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Traveling in Russia

The Hermitage

Everyone knows the Hermitage, either because of its artistic importance or because of Fox Animation Studios’ movie Anastasia. The Hermitage is one of the most famous sight of Russia and many come to St Petersburg only to visit it!

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Indeed nowadays the Hermitage is also the most important museum in the world with its collections of more than 3 million items. These collections include antiquities, masterpieces of both the Western and Russian schools of arts (and especially from the Impressionists), jewels and objects of various types from the Imperial Russia. But the Hermitage is also a work of art in itself.

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The museum sets in the different but interconnected palaces on the Neva’s shores that constitute the former residence of the Czars. The Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the General Staff Building are all stunning, as much for their Russian Baroque art facades as for their interior ornaments.

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The Hermitage has been built in 1711, mostly destroyed in 1837 by a fire and rebuilt by Nicholas I. But the Hermitage acquired such an artistic importance thanks to the passion of Catherine the Great for fine arts (and the advices of famous intellectuals such as Diderot).

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But obviously the Hermitage also had (and has?) a political major importance. If it was the residence of the Czars during the Russian Empire, meaning the heart of the Imperial State, its seizure in 1917 became a symbol of the Soviet revolutions. Currently the Hermitage remains a reminder of St Petersburg political power and taste for art, often prompt to recall the Imperial Russia rather than the Soviet Union. That’s why in 2017 the museum staff restarted a clock switched off by the revolutionaries a century before while declaring “the time of aristocracy is now over”… sweet wink to history.

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Because of its history and its collections, the Hermitage is without any doubt an absolutely essential during any visit to the Venice of the North, and is not to be missed for any reason!

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Traveling in Russia

St Petersburg historic center

Built, thought and kept as the symbol of Russia’s europeanness, St Petersburg has always been completely different from Moscow. Indeed, St Petersburg emerged under the Romanov, following the dream of Peter the Great, as the capital of a Russian Empire expanding towards the East but living and thinking as a European power. That’s why St-Petersburg, despite not being similar to any city in the world, tends to be considered as a European one. This is mainly due to its Italian-styled palaces and church. But above all, the atmosphere of St Petersburg reminds every visitor that Peter the Great’s city is and remains a city of culture and arts.

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One would think that “Peter” (as called in Russian) is a ghost city all about past and faded imperial dreams. But this is a mistake.

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First because despite having been the capital city of the Russian Empire, St Petersburg isn’t so old. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, the city therefore only has 3 centuries. Which is why all the stunning sights such as the Peter and Paul fortress, all the impressive cathedrals such as St Isaac and Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood, and all the marvellous palaces have a sweet taste of historical modernity.

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Second because St Petersburg has always been and remains today probably more than ever a city for and of the intelligentsia, prompt to expend new artistic and intellectual trends. That’s why if visiting the Hermitage is a must-do, looking for new places, such as the newly opened New Holland, is also a good one!

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Did you know?

Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood

Did you know? Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood isn’t an usual church (despite its name) but rather a memorial!  Do you struggle identifying Church on the Savior on Blood and Saint Basil’s Cathedral? Well, no worries, in fact the architecture of the first mentioned was inspired by the lattest, which explains why they resemble each other so much. You’ll get more comfortable with it by reading about both of them.

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The Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood cathedral has been built in 1907 following the orders of Tsar Alexander III. However, it has been erected as a memorial and mourning place following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, the Liberator, on March 1st 1881.

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In fact, and even if weekly requiem and sermons are given to remember Alexander II, Christ the Savior on the Spilled blood became a cathedral only in 1923. It has been closed about nine years later on the orders of the Soviet leadership to become a garbage dump. Nowadays Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood is an annex of St Isaac’s museum due to its stunning mosaics. That’s why if many believes that this world-known building is one of the most important church of St-Petersburg, it rather is, due to its history and architectural style, a memorial symbolising the Russian dilemma between liberalism and conservatism. And of course, it demonstrates (if needed) the Russian savoir-faire when it comes to architecture and religious art.

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