Although you don’t often think of Russia as part of Europe, a walk in St Petersburg convinces you that, unlike Moscow, this is a city that looks more like Paris than Tehran. I mean look to your left!
Then you go to the various cemeteries and you’re surprised at how many dead Russians you recognize.
Russia before the Bolsheviks was much more a part of European thought than we give it credit for. Its continued isolation, much of it self-inflicted, comes at everyone’s cultural loss.
So to do my bit for some common understanding, here are some dead Russians buried in St Petersburg you will all recognize.
There are two main places where you can find them.
All the Czars at buried in the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul on a small island on the north bank of the Neva.
The celebrity authors, composers and scientists are buried in a cemetery at the beginning of Nevsky Prospekt.
But I digress. Let’s start with the Czars first.
As you enter the cathedral on your right stands the chapel of St Catherine, consecrated in the presence of Catherine the Great after a rebuild in 1779. It was there that on 17 July 1998, the remains of the last Czar, Nicholas II , his family and their faithful servants were reburied on the 80th anniversary of their execution.
In the front of the iconostasis are the tombs of six early Czars and Czarinas.
In case you don’t know Peter III: he was the Russian husband of Catherine the Great (who was German by descent).Catherine overthrew him and he died soon after in captivity.
Catherine’s son, Paul I, had him buried here after he succeeded his mother, whom he hated.
Elizabeth I was the daughter of Peter the Great. She’s the one who introduced baroque to Russia and built, among others, the Winter Palace.
Alexander II‘s tomb is the final one to note. Ok, you may not have heard about this guy, but you should’ve.
Alexander II was the Czar assassinated on 13 March 1881 at the spot where they subsequently built the most spectacular church in St Petersburg, the Church of the Blood.
Note that his tomb is the green one further out. The pink marble one in the foreground belongs to his wife, Maria Alexandrovna, typically a German princess – from Darmstadt.
And here is the Church of the Blood, much like St Basil’s on Red Square.
And with this let’s leave the Czars. For the composers, writers and scientists, read the next post.