Russia’s cultural capital, St Petersburg has provided the setting for some of the greatest novels ever written. Whether it’s the poems of Russian literary godfather Pushkin, the short stories of Gogol or the great Golden Age novels of Dostoyevsky, Russia’s most western of cities has inspired myriad masterpieces from some of the world’s most respected writers. From the Dostoyevsky Museum and the Alexander Blok Museum to the celebrated Pushkin Museum, visit St Petersburg to walk in the footsteps of your favourite writers and discover the power of literary St Petersburg.
Begin your tour of literary St Petersburg at the home of the late Alexander Pushkin – Russia’s most beloved poet. The final living quarters of the author of famous works such as Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades, has been preserved at the National Pushkin Museum. The museum complex also houses a number of exhibitions dedicated to the poet, his life and his career, as well as broader artefacts from 18th and 19th century Russian history and culture. Follow the visit with lunch at The Literary Café on Nevsky Prospect, the location of Pushkin’s last meal before his fatal duel in 1837.
Nevsky Prospect is one of St Petersburg’s most famous streets, and has often acted as muse for aspiring and established authors. Short story writer Nikolai Gogol – known best for his works, The Nose and The Overcoat – is one such man, writing a short story dedicated to this particular street. A stone’s throw away, on Malaya Konyushennaya, you’ll find a tribute to him in the form of the grand bronze Statue of Gogol, a powerful representation by Mikhail Belov.
Continue your tour of literary St Petersburg at the Dostoyevsky Museum (officially the Dostoyevsky Literary-Memorial Museum). Located in one of many writers’ memorial apartments across the city, it was here that Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote one of his earliest stories, The Double, as well as his last novel, The Brothers Karamazov. One of the most influential novelists of the 19th century, Dostoyevsky spent most of his life in St Petersburg, drawing inspiration particularly from the city’s working class neighbourhoods. His home up until his death in 1881, many of the most influential figures of the time visited this humble address on Kuznechny Lane.
Another home-turned-museum, Nabokov House Museum on 47 Bolshaya Morskaya Street was the birthplace of esteemed Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov. Author of the famously controversial novel, Lolita, this house has appeared in many of Nabokov’s works, its most detailed account appearing in his autobiography, Speak, Memory. Visitors to the museum can explore a recreation of Nabokov’s childhood dining room and library, where they’ll discover a wealth of personal memorabilia such as historic manuscripts, early print editions and part of the writer’s prized butterfly collection.
Fans of Alexander Blok, a famous Russian lyrical poet with a penchant for musical and rhythmic verse, can explore his works from the early 20th century at the Alexander Blok Museum. As well as showcasing Blok’s talents, the museum gives an insight into the man behind the pen, with an intimate look into his personal life through an exhibition of photos of his family and literary friends, drawings, and personal belongings. There’s also a memorial display in the apartment, occupied by the poet and his wife for eight years. A short drive away at Volkovskoe Cemetery, Blok devotees can visit his grave in the Writer’s Corner (Literatorskie Mostki), a special area dedicated to the most influential Russian and Soviet writers of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Murder, intrigue, crime and punishment… St Petersburg has it all. Those fascinated by the more ghoulish side of history will love these significant spots from fiction, and real life.