The Vyborg Side
Ploshchad Lenina (Square of Lenin).
Recently renovated and now endowed with singing fountains that leap into the air in time with classical music, if
Ploshchad Lenina wasn’t so short on trees and vegetation it would be a truly delightful spot. But it’s the historical significance of the place that warrants its mention here. Ploshchad Lenina is positioned between Finlandsky Train Station and the Neva River. Vladimir Lenin arrived to this very train station when he returned to Russia from exile in April 1917. The ‘sealed’ train in which he traveled is housed at the station. He was met there by a crowd of several thousand people and immediately gave a speech on top of an armored car which lasted two hours. The imposing constructivist sculpture of Lenin delivering this famous speech has stood in Ploshchad Lenina since 1926. It is the work of sculptor Sergei Yevseyev and architects Vladimir Shchuko and Vladimir Gelfreich.
Directions: Ploshchad Lenina is directly outside the Ploshchad Lenina metro station.
Taking up a prime piece of real estate on the bank of the beautiful Neva is this ugly red-brick monstrosity, home to several thousand Petersburg criminals. Or to be precise, people suspected of being criminals since it mainly functions as a pre-trial detention center these days. The building was the crowning work of prison architect Antony Tomishko and is considered one
of the city’s key architectural monuments. It takes its name (Kresty means ‘Crosses’ in English) from the shape of the two main buildings: Tomishko was a firm believer in the role of God in the reformation of prisoners. There is also a sizable chapel on site for this purpose. Built in the late 19th Century, its most famous prisoner was Leon Trotsky though it held many other political prisoners and became a particularly feared place during the Soviet era. At any time of day you will invariably see people standing across from the prison waving their arms in sign language to friends or relatives at the windows inside. It’s well worth making the trip to the north shore just to see this, but the architectural ensemble won’t disappoint either. But while the buildings are protected by the state, there is some talk that Kresty’s days as a prison are numbered. It might be sold and developed into something else in the future – perhaps a unique night club, entertainment center or shopping mall. Of course it could also become the private residence of an oligarch. So for those who can’t take that chance it is currently possible to organize a short tour of the prison.
Directions: Kresty Prison is on Arsenalnaya Naberezhnaya. From Metro Ploshchad Lenina, head through the square to the riverside street, turn left and keep walking straight. You can’t miss it.
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