1917 is without question one of the most influential years in history. It is the year that saw two uprisings, hailed as the Russian Revolution, which overturned the Tsarist rule in Russia and irrevocably transformed the Russian Empire, not to mention the influence they had on politics, society and economies worldwide.
As St. Petersburg, or Petrograd as it was then known, was the city at the centre of this historic year, we have put together a must-see guide of the sights and locations that played a pivotal role in the Russian Revolution, to mark its centenary year. So whether you are visiting the city as part of our Arctic rail journeys or if you are travelling there independently, make sure you include these six activities as part of your trip.
Stand in Vosstaniya Square
Originally known as Znamenskaya Square, this was the location of several mass demonstrations and protests during the Russian Revolution in 1917, which led to it being hailed Vosstaniya Square (Uprising Square). If you are arriving by Sapsan train from Moscow, this will be the first sight you are greeted with as you leave the station, so take some time to explore the square and imagine what it would have been like to be a part of one of those almighty demonstrations!
Find its location: http://www.visit-petersburg.ru/en/showplace/198034/
Visit Finlyandski Station
It is hard to miss the imposing statue of Lenin, which dominates the approach to Finlyandski Station. It was erected here, as this was the very station that Lenin arrived back from exile on 16 April 1917, to mastermind the October revolution. As he had been in exile in Switzerland for over a decade, Lenin’s return to Petrograd was assisted by the Germans, who saw Lenin as the force required to withdraw Russia from WWI. The very locomotive (H2-293) that hauled the carriages that Lenin and his men were concealed in, stands proudly on the platform here. The platform is not technically open to tourists, however we do know of a few lucky enthusiasts who have been permitted to enter without buying a train ticket, so it is always worth a try!
Explore Lenin’s apartment
Following Lenin’s return to Petrograd in April 1917, him and his wife moved into his sister’s city apartment until of July that year, when he was forced to flee back to Finland. The apartment, which is now beautifully restored and open to the public as a museum, provides a real insight into the private life of the Bolshevik party leader. Many authentic possessions and items of furniture are on display, including his bed, his chess set and even his toothbrush!
Museum details: http://www.museum.ru/M176
Explore the Bolshevik headquarters
From the early 19th century, the Smolny Institute served as Russia’s first educational facility for women, until 1917, when Lenin appointed the building as the headquarters of the Bolshevik party, and subsequently the command centre of the revolution itself. Explore the rooms where the great leaders of the revolution co-ordinated and executed the historic uprising as part of a tour of this fascinating museum, including Lenin’s office and the famous assembly hall, where victory of the October revolution was officially declared.
Museum details: http://www.russianmuseums.info/M109
See the mighty Cruiser Aurora
The 117-year-old former battleship, is a legendary symbol of the October Russian Revolution. It was on the night of October 25-26, when a blank shot was fired from the Aurora at the Winter Palace, which was then the residency of the Provisional Government in Russia. Patiently waiting in the darkness, the rebellious followers of the Bolshevik party heard the shot, which was their signal to storm the Winter Palace and arrest the Provisional Government. If you visit the Cruiser Aurora at 12 noon, you can visualise the night’s dramatic events unfold, as a single blank shot is still fired each day at midday from the nearby Peter and Paul fortress.
Museum details: http://www.visit-petersburg.ru/en/leisure/194473/
Tour the Winter Palace
Retracing the events of the Russian Revolution would not be complete without a visit to the very site where The Bolsheviks overturned the Provisional Government, leading to the evolution of Soviet Russia. By October 25, the Bolsheviks had already taken control of key buildings, bridges, transport networks and communication in the city, therefore all that remained was the Winter Palace in order to overthrow the Provisional Government.
Relive the storming of the Palace, starting with Palace Square, where the revolutionaries carefully made their way across in order to reach the main residence, plus, tour some of the magnificent rooms where the Bolshevik followers rounded up the Government’s leaders and detained them.
Museum details: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/