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Regular version of the site

City As a Narrative: History, Culture and Identity of St. Petersburg

The course has been cancelled 

Best known as ‘Window to Europe’, ‘North Venice’, and ‘the Cradle of Three Revolutions’, the city of St. Petersburg has a lot to tell about Russian civilization. This course sheds the light on how history of the city is relevant for its present.

Course Description

The course aims to reveal Russian culture, history and politics through looking at St. Petersburg as one of the narratives of Russia’s identity within four dimensions: St. Petersburg “European Identity”; Russia between the West and East; key political metaphors of St. Petersburg collective memory; principal perceptions of St. Petersburg within a changing Russia’s geopolitical landscape. The course aims to take an in-depth look at St. Petersburg within the Russian civilization understood as the conjunction of culture, society, and politics. We examine the intriguing interconnection between St. Petersburg and Russian culture, politics, history, international relations, literature and art.

The course is taught by Sergei Akopov, Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor at National Research University Higher School of Economics, main spheres of interest are intellectual history, comparative analysis of political identities, international relations (www.sergeiakopov.com).

We examine the intriguing interconnection between St. Petersburg and Russian culture, politics, history, international relations, literature and art

Sergei Akopov
Course Lecturer 

Why Choose This Course?

The course sessions will consist of in-classroom lectures, as well as seminars and workshops in St. Petersburg’s museums. The course is based on the interactive principle; the students are encouraged to participate in the discussions over the art objects and key problems of the development of Saint-Petersburg architecture and film.


Among others, the following lectures and are planned as part of the course:

  • “Who are we, Europeans?” St. Petersburg Identity in Contemporary World
  • Religion and Russian Orthodox Christianity in St. Petersburg: past and present
  • St. Petersburg and the political tradition of Russian Tsars 
  • St. Petersburg in the Mirror of Russian Music and Art 
  • Petrograd as “The Cradle” of Russian Revolutions: from Dostoevsky to Modern Theatre
  • The 900 days. The Siege of Leningrad

Skills and Competences

While familiarizing themselves with history and culture of St. Petersburg, the students will learn about and be able to identify the oeuvre of well-known Russian artists and musicians, to understand the ideological context of these works as well as learn about popular stereotypes and social behavior within Russian civilization taken at large.

Teaching Methods

The course material will be presented through the combination of lectures, filed trips and in-class discussions. Students are expected to take active part in class discussions and to give one individual portfolio presentation on the topic of their choice, related to St. Petersburg identity.

Final Assessment

Final oral portfolio presentation.

Final Grade Background

Students will be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • In-class participation and report 50%
  • Final portfolio presentation 50%

Recommended Reading List

Lincoln B. (2000). Sunlight at midnight. St. Petersburg and Rise of Modern Russia, Basic Books.

Salisbury H., (1969). The 900 days. The Siege of Leningrad. Deus Conservat Omnia. p.362 – 375.

Akopov, S. (2019). Chapter 4. The Concept of ‘Russian Europeans’ In an Anti-War Film ‘The Cuckoo’, In The Interplay Between Political Theory and Movies: Bridging Two Worlds. Berlin: Springer, 63-78.

Bakhtin, M. (1984). Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. University of Minnesota Press.

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