July 8, Saturday - St. Petersburg

Another extra that we did here was take a tour of the Saints Peter and Paul Fortress, which was the first thing built in St. Petersburg. Some of the most dramatic contrasts in styles were visible here. On the one hand, there is a very unflattering statue of Peter the Great on the path here. It has him with a tiny head, and his hands are skeletally thin with impossibly long fingers. The statue was made by an apparently-famous sculptor (who's name I have completely forgotten) and given to the government. I would not have been surprised to have learned that the statue had been hdden and never displayed, or possibly simply destroyed, if this were one of the more repressive regimes that we have heard about in Russia over the years. On the other hand, when we toured the prison that is in the fortress, we were told about how it's various prisoners from about 1860 to 1917 were sent in, given a number, told to forget their name, and locked into solitary cells for what were often indefinite periods of time. Soon after being told that Lenin's brother had been imprisoned there for trying to kill the Czar, our guide told us that we needn't feel too sorry for the prisoners, since they were all in there by their own choice. They had all chosen to be terrorists or whatever, and often had had special training to survive in the cells. There was an interesting pause after we were told that, as clearly many of us decided explicitly to not push this interpretation of things, and especially again a few minutes later when we were told about someone who had been imprisoned there because some of her friends were known revolutionaries. I wished that our bus's original guide, Tania, had not left the groupto return home to Moscow earlier in the week, since I feel that we could have asked her for an honest assesment of the meaning of that claim.

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