St. Petersburg’s 300 Year Legacy

Moderator: Jack Kollmann, Lecturer, Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Stanford University

Friday, October 10


Lecture: St. Petersburg Themes: Autocracy, Power,  and Culture

Norman Naimark (Professor, Department of History, Stanford University) will look at the 300-year history of St. Petersburg from the perspective of a number of unifying themses. In both its Imperial and Soviet manifestations, the city has suffered fearsome tragedies and oppression, yet produced poetry, literature and music of brilliance and world renown. This lecture will explore these themes and their apparent disjuncture.


This performance will give the audience a sampling of music inspired by St. Petersburg or written by the City’s greatest composers. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude Opus 3, #2 Minor played by piano soloist Sergei Polusmiak will begin the program. The Russian Chamber Orchestra, led by Music Director and Conductor Alexander Vereshagin, will then perform “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky. The Orchestra and pianist Dimitry Kogan will then accompany soprano Svetlana Nikitenko singing a selection of songs, including Liza’s Aria from “Pique Dame” (“Queen of Spades”) by Tchaikovsky (based on the poem by A. S. Pushkin), Marfa’s Aria from “Tsar’s Bride” by Rimsky-Korsakov, and “The Nightingale” by Alexander Alyabyev.

Saturday, October 11


Lecture: Peter the Great and the Founding of ‘Sanktpiterburkh’

What prompted Peter the Great to choose St. Petersburg’s location: the swampy Baltic delta of the Neva River, which belonged to Sweden at the time? Why did he turn to West Europe for the design and architecture of his new imperial capital city? Why did he deliberately turn his back on traditional Russian architecture? In this slide-illustrated lecture, moderator Jack Kollmann will discuss Peter’s motives and goals, and the lasting legacies of his reign for St. Petersburg architecture.

Lecture: Catherine’s Legacy, The Hermitage

One of the world’s largest and finest collections of art is housed in buildings that are works of art in themselves—the architectural complex known as the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg. In this lecture, Roberta Shaw (Fromm Institute) will give us a brisk tour of the Hermitage, beginning with a brief account of the history, architecture and interior decoration of the Winter Palace and other sections of the museum. Then we will survey highlights of the collection, savoring selected works of art and discuss the fascinating stories of how some of the pieces came to reside in this palatial setting.


Artists from Dance Through Time will demonstrate and perform the earliest forms of ballet as they were invented and developed in turn of the century Russia.

Lecture: Musical Greats

Educated in St. Petersburg under the Irish composer John Field, Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka is commonly regarded as the founder of Russian nationalism in music and some identify him has the founder of Russian music itself. An older contemporary, Piotr Tchaikovsky, is regarded as the most prolific of Russian composers, and certainly the better known outside Russia. In this lecture, Richard Taruskin (Professor, Department of Music, University of California, Berkeley) will compare the two composers and contrast their individual legacies to Russian music and music development as a whole.

Lecture: The Myth of St. Petersburg: From Pushkin to Brodsky

For every educated Russian, the thought of St. Petersburg inevitably evokes Pushkin’s “Bronze Horseman,” a “Petersburg tale,” as Pushkin called it, about the majesty and the hazard of life in the Venice of the North. For Russian poets, writers and artists ever since, “Bronze Horseman” has been both a challenge to the imagination and the corner stone of their own vision of the city and its meaning for Russian history. The telling and retelling of this “urban legend” over a century and a half offers a unique insight into the way St. Petersburg has shaped the identity and consciousness of the Russians. Gregory Freidin (Professor of Slavic Cultures, Stanford University) will examine the literary myth of St. Petersburg as it evolved and was recast from Pushkin’s time to the late twentieth century.

Panel discussion

All participants join a panel discussion moderated by Jack Kollmann.


Dance Through Time

Gregory Freidin, Slavic Literatures, Stanford

Jack Kollman, Center for Russian etc, Stanford

Norman Naimark, History, Stanford

Russian Chamber Orchestra

Roberta Shaw, Fromm

Richard Truskin, Music, UC Berkeley