Fragile, gritty, and vital to an extraordinary degree, St. Petersburg is one of the world's most alluring cities-a place in which the past is at once ubiquitous and inescapably controversial. Yet outsiders are far more familiar with the city's pre-1917 and Second World War history than with its recent past. In this beautifully illustrated and highly original book, Catriona Kelly shows how creative engagement with the past has always been fundamental to St. Petersburg's residents. Weaving together oral history, personal observation, literary and artistic texts, journalism, and archival materials, she traces the at times paradoxical feelings of anxiety and pride that were inspired by living in the city, both when it was socialist Leningrad, and now. Ranging from rubbish dumps to promenades, from the city's glamorous center to its grimy outskirts, this ambitious book offers a compelling and always unexpected panorama of an extraordinary and elusive place.
Catriona Kelly is professor of Russian at the University of Oxford and the author of many books about Russian literature and culture. She lives in Oxford and St. Petersburg.