On April 1st I visited the State Memorial Museum of the Defence and Siege of Leningrad. The name on the outside of the building remains the outdated Музей Обороны Ленинграда (The Leningrad Defence Museum). It’s located at Соляной переулок, 9, about a 15 minute walk from the school. Entrance is only 100 RUB for a Russian student, or 200 for a foreign adult, so put on a straight face and your best Russian accent and ask for “Один студент” (Adeen studyent).
The main part of the museum occupies the top floor, and there’s plenty there to while away an hour or two after classes. The descriptions of items are in Russian, but the best part of the museum has detailed summaries on eye-level plaques in English. The most interesting parts for me were the exhibition of Soviet propaganda relating to the war effort and the descriptions of how everyday life changed dramatically under siege conditions. There are countless fascinating artefacts from ration stamps to examples of the strange things Leningrad citizens would eat to prevent starvation (including belts and glue!). I came away with a greatly expanded knowledge and understanding of the hardships St Petersburg as we now know it has been through, and with a greater appreciation of the extent the citizens have gone to in order to protect the Northern Capital.
Lois Bentall is an English student, a current intern and studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg.