This summer, my partner and I travelled to discover Eastern Europe. Given that FIFA World Cup was held in Russia, we made it a point to visit Saint Petersburg and Moscow. I had one post dedicated to our experience exploring the heritage of the Russian Empire. That said, aside from its imperial past, Saint Petersburg also has its prominent communist history worth exploring. When planning the trip to Saint Petersburg, I did consider going to the Museum of Political History of Russia, Museum of Defense and Siege of Leningrad as well as few others. With only few days allocated to Saint Petersburg visit, two – hour communist tour was all that we managed to squeeze into our itinerary.
Cruiser Aurora is mostly known as the symbol of the October Revolution: A blank shot fired from Cruiser Aurora signaled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace which was to be the beginning of the October Revolution.
Cruiser Aurora has been decommissioned from the Russian nave fleet and now serves as a museum ship. In case you are interested in the details of the revolt on this ship and its overall story, you can schedule your visit while in Saint Petersburg.
Bolshoy Dom was originally constructed in 1931 for the secret police of the Soviet Union. Bolshoy Dom is usually referred to as headquarters building of KGB; however, the Bolshoy Dom building is part of a large complex which also includes detention facility located further away in the city.
According to the Imperial design of the city, St Isaac Church was to be the tallest building of the city. No other building in the city center was allowed to rival it during the Imperial Russia. The same standard is upheld by Russian Federation. However, at the time of the Soviet Union, there was no regard for religion and will of the tzars. As such, Bolshoy Dom is prominently featured on the skyline of Saint Petersburg. It is also said that Bolshoy Dom contains a large number of underground floors, leading to jokes that Bolshoy Dom is the tallest building in the city of Saint Petersburg. Being the two tallest buildings in the city center area, St Isaac Cathedral and Bolshoy Dom are said to be the two agencies overseeing the city’s peace.
The Field of Mars
Field of Mars is a large park located in the center of Saint Petersburg and named after Mars, Roman god of war. It was originally built as a training ground for military troops. Later, it became burial grounds commemorating the participants of February and October Revolutions. In November 1957 the first Eternal Flame in the history of Russia was lit in the center of the Field. From here the Flame was brought to the Tomb of Unknown Soldier near Kremlin Wall in Moscow.
If you are familiar with the collective vision of the future living as per communist party, then you probably heard about communal apartments. In Imperial Russia, Saint Petersburg was the city with the biggest amount of spacious and luxurious apartments. With introduction of housing reforms and strict enforcement of communal apartments, Saint Petersburg became the capital of communal apartments in Russia. In fact, Saint Petersburg is still the capital of communal apartments on the territory of CIS countries.
Communal apartments appeared in tsarist Russia; however, the concept grew predominantly at the time of Soviet Union as a response to housing crisis in urban areas. Within the context of communal apartments, one room of the apartment was an assigned living space for one family. That room served as a living room, dining room and bedroom for the family. Hallways, kitchen, bathroom, washroom and telephone were the facilities shared by all residents of the communal apartment. The communal apartment became the predominant form of housing in the USSR for generations, between 1917 – 1950. After Stalin’s death, Khrushchev’s regime “embarked upon a mass housing campaign” which meant to address housing shortages, improve peoples’ attitudes and boost enthusiasm for the communist system in place. Many things have changed over the years of housing reforms in Russia; however, the examples of communal apartments still exist in “the most fashionable central districts of large Russian cities” and Saint Petersburg is a living testament to this statement.
Saint Petersburg was the birthplace and the capital of the Russian Empire. There are numerous palaces, hermitages and gardens to tell you the story of lavish living of that time. That said Saint Petersburg saw the downfall of Russian Empire and the rise of communism headed by Lenin. In order to give dimension to your Saint Petersburg adventure, I would strongly suggest visiting one of the communal apartments.
Having suggested the visit to the communal apartments, I should mention that such adventures are usually sanctioned as part of the tour package of some sort. We took a tour with communistleningrad.com so our visit to the communal apartment was authorized by them. I picked this tour operator based on the fact that they are the only ones who specialize on communist – related tours; however, I found their narration of the story to be rather incoherent and poorly executed. If I were to repeat my visit to Saint Petersburg, I would have taken the same tour package but with a different tour provided.
Thanks for reading,