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HIS 199 — St. Petersburg: A Cultural Biography

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 3—Jun 5
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm
Drop Deadline: Apr 16
Units: 2
Tuition: $460
Instructor(s): Jack Kollmann
Status: Open
7:00—8:50 pm
Apr 3—Jun 5
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 16
2 Units
Jack Kollmann
St. Petersburg—called by Dostoyevsky the most “premeditated” (umyshlenyi) city in the whole world—has captivated the Russian mind since Peter the Great founded the city in the early 18th century. Why did Tsar Peter deliberately reject traditional Muscovite Russian culture and hire West European urban planners, architects, and artists to create and embellish Sanktpiterburkh, his “Window to the West”? St. Petersburg—in its planned avenues and squares, its grand palaces, its fine arts academy, and its aristocratic salons—embodied Russian high culture in the 18th and 19th centuries. And yet, a burning question has exercised Russians since the city’s founding and continues to do so today: Is this city “Russian,” or is it “Western European,” as it appears at first glance? In the 20th century, St. Petersburg/Leningrad endured war and revolution, and suffered at the hands of both Stalin and Hitler. Now it struggles to maintain its proud cultural heritage, supported in part by President Putin, its native son.

In this course, we will explore the city’s rich cultural history from Peter to Putin, making use of slides and video to concentrate on great works of architecture, art, and literature, plus some opera and ballet. Course readings will include texts by Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Anna Akhmatova, and Joseph Brodsky.

In addition to teaching this course, Jack Kollmann will host a free public lecture titled “St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow: Unraveling Its Mysteries” on Thursday, June 7. For more information, click here.

Jack Kollmann, Lecturer, Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, Stanford

Jack Kollmann has taught at Boston College, Wellesley College, UC Berkeley, Harvard Extension, and since 1982 at Stanford. Since his first visit to the Soviet Union in 1959, he has visited Russia over fifty times, documenting Russian architecture and art in photographs. He received a PhD in Russian history from the University of Michigan.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) George Heard Hamilton, The Art and Architecture of Russia: Third Edition (ISBN 978-0300053272)
(Required) Bruce Lincoln, Sunlight At Midnight St. Petersburg And The Rise Of Modern Russia (ISBN 978-0465083244)
(Required James Cracraft, The Revolution of Peter the Great (ISBN 978-0674019843)