Anna Akhmatova and Fountain House

 

April 20, 2017

 

St. Petersburg, being the cultural capital of Russia, has always attracted the most artistic and creative people. It gave birth to a whole constellation of musicians, artists, poets an writers. The Silver Age poets occupy a special place in the Russian literature. Anna Akhmatova, like a star, shines through the Silver Age and further.

We cannot really call Anna Akhmatova “a Soviet poet”, she is rather a Russian poet who happened to live in several decades of the Soviet period. Just come to think of it: she was born in 1889. Her childhood years were in the days of imperial Russia. The First World War broke out when she was already 25 years old, a famous poet, a wife of another famous Silver Age poet Nicholai Gumilev. The revolution and Soviet period ruined her life. In the Lenin – Stalin period 3 of her closest people were repressed. In 1921 Nicholai Gumilev was arrested and executed . Anna’s second husband Punin was arrested 3 times and dies in prison. Her son Leo Gumilev survived 4 arrests and altogether spent 13 years in Soviet prisons and concentration camps. Anna Akhmatova was in Leningrad when the Soviet Union was attacked by the Nazi Germany and very soon the Siege of Leningrad started. She was evacuated, but as soon as the Siege was lifted in 1944 she returned back to Leningrad, the city so much tied to her life. Just think of it: this outstanding woman, a brilliant poet, survived wars and revolutions, she outlived 2 emperors (Alexander III and Nicholas II), Lenin and Stalin, Kruschev came and went. She passed away in 1966, at the age of 76.

Part of this amazing life, full of  prominent people of the day and denunciators, hardships and bright moments, happiness and tragedy, went on in the Fountain House apartment.

The Fountain House s one of the mansions that used to belong to counts Sheremetevs. It is located on the Fontanka River, hence the nickname “fountain house”. Up to 1917 the Seremetev palace had been home to  5 generations of this noble family. After the revolution the service buildings of the former Sheremetev estate were converted into apartment houses. The apartments were meant for the new museum personnel. Since the former imperial palaces became museums, there formed a new Committee on State Control and Protection of Museums and Other Historical and Cultural Landmarks.

Apartment 44 was provided to Nicholai Punin as service housing. Anna Akhmatova lived here from 1925 till 1952.

The exposition in apartment 44 recreates the atmosphere of a Soviet communal apartment, where each room belonged to a different family, the neighbours got together in the communal kitchen, stored their personal belongings in the common corridor, cooked, gossiped, celebrated, grieved and desperately hoped that midnight banging steps of the secret police on the staircase were not coming for them, that this  time they won’t be arrested… not this time.

Plunge into the retro climate of 1930s for just 1 hour, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Visitor Info:

Anna Akhmatova Museum is open Tue, Thu-Sun 10:30-18:30, Wed 12:00-20:00; day-off: Mon

Audio-guides in European languages can be rented inside the apartment for 200 roubles. The audio-guides are interesting, the one in English is well-translated. I recommend to use the audio-guide rather than wander through without any commentaries.