Many thanks to Yuri, who showed me the naval Cathedral of Kronstadt, which is a destination for pilgrims in memory of St John of Kronstadt.

There was a Eucharist service going on at the time.

Kronstadt is built on an island 30km West of St Petersburg, and is a naval base for the Baltic fleet. 

It was in involved in the Revolution, the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921, was bombed by the Luftwaffe, and even attached during the Crimean war.

There are names of naval personnel lost in battles back to the Crimean war on tablets around the wall. This is just a small part of them:

Despite the fact that we built defences in Sydney harbour against the Russians at the time of the Crimean war, there was no mention here of sailors lost in action in Sydney!!

Евгений Онегин

Last night I went to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, at the Mikhailovsky theatre, which is conveniently located near a park in the centre of town. I think the facade of the theatre is being renovated and was therefore covered, but the theatre itself give an idea of the magnificence in those non egalitarian days. A treasure.

And a fortifying snack was available during the intervals

 The performance itself was controversial and fairly new, by the Ukrainian Stage Director Andriy Zholdak.

The two ladies next to me did not like it, too eccentric an adaptation.

The staging was certainly entertaining, though I thought some of the symbolism of fate was a little heavy handed: all the stage and costumes were black and white, mostly white at the start, but black in the final act. Lots of spinning tops and bags of marbles. Also a fair bit of water and milk, which I didn’t understand.

I thought the biggest applause was for the good old fashioned bass solo at the start of the last act.

Still, I’m no expert. The words of the director and some video is at this link.

Блокада Ленинграда

This Friday, 27th January, is the anniversary of the lifting of the 900 day Blockade of Leningrad, from 1941 to 1944.

The Christmas and New Year decorations have been removed in Nevsky Prospekt, and replaced with signs recalling the seige.

One version of Hitler’s aims in attacking Leningrad is that he did not want to occupy the city, because he would then be responsible for feeding the population. Therefore he blockaded the city, with the intention of starving the population out, and he then planned to destroy the city. He did give orders to his generals not to accept any offers of surrender from the city.

In the words of a newspaper article in the LA Times in 1994,

“Three million people endured the 900 day blockade, which was lifted 50 years ago today. A million or more died, mostly civilians felled by hunger and cold. That’s 10 times the number of deaths caused by the bombing of Hiroshima, and about equal to the number of American military deaths, on and off the battlefield, in all US wars.”


I have spent the last couple of weeks travelling by metro a lot here, because it is by far the fastest way to get around. In general they are not as ornate as some of the metro stations in Moscow, but they are efficient and clean, which is the main thing.

One interesting thing is that some stations have doors on the station as well as the train, a bit like the doors on both a lift and each floor where the lift stops. This means that the train must stop at exactly the right place, so the doors on the train line up with the doors on the station.

St Isaac Cathedral

I visited St Isaac’s cathedral.

Apparently this is the fourth largest Church in Europe, in terms of volume under the dome, after St Peter’s in Rome, St Paul’s in London and the Duomo in Florence.

It is also a subject of controversy at the moment, because it has been managed as a museum (I think by the government of St Petersburg), since the revolution, but this month they have decided to hand it to the Russian Orthodox Church at no cost.

This is not quite as simple as it sounds. After the fall of communism, St Isaac’s has still been a museum, and Church services are only conducted in one of the side chapels. You have to pay about $5 to visit it, but the Orthodox Church says it will not charge anything, even though part of it will still be treated as a museum. Some people fear it will no longer be maintained well.

Anyway, the view from the dome is extensive,

The paintings and mosaics are spectacular and beautiful

And the technical details of how they made it are interesting

In the news

Melbourne is on TV here because of the tennis in Melbourne. 

Sadly, Melbourne was the fourth item on the breakfast TV news this morning because of the MSN running amok in a car in Bourke St. It followed items on the inauguration in Washington, the avalanche covering a hotel in Italy and the building collapse in Teheran.