St. Petersburg: Russia & The Romanovs' Dream City with Vladimir Ivanov - Context Travel

St. Petersburg: Russia & The Romanovs' Dream City with Vladimir Ivanov

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When Tsar Peter founded a small wooden fortress on a swampy island in the estuary of the Neva by the Baltic Sea in the early 1700s, no one could predict that in less than a century it would grow into one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Meet St. Petersburg: a location that the Romanovs believed would make their country a leading Western power. This conversation will give a historic overview of Russia's most visited city and explain the paradoxes of the imperial period (1721-1917).

The Romanovs' new capital with its wide boulevards and baroque palaces perplexed common people for quite some time. There were even popular “prophecies” about catastrophic floods that would bury St. Petersburg under the cold waters of the Baltics. We’ll discuss the Tsar’s European inclinations meeting the realities of the huge, conservative, and mostly agrarian nation they ruled. We will discuss notable figures: from Tsar-visionary Peter the Great, Empress Catherine the Great, “defeater of Napoleon” Alexander I, and “tsar-liberator” Alexander II.

We will look at how their ideas shaped the city: from the Dutch-inspired system of canals to a grandiose Napoleonic-style “ensemble” of the Palace Square (dedicated, in fact, to Russia's triumph over France in 1812-1814). We will explore how Anglophilia of the Romanovs gave rise to a chain of English gardens around the city (the Tsar's Village and Pavlovsk) and how the idea of Russia as a “last bastion” of the monarchy led to the construction of St Isaac's Cathedral (which inspired Washington’s Capitol) and the iconic Spilled Blood Church.

Led by local St. Petersburg art historian and author Vladimir Ivanov, this seminar aims to give you an understanding of the historic background of famous monuments of St. Petersburg. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the role of Russia in the European history of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Holding an MA in Classics, Vladimir is an author of a book called “Inspired by outer space: images of the future in late Soviet architecture” and a key contributor to TASCHEN's edition "CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed". Vladimir has written articles on contemporary art for local media, done podcasts on photography, and the Russian revolution. He has also curated a number of exhibitions, including "The Cradle of the Faith: Christian Presence in the Middle East" in New Michael Palace and "Lingua Sacra" in the Imperial Public Library. Currently, he is doing architectural walks in St Petersburg and shares his vast knowledge of arts through the tours of the Hermitage and Russian museums.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.