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Books & Movies
  • The Icon and the Axe by James Billington. A rich and readable introduction to the whole sweep of Russian cultural and intellectual history from Kievan times to the post-Khruschev era. Featuring illustrations and references, this text by the Library of Congress director is a balanced look that invites further study of this complex nation.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. One of the world’s greatest novels, this is the story of a murder and its consequences—an unparalleled tale of suspense set in the streets of Saint Petersburg amidst 19th century Russia’s troubled transition to the modern age. 
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Anna Karenina is one of the most loved and memorable heroines of literature. Set during 19th century Saint Petersburg, her story addresses the very nature of society at all levels,- of destiny, death, human relationships and the irreconcilable contradictions of existence. 
  • Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert Massie. An intimate journey into the life of Peter the Great, crowned co-tsar at the age of ten and remembered for his unquenchable curiosity about Western ways, obsession with the sea and establishment of the Russian navy, his creation of an unbeatable army, and his transformation of Russia.
  • Midnight in St. Petersburg by Vanora Bennet. A passionate tale of a young woman who flees to Saint Petersburg following the anti-Jewish pogroms of 1911. She is instantly drawn by the city, which is engulfed in the rising tensions of revolution as society is falling apart, and becomes engrossed with one of Saint Petersburg’s most mysterious figures: the infamous Grigori Rasputin. 
  • The Siege by Helen Dunmore. An evocative historical fiction that illuminates the story of the Nazis' 1941 winter siege on Leningrad that killed six hundred thousand, told through the perspective of one family fighting to stay alive. 
  • The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. The first novel in a trilogy set after Germany declared war on the Soviet Union, following the story of a young woman who falls in love with a Red Army soldier. Their impossible love threatens to tear her family apart as the lovers are swept up in the brutal tides that will change the world and their lives forever.
  • The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov. Several decades after emigrating from the Soviet Union, Dovlatov discovered the single suitcase he was allowed to bring with him. Its contents provided the inspiration for this collection of stories that offer a glimpse into the life of Soviet Saint Petersburg, then Leningrad, and its people. All are delivered with an exquisite sense of timing, and ironic humor counterpoints the seriousness of their united theme: the woeful failing of Soviet socialism.
  • Piter FM (2006) by Oksana Bychkova. Filmed entirely in Saint Petersburg, this unconventional romantic comedy revolves around the serendipitous and unexpected romance between a young man and woman who are each at a crossroads in their lives before a chance encounter turns everything around.
  • The Captivating Star of Happiness (1975) by Vladimir Motyl. A Soviet historical drama set in the aftermath of the Decembrist revolt against Tsar Nicholas I in 1825. The revolt is repressed, and the military officers involved confess one by one. They are sentenced to exile in Siberia and their wives face the decision as to whether or not to follow them.
  • The Stroll (2003) by Alexei Uchitel. Following the exploits of three young romantics as they dance around Saint Petersburg. Set in mostly real time, the film exposes the simmering energy of the city, encompassing all of its wide promenades, grand canals, ornate bridges and classical urban architecture.
  • Anna Karenina (2012) by Joe Wright. The most recent adapatation of Tolstoy's masterpiece, a visually stunning and heavily stylized production starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
  • Burnt by the Sun (1995) by Nikita Mikhalkov. The Oscar-winning tale of a Soviet hero whose happy family is suddenly targeted by Stalin's secret police.
  • Ekaterina: The Rise of Catherine the Great (Season 1, 2014) by Aleksandr Baranov and Ramil Sabitov. This major international production traces the sensational rise of Catherine the Great, renowned Empress of 18th century Russia. 
  • War and Peace (2016). BBC’s new adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel. Three young people experience life, love and loss against the epic backdrop of Russia’s Napoleonic wars. Starring Lily James, Paul Delano and James Norton.

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