On Wednesday Scotty picked up our passports and we have both been granted tourist visas to visit St. Petersburg. I cannot tell you how excited I am! Russia is a place I have wanted to visit since I was a young girl. As someone who was a child during the Cold War and remembers the fall of the Iron Curtain it’s thrilling to be planning a trip to this mysterious place – so rich in culture, history, art, and literature. From the first time I watched a movie about Anastasia Romanov and the slaughtering of her family to my Russian Literature class in college, I’ve been fascinated by this culture and its people. Shaped by a huge and varied but harsh landscape and long hard winters the history and culture of this place is enigmatic and vivid. From the Mongolian steppe to the voids of Siberia people have been living here for thousands of years shaping a unique culture that draws from Asian, Persian, and western influences. In preparation for our trip we’re watching a BBC production called the Art of Russia. It was recommended by a well-travelled friend and we watched part one last night. It’s fantastic. Narrated by Andrew Graham-Dixon, this fascinating production begins with the oldest artifact found in Russia and charts the development of Russian culture through its art. From fertility gods produced over 5000 years ago to its religious icons and the introduction of Christianity in the 11th Century, Graham-Dixon crisscrosses this vast nation to show you how and why Russian art developed in the ways it did; how its Christian culture was shaped by an exile forced by Mongol Horde invasions to its later ties with western culture. Both Scotty and I thought that it would probably be a bit boring but this program is extremely well-done and Graham-Dixon is an enthusiastic and sympathetic host. It made me want to watch everything that he’s produced because he is obviously passionate about his work and his curiosity is infectious. Even if you have no interest in visiting Russia or know little about Russian history, these productions are well worth watching.
I’ve tried to embed the link but it’s not working. So here’s a direct link. I have no idea if people outside the UK will be allowed to watch it but it’s worth a try.