Victory Day, May 9th St Petersburg

Scene fro 2018 Immortal Regiment walk

A Day of Remembrance   St Petersburg Victory Day 2018

Victory Day commemorates the Russian and Soviet people defeat of the Axis Powers with their unconditional surrender on  May 8 1945. Due to the time difference, it was after midnight in Moscow where it was May 9th.
WW2 is called the Great Patriotic War in Russia.  Since the 1960s it has been an official holiday but first observed in 1945.  The day has grown in importance to the society, to keep the memory alive of what the people did, and suffered as victims of, and eventual victors in the most deadly war in human history. Not a family was spared so it is not surprising each generation has kept the memories alive.  
An addition to the formal parades, speeches, and public events there has been a citizen-organized march that has grown in participation called the “Immortal Regiment” and this year nearly 1,000,000 citizens marched 3.5 km from Uprising Square to Palace Square, as a walk more than march, each holding photos of relatives who served in the war effort.  Each year the formal parades featured elderly participants in the war but their number has steadily decreased as age has reduced the number still alive. While the first generation has become less and less the second, third and fourth generation have picked up the tradition and this year, the number of family members of all ages participating set new records

Preparations for Victory Day events on May 9th in St Petersburg


Summer is fast approaching and while the flowers and leaves are not out in much abundance the air and longer sun hours make one want to go out and walk around the city.  Doing that yesterday during preparations for the May 9 Victory Day parades and civic events, thousands of others were out in the moderate temperatures and warm bright sun. The usual places to congregate were filled but much of the main street, the wide historic Nevsky Prospect was closed off for traffic, in order to resurface and stripe the street meant many thousands were strolling that popular area in the street instead of the usually busy sidewalks. 

The mood was light and festive in the runup to a commemoration of a very serious national event, the winning of WW2 May 9   1945.  It will feature a massive parade with 250,000 citizens marking with large photos of their relatives who died in that war. 27 million of their countrymen died, both military and civilians defending the country and defeating the most powerful army of up tpo that time in history.  No family was untouched.

In addition to the parade, in all cities of Russia, will be concerts, parades of military units flybys of all the combat models of aircraft, tanks and rocket launchers

Symbols of the events seen throughout are orange black ribbons worn by many, the St. George ribbon which is a sign of respect and remembrance.  Also seen are red carnation flowers worn or placed on monuments and graves as the symbol of the Red Army and national flag.
The most moving and participated in event is the  march of family members who hold large photos of their relatives who served or died in the invasion. Called the Immortal Regiment, this event has become a tradition since 1992 and spread to 60 countries. About 10,000,000 people will participate throughout Russia. 

St Petersburg featured in International JAZZ DAY April 30 2018

Uncle Misha, street musician….

 It is common to see street musicians in St Petersburg. Here is one we see often playing in a number of areas of the city center over the last 10-12 years. This is Uncle Misha (Dyadya Misha). I spotted him most recently as a slight snow was beginning to fall, on Nevsky Prospect, the main street of the city, with Kazan Cathedral in the background. Two things you would notice first, he plays a trumpet and he always finds a high perch or raised spot to stand allowing him to project great distances. He plays a wide range of music from popular hits, classics jazz, and claims to know all the national anthems of countries of those visiting. He has an interesting history, having played in a number of countries including USA, France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden and others, claims to know 11,000 songs, and speaks English, Russian, French and Finnish, and is a bit of a showman who enjoys interacting with crowds that gather. On this day few people were on the sidewalk and it was just below freezing temperatures. As a fixture in the street scene, he is greeted by kids and adults with handshakes and well wishes. Recognize any of the melodies?


“Is there anything to do in St Petersburg besides museums?”


All seats offer stunning sound quality with this unique design

 I often answer questions on Trip Advisor as there first and now only Destination Expert for St Petersburg and a frequent question is where there is anything to do in the city besides museums, I wrote that “yes, there is”.
Combining that frequent question with a current FB thread on St Petersburg Insider page, In a thread about concert and opera theaters, I figured I would combine topics with about to write on music venues and vocal performance venues. There are many popular classical and general music theaters but one that seldom is talked about by visitors is Mariinsky Concert All. The original ornate Mariinsky Theater and the modern next door neighbor gigantic music and opera theater, and productions, training, and media center, the 2000 seat Mariinsky II are well known.  Mariinsky II is probably the largest acoustically tuned/optimized venue in the world, with 2200 regular seating and 3000 in some configurations. The building is a small city of performing arts and 2000 staff members. Mariinsky original is smaller but late 18th century ornate and palatial, it is hard not to feel like royalty in any seat. It is someplace where you feel uncomfortable dressing too casually knowing the royalty and nobles who sat in your seat in the past. But little is mentioned about the lesser known  Mariinsky Concert Hall.
The 3rd venue in the Mariinsky ensemble the Concert Hall started out as a warehouse where sets were stored and constructed but had a fire that partially destroyed it.

Little known Historical Connections between the US and Russian Empire

When visitors come to St Petersburg from the US, many are surprised by the historical connections between the US and Russia dating back to well before the US Revolutionary war.

Historical figures with connections to the city of St Petersburg included John Quincy Adams In 1809, President James Madison asked Adams, at age 42 already one of America’s most seasoned diplomats, to serve as the first American ambassador to Russia. Many knew that but what is not well known was that it was his second assignment to Imperial Russia’s Capital. Almost 30 years prior, when Adams was 14 years old, his father, John Adams, sent him to serve as the secretary to Francis Dana, who was being dispatched to Russia to seek aid for the revolutionary cause. Adams brought his family and brother and his brother’s wife and sister in law.
While in St Petersburg they had a baby girl, Louisa, who died as the next year and is buried in the cemetery of Alexander Nevsky Monastery which is open to visitors. The Adams were favorites of Tsar Alexander and as a result, Russia tilted strongly to trade with the US while trade with France declined.That was one of the reasons France invaded Russia in 1812 with disastrous results for Napoleon’s Grand Army, the largest most powerful in the world at the beginning of the invasion of Russia. Half a million top soldiers entered Russia and less than 40,000 returned to France. . The Adams’ returned to the US so he could become Secretary of State in 1814, and later became president.

Another close tie was the National Hero and father of the US Navy during the revolutionary war, was John Paul Jones. After his many exploits in harassing the British navy in the war of independence Jones was out of work so on April i3, 1787 to enter into the service of the Empress Catherine II who was rather taken with Jones and confidently stated of Jones,”He will get to Constantinople.” He was given a name as a French subject Павел де Жонес (Pavel de Zhones ). He served as a Rear Admiral and conducted campaigns for Russia in the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792) in the Black Sea.

Continue reading “Little known Historical Connections between the US and Russian Empire”

First light!

First Light is the term used by astronomers when opening a new telescope onto the skies. It sort of applies here, a blog or essay platform for shining a light on the city, culture, history, and people of St Petersburg Russia.  This is planned to be a platform for my musings but with additional guest contributors with contributions to its intended goal of letting those who are interested in this unique city, its people, history, arts, sciences, culture, architecture and world impact. 

This started as a single person’s view of St Petersburg but will also add voices of others, both locals and foreign expats and visitors.  I am an American who has been living here since 2001 and has explored many angles and views of my chosen home.
My target audience includes tourists, fans of Russian culture, history buffs, those interested in the arts and the curious.

 Comments are welcome but please keep them related to the theme and topic. Questions are also welcome.