Today, Lindsay, Eino and I went to Pushkin, a small town located a half hour outside of Saint Petersburg. It was originally named Tsarskoye Selo after the large summer palace built there for the Tsars but was changed in 1937 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Pushkins death. (People here seriously love Pushkin and most can recite Eugene Onegin from memory).
We wanted to go inside Catherine’s Palace but the line was so long that there would be no way we could get in before the museum closed. Disappointed about not being able to see the Amber Room but still excited to be in Pushkin, we walked around the gardens for four hours, in 30 degree weather. I was a popsicle by the end.
It was mind-blowing to think of the wealth that the Tsars possessed and the frivolity with which they spent it. Entire parks were fabricated, entire palaces built and then re-fabricated and re-built to cater to the whims of the new tsar or tsarina. On the one hand, they created some magnificent pieces of architecture, built up impressive art collections and generally (along with other nobles) funded the advancement of art and culture in Russia and abroad. It’s just sad that it had to come at the expense of the wellness of a great number of their people.
I don’t know what any of these mean. I don’t know if they represent anything significant or if they are even that good. All I know is that I like them and I wanted to share them. I am going to start taking pictures of interesting graffiti I encounter in the city and posting it here. Hopefully one day my knowledge of it will allow me to enlighten you further on what it represents in Russia’s civic space.
A friend recently asked me if I had seen Raleigh St. Clair walking around Saint Petersburg. After acknowledging the brilliance of the question and responding that yes I had– and he was with Margot– I realized that Saint Petersburg has a very similar aesthetic quality to Wes Anderson films, especially The Royal Tenenbaums. The colors are slightly muted, the characters I meet absurd and eccentric and the feeling of decay amongst the beauty and glamour of the once-home to the tsars, gives the impression tof a Wes Anderson film set. The scene of Margot smoking in the bathroom could have been filmed in Saint Petersburg and her role filled by any number of Russian women. Additionally, her depressing acceptance of the harsh realities of life and denial of bad habits reminds me a lot of Russians.
There is a slightly unhinged quality about Russia as if everyone is waiting for the defining tragic moment of their life to occur. If the collective conscious of Russia might be described as a Royal Tenenbaum character it would most certainly be Eli Cash. Everything in Saint Petersburg is grandoise and beautiful. Splendor on a scale worthy of the Russian Empire surprises you at every turn, but then you stop looking up at the palaces and down at your feet and notice the crumbling brick and the empty bottle of vodka. You can’t help but feel a little sad.
Note: This theory might be complete crap but at least it takes up space…