The Saint Petersburg Mosque
The St. Petersburg Mosque, when it was completed in the waning days of the last Tsar, could hold many of St. Petersburg’s 8,000 Muslims. The massive mosque stands tall near the Neva River, not far from the Peter and Paul Fortress and other central St. Petersburg landmarks.
That the mosque survived the Bolshevik Revolution and the siege of Leningrad is incredible. However, the beautiful building was used as a warehouse starting in the 1940’s, and was only allowed to again function as a mosque at the request of Indonesia’s president in 1956. The mosque continues to serve St. Petersburg Muslims to this day, and the interior of the building is open only to members
We saw the old KGB headquarters in St. Petersburg today; or rather, we saw the FSB building. It’s called большой дом, The Big House, and from the windows you can see Siberia, our guide joked.
Speaking of law enforcement and such, we also passed by the Peter and Paul Fortress, a low hexagonal island defense against the Swedes that was never used in war. Instead, it held political prisoners to 1917. Only one person, the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, has ever escaped from the island, and he did it by getting transferred to a hospital.
Perhaps the coolest thing we glimpsed from the bus during our driving tour of the city was the cruiser Aurora. The Aurora, which survived the Russo-Japanese war, fired a blank at the Winter Palace at the start of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and has therefore been immortalized for its role, however small, in bringing down the provisional government and carrying Lenin to power.
The ship has become a tourist trap of the highest degree. As we drove by, I noticed the row of stalls beside it hawking t-shirts and souvenirs to tourists. People posed for pictures sitting on the deck gun that fired the famous shot. The ship serves as a museum of Communist propaganda; across the river, however, stands the massive St. Petersburg Bank.
As we drove, we saw a few other interesting sites, like the St. Petersburg Mosque, built in the early 1900s, and a whole bunch of statues. The variety of statues here is pretty impressive, but it’s hard to keep them all straight (other than the Lenin statue in front of the Palace of Soviets. He’s pretty distinictive. I really want to take my picture in front of Lenin, but we’ve only driven by so far; we haven’t stopped.). Particularly impressive was The Bronze Horseman – a huge statue of Peter the Great on horseback.
Posted in Russia
Tagged Anarchist, aurora, Bakunin, Bolshevik, communist, FSB, Japan, KGB, lenin, mosque, propaganda, river, Russia, St. Petersburg, statue, tourist, Winter Palace