honour) where he spent a poverty-stricken childhood and didn't move to St Petersburg until 1899. He became literary editor of Zhizn and in 1900 editor of Znanie publishing house with a view to promoting cheap versions of the Russian classics so that impoverished writers could find paid editorial work. He became involved in a secret printing press and was temporarily exiled to central Russia. He became a Marxist, following the Bolshevik wing, but he was often at odds with its leader, Lenin. He took a prominent part in the revolution of 1905 and as a result was arrested in 1906 and imprisoned in the maximum-security prison, Peter and Paul Fortress. He then spent several years in exile, returning in 1913. Gorky was the only Soviet writer whose work embraced the pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary period so exhaustively and is one of the most important literary figures of his age.

Alexander Blok (1880 - 1921) Alexander Alexandrivich Blok was born in St Petersburg at the Vice-Chancellor's House of St Petersburg University. He began writing at an early age and his first book, Verses about a Beautiful Lady, was published in 1904. Earlier, in 1901, he took classes in poetry reading at the M.M. Chitau Theatrical School and wrote the dramas King on the Square, The Stranger and Blaganchik. He also wrote dramatic scenes that were successfully performed at the theatre. From 1912 he lived at 57 Dekabristov Street (formerly the officer's street), occupying the apartment on the fourth floor where he stayed for nine years, apart from his time at the front during World War I. Here, he wrote The Terrible World, Carmen, The Motherland, Retribution and The Twelve. His house is now a museum with a fascinating collection of photographs, first editions of Blok's works and illustrations to his poems on display. Just prior to his death in 1921, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Russian Writer's Union. He died on 7th August 1921 and was buried at Smolenksy Cemetery.

Anna Akhmatova (1889 - 1966) Anna Akhmatova was born near Odessa, in the Ukraine, as the daughter of a naval engineer. She began writing poetry at the age of 11 adopting a pseudonym to allay her father's fears that as a 'decadent poetess' she would dishonour the family. In 1905 she moved to St Petersburg where she attended school for a short period before continuing her studies in Kiev, after which she returned to St Petersburg to study literature. The Anna Akhmatova Museum, at Fountain House, is where Anna lived from the mid-1920s until 1952. The museum exhibits are devoted to her life and creative work and detail her importance in the history, literature and culture of Russian society from 1910 to the 1960s. There are many of Akhmatova's manuscripts, plus little-known portraits and photographs of the author and her contemporaries. Literary gatherings and concerts are often held in the museum together with films about her and other poets' lives. Among Akhmatova's best-known works are Requiem, a poetic cycle on the Stalin purges, and Poem Without a Hero, which she began writing in St Petersburg in 1940 and continued to revise over the next 20 years. Her funeral service was held at St Nicholas Cathedral and she was buried in Komarovo.

Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977) Vladimir Nabokov was born in 1899, to an aristocratic family in St Petersburg but spent most of his life in exile. Coming from a wealthy family, he was educated by British and French tutors. He later entered Trinity College, Cambridge and graduated in 1923. His most famous and controversial novel is Lolita, the tale of an old man's obsessive passion for a young girl. The Vladimir Nabakov Museum is in Bolshava Morskaya Street and is in the house where Nabakov was born and spent his early years.

Where to stay

The Grand Hotel Europe was a favourite haunt of both Turgenev and Maxim Gorky and is today one of the most luxurious of the city's hotels. Combining modern, deluxe facilities with the history and culture of the city, this 5-star hotel has received international recognition and is a member of 'The Leading Hotels of the World'. Close to Nevsky Prospect, it stands in the centre of the city's cultural, social and commercial life and has attracted such guests as President Bill Clinton and Sharon Stone, amongst others. If you are looking for somewhere stylish to dine that caters for every taste, then look no further. The Europe Restaurant, located in the hotel, is simply one of the best restaurants in St Petersburg, serving excellent food in exquisite surroundings. Rossi's also rates highly, offering Italian specialities.
Sightseeing tours can be arranged by the hotel, and concert/theatre tickets can be ordered via the concierge.

Situated opposite beautiful St Isaac's Cathedral and close to the Hermitage Museum stands the magnificent 5-star Astoria Hotel. With outstanding architecture and interior design, and incorporating traditional Russian character, the hotel is a symbol of luxury and elegance. In addition, the Astoria Restaurant serves wonderful European cuisine and the Winter Garden is another delightful restaurant within the hotel.

The Sheraton Nevskij Palace Hotel will certainly not disappoint anyone looking for the height of luxury. Central to all main historical venues, the hotel caters for both business travellers and those seeking relaxation and a high standard of service. With six banquet and meeting rooms, and four excellent restaurants, all highly acclaimed, the Sheraton Nevskij Palace Hotel offers one of the best places to stay in St Petersburg.

Pre-Travel Check List

Visitors to Russia, from all over the world, must have a tourist visa at least, valid for up to a maximum of 30 days. You must have proof of pre-booked accommodation in St Petersburg. A 'business visa' allows you to stay up to 60 days. Your tour operator should be able to help with any enquiries, or you can contact the Russian Consulate Visa Department for information.
The Russian Consulate telephone number in London is 020 7229 8027
All visitors must register when entering the country. Your hotel can do this for you, although you may have to pay a small fee.

Currency - rouble
Note that it is illegal to change money with street traders and it is also illegal to settle any bill in any currency other than roubles. You can use credit cards where accepted.

Astoria Hotel
Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa 39, 190000 St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812)313 5757
Fax: +7 (812) 313 5059
Nearest metro: Nevsky Prospekt or Sennaya Ploschad / Sadovaya

Grand Hotel Europe
Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa 1/7, St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812) 329-60-00
Fax: +7 (812) 329-60-01
Nearest metro: Nevsky Prospekt/Gostiny Dvor.

Sheraton Nevskij Palace Hotel
Nevsky Prospekt 57, St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812) 275-20-01
Fax: +7 (812) 301-73-23
Nearest metro: Mayakovskaya.

Museum addresses

Alexander Pushkin Museum and Memorial Apartment
191186, 12 Naberezhnaia Moik., St Petersburg
Tel/Fax: +7 (812) 311-3531, 314-00-06
Open: Wednesday - Monday, 10:40 am to 5:00 pm
Closed Tuesday and the last Friday of each month.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Literary and Memorial Museum
191002, Kuznechny Pereulok 5/2, St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812) 311-4031, 169-6950
Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Closed Monday and the last Wednesday of the month.

Anna Akhmatova Museum, Fontanny Dom (house)
191104,34 Fontanki Reki nab. (a wing of the Sheremetevskiy Palace), St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812) 272 2211
Fax: +7 (812) 311-90-09
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Closed on Monday and on the last Wednesday of every month.

Alexander Blok Apartment Museum
57 Dekabristov Street, St Petersburg
Tel. +7 (812) 113 8633
Open: Daily 11:00 am - 6:00 pm, Tuesday till 5:00 pm
Closed on Wednesday and on the last Tuesday of every month.

Vladimir Nabokov Museum
47 Bolshaya Morskaya Street, St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812) 315 4713
Open: Wednesday- Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The Institute of Russian Literature
Pushkinskiy Dom, 4 Makarova nab, St Petersburg
Tel: +7 (812) 328 0502
Fax: +7 (812) 311-90-09
Open: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm.
Contains a large collection of manuscripts, iconographic, memorial and historical materials on Russian culture during the 18th to 20th centuries. Tours only. Closed at weekends

Recommended Reading

  • Solomon Volkov, St Petersburg: A Cultural History
  • Nikolai Gogol, Petersburg Tales (Nevsky Prospect, Overcoat, The Nose)
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • Andrei Bely, Petersburg
  • Alexander Pushkin, The Bronze Horseman
  • Poetry by Anna Akhmatova

Useful address: E-mail for information and brochure requests etc at, telephone toll-free US & Canada: 1-800-223-7226, local phone: 310-636-4656, fax: 310-390-0493

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