Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia

Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia

Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia

Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia


For more than three centuries, St. Petersburg, founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as Russia's westward-oriented capital and as a visually stunning showcase of Russia's imperial ambitions, has been the country's most mythologized city. Like a museum piece, it has functioned as a site for preservation, a literal and imaginative place where Russians can commune with idealized pasts. Preserving Petersburg represents a significant departure from traditional representations. By moving beyond the "Petersburg text" created by canonized writers and artists, the contributors to this engrossing volume trace the ways in which St. Petersburg has become a "museum piece," embodying history, nostalgia, and recourse to memories of the past. The essays in this attractively illustrated volume trace a process of preservation that stretches back nearly three centuries, as manifest in the works of noted historians, poets, novelists, artists, architects, filmmakers, and dramatists.


Helena Goscilo and Stephen M. Norris

Vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor
the proudest of his works, which buries empires and
cities in a common grave.

Edward gibbon, the decline and fall
of the roman empire

The ravishing night
exudes joy and sensuality!
Heaven’s northern daughter,
the night is mute
And light blue!

Petr viazemskii, “PETERSBURG NIGHT”

The identity and status of cities inevitably changes with the years, though perhaps not in the perception of its residents, admirers, and detractors. Internationally, Rome continues to enjoy its long- standing (and tautological) reputation as the Eternal City, Paris remains the Center of Chic and Amour, and London, its current prices of apartments and houses notwithstanding, still impresses many as eminently Livable. By contrast, historical events as well as economic hardships have diminished the earlier significance of cities such as Berlin, Lisbon, and Warsaw. Perhaps no other European city, however, has experienced such a dramatic change in image as St. Petersburg, founded in 1703 as the country’s Westward-oriented capital and as a visually stunning showcase of Russia’s imperial ambitions.

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