A Century of Movie Going: The Aurora Theater

Ashby Gaines (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

For Abstract of the Research Paper in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

           Vladimir Lenin once said, ‘Of all the arts, the most important for us is Cinema’. While this claim can be debated, The Aurora Theater has proven that cinema is a highly coveted art form in St. Petersburg. The Aurora Theater opened its doors under the name The Piccadilly Theater in 1913 and since then has been the oldest continuously operating movie theater of St. Petersburg.  Located on the bustling Nevsky Prospekt, the theater epitomizes the spirit of Petersburg’s main street.  In the late Imperial capital, the Nevsky served as a display for the goods of the new market economy, the place where all the existing classes and cultures came together to consume its commodities (Berman 193).  The motion picture was the unusual Western product that the newly opened theater offered to Petersburgers from all walks of life. Although Lenin saw cinema as a primary tool of propaganda, Petersburg moviegoers never were just silent objects of the official film culture. Rather, they kept on negotiating a complex dialogic relationship with films they watched and turned The Aurora Theater into the place where Petersburgers of all walks of life enjoyed modern film culture.

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Gazprom’s Tower: Civil Society in the Venice of the North

Alex McGrath (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

This is the cover of Boris Vishnevsky's book. Published in 2011, it includes all the articles he wrote for the newspaper "Novaya Gazyeta" between 2006 and 2011

For Abstract of the Article in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

The romantic skyline of Saint Petersburg is in danger. The classic precipices of the city are under threat of being overshadowed: Peter and Paul’s Fortress, Saint Isaacs Cathedral, the Admiralty, Smolny Cathedral[1]. The tallest building in this “Venice of the North” is soon to be a gargantuan, spiraling office building. And it won’t just be the tallest, but FOUR TIMES as tall as the closest competitor. In a city characterized by its 18th-19th century feel and it’s horizontal focus, the tower has the potential to change the style of the city forever and “bring St. Petersburg into the 21st century”, or to simply ruin hundreds of years of careful urban planning. That is, unless the people of Saint Petersburg can come together to prevent the construction of the gas-o-scraper (Vishnevsky “Gazoskreb” 21)[2]. The opposition groups are many: political parties, Russian NGOs, architects, journalists, celebrities, UNESCO. Their adversaries: the city administration and the oil and natural gas behemoth Gazprom. The battle is being waged in the courts, in the media, and in the streets. In a country where western style democracy, characterized by its individual freedoms and competitive politics, has yet to take hold, the debate over the construction of the Gazprom Tower has inspired an enormous outpouring of political involvement at the grassroots level.

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Mikhail Chemiakin’s Monument to Peter the First: A Site of Post-Imperial Self-Reflexivity

Caitlin Oakley (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

For Abstract of the Article in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

Over the course of the past two decades, Mikhail Chemiakin’s statue of Peter the First has received mixed responses.  At its unveiling on 7 June 1991, people were appalled at the monument’s irreverent representation of emperor, but in more recent years, some Petersburgers have developed if not liking at least some strange attachment to the statue. Despite being only 20 years old, the monument is already surrounded by legends and traditions.  The monument even received a nickname, the “Bronze-Stay-At-Home”.  My research seeks to compare and contrast the evolving representations of the monument in current travel guides, cultural histories, and oral accounts produced by the locals and international tourists.

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Negotiating the Meanings of Smolensky Cemetery: Between Orthodoxy and Goth Subculture

William Lahue (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)


For abstract of the paper in Russian click here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

Smolenskoe Cemetery (Vasilyevsky Island)

     Smolensky cemetery is the oldest continuously operating cemetery in St. Petersburg. It is located on Vasilievsky island banking the Smolensk river to the North and Maly prospect to the South. It is divided into Lutheran, Orthodox, and Armenian sections. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries the cemeteries’ identities were closely linked with religious identities of communities living around it. In the 20th century after the October revolution new atheistic authorities wanted to close the cemetery and viewed this effort as part of their war on the old regime. The story of the cemetery in the twentieth century is the story of the communities with religious identities resisting the official atheistic ideology enforced by the state authorities. The post-Soviet story of the cemetery, especially of its Orthodox section, is about the Orthodox Church restoring its symbolic control over the cemetery. In the face of this transition of power and values the Goth subculture has emerged and asserted itself in dialogue with the new dominant ideology.

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Rethinking The Legacy of Unofficial Art in St. Petersburg: The Case of Pushkinkaya-10 Art Center

Monika Bernotas (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

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One must really have the desire to find the Pushkinskaya-10 Art Center if they are to visit it. Located in an otherwise inconspicuous courtyard, off Ligovsky Prospect, which runs parallel to the street of its original name, it hides, tucked behind the bright signs of the downtown area surrounding the Moskovsky railway station. The residents of the center do not make it easy for visitors to navigate, either, offering an overwhelming variety of galleries and points of interest to visit. In short, the Pushkinskaya-10 Art Center is not for the faint of heart, yet as an art space, having survived over twenty years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it remains to remind us of the necessity of physical space in the creative process for artists.

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The Marine Façade and the Petersburg Myth in Post-Soviet Russia

Sophia Kosar (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

For Abstract of the Article in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.


St. Petersburg has always been Russia’s “window to the West.” At the time of its construction in the eighteenth century, Peter the Great envisioned a city encompassing the greatest architectural achievements of Western Europe: the romantic island-canal systems of Venice and Amsterdam, luxurious baroque architecture, and a court rivaling that of the French in power and elegance. However, the city has not always lived up to its intended purpose—to prove that Russia could leave behind her backwards ways and enter modernity with the rest of Europe (Figes 10). Thus the Petersburg myth was born—its foundations lying in this discrepancy between the idealized city and its real counterpart. The myth, which expresses Russia’s complicated experience of modernity, continues to be prevalent in contemporary St. Petersburg. The Marine Façade development project embodies the Petersburg myth and the three-hundred-year-old dichotomy between dreams and reality that lies at the heart of the city.

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Tourism: The New Kid on Nevsky Prospekt

Megan Doneski (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

For Abstract of the Research Paper in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

      When one thinks of Russia, often the first images conjured are of snow, cold, and desolation. A rare few envision a bustling city center on a sunny day in August. And yet, this scene can be found in Russia, in St. Petersburg, at the heart of the city, on Nevsky Prospekt. Granted, the scene was not always the same. A picture of Nevsky Prospekt in the Soviet era would look different than a picture taken in the modern Post-Soviet era, a reflection of the social change throughout Russia. The changes in Russia, between the former Soviet era and the current Post-Communist era, have led to changes in the atmosphere and culture of Petersburg’s main street, most notably in the tourism industry on Nevsky Prospekt.

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