Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of St. Petersburg and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

The Captivating Star of Happiness (1975)
Beautifully shot and acted costume drama about 1825 Decemberist uprising in St. Petersburg. The focus is on Russian women who followed their husbands into Siberian exile.

Piter FM (2006)
A melodrama about the lives of modern twenty-somethings in St. Petersburg. Focuses on Masha, a DJ on a popular Petersburg radio station, and Maxim, a young architect. Masha is preparing to marry (someone else) while Maxim has just won an international architectural competition and is now being invited to work in Germany.

Russian Ark (2002)
Alexsander Sokurov’s remarkable film shot in the Hermitage museum with a single take and without editing. A retrospective of Russian history from Peter and Catherine the Great through to the horrors of the 20th century; each door that opens up gallery after gallery leads the audience from one era to another.

The Stroll/“Progulka” (2003)
Fast moving docudrama-style German movie. A girl and two young men meet on Nevsky Prospekt. As they walk along the busy streets of St. Petersburg they come into contact with various people and situations. Their walk is full of laughter and tears with a love triangle and unexpected mysteries.

White Nights (1957)
Luchino Visconti’s enchanting dramatization of Dostoyevsky’s short novel. A young man meets a girl who is about to commit suicide. A tragic story of poverty, love, and betrayal unfolding on the streets and embankments of Petersburg. Though not actually filmed in the city, the film is a superb portrayal of the mystic beauty which descends on the city in the season when days don’t turn into night.

Books

The Bronze Horseman, by Aleksandr Pushkin (1833)
Brilliant narrative poem that captures the majestic and awesome struggle between man and nature that is St. Petersburg.

To the Hermitage, by Malcolm Bradbury (2000)
A time and culture traveling novel that’s also a bit of a self-portrait by one of Britain’s leading writers of the late 20th century.

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)
Based in St. Petersburg, this is one of the darkest, most insightful, and dramatic portrayals of the tragedies of human existence.

The Master of Petersburg, by J.M. Coetzee (1994)
A mystery novel by the Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee based on an imaginative vision of Dostoyevsky obsessed by his stepson’s ghost.

The Nose and the Overcoat, by Nikolay Gogol (1836 and 1842)
Satirical, witty, and almost surreal short stories that convey much about the ways of life in early 19th-century Petersburg.

St. Petersburg: A Cultural History, by Solomon Volkov (1995)
Entertaining overview of the evolution of the city’s architecture, art, music, and philosophy.

Peter the Great, by Robert K. Massie (1980)
An engrossing account of Tsar Peter’s life and legacy. Illuminating early history of the city.

Music

Ultimate Tchaikovsky, Various Artists (2007)
A 5-CD set released by Decca of the best of Tchaikovsky, performed by a glittering array of international superstars from the classical music world.

The Male Choir of St. Petersburg (1999)
Conducted by Vadim Afanasiev, an album of traditional choral masterworks by the choir founded in 1993.

Shostakovich–Leningrad Symphony (Symphony no. 7), St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy and performed by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra (2000), this is a brilliant performance of Dmitry Shostakovich’s tragic musical portrayal (1941) of Leningrad life under Stalin and during the Siege of World War II.

Gergiev Opera Collection: Boris Godunov, Prince Igor, Ruslan and Lyudmila
The Mariinsky Theatre’s genius is shown off in this lavish six-DVD set released 2003.

Some Combinations of Fingers and Passions
Sergey Kuryokhin’s avant-garde genius at its moody best (1991). Powerful piano improvisations tinged with jazz and classical traditions. Great reworking of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo.”

Zvezdy, Kotorye ne Gasnut. Eduard Hil. Ostayus Leningradtsem (Stars That Can’t Go Out. Eduard Hill. Still a Leningrader)
Eduard Hil’s 2002 album of nostalgic Soviet popular/variety songs from the ’70s and ’80s, with his famously optimistic “Solnechnaya Ballada” (Sunny Ballad).

Edita Piekha. Zolotaya Kollektsiya (Gold Collection) (2006)
Tracks from the still performing, multi-award-winning female star of ’60s and ’70s Leningrad pop.

Everything Is Fine/Good Mood
Dancer Faroukh Ruzimatov and Petersburg jazz pioneer David Goloshchekin (Leningrad Jazz Ensemble) combine in a double DVD (2007) of amazing, daring jazz-dance performance. Good Mood is a full-scale concert film.

Classic Songs:

1. “Kozli” by Aquarium
2. “Rechka-Fontanka” by Various Artists
3. “Leningrad” by Billy Joel
4. “Leti” by Russki Razmer
5. “Samolet” by Tequilajazzz
6. “White Night” by DDT
7. “Leningradskoe nebo” by Multfilmy
8. “V lunnom siyanii” by Evgeni Yur’ev
9. “Nichego ne vizhu” by Edita Piekha
10. “Kak provozhayut parohody” by Eduard Hil
11. “Gori, Gori moya zvezda!” by Sergey Zakharov

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