Family recipe · on USSR / Russia · sweet · traditional Russian recipe

Jam Cigars from my Granny’s Recipe Book

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

It’s been a week since my Granny died. A few hours before she actually died while turning my thoughts back to my Babushka I for some reason had a ‘vision’ of those sweet rolled things filled with jelly she used to bake – called sigary, i.e. cigars. I told myself that I would make them too.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Although in my mind I confused them with somewhat similar dessert – not with jelly but with nuts, I found a copy of the original recipe in my Mother’s recipe book and – a bit taken aback by the sheer… brevity of its instructions – I however ventured on this experiment.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Can we call it a traditional Russian recipe? Probably not. But this is definitely a Soviet recipe. Soviet recipes has at least three features in common. Firstly, they can have very vague ingredient measurements. Like this phrase ‘put as much flour as the dough will take’ which can mean anything from several glasses (Soviet cooks do not use cups) to a kilo or more.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Secondly, the procedure itself might be quite elliptical in its explanation. Like… no procedure at all, just the ingredients  or something like ‘bake until done’ without any indication of temperature, time or even any instructions on what to do before baking (how come you don’t know what to do if the recipe’s title is ‘cake’?!).

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Thirdly, the ingenuity with which a Soviet cook would use the ingredients (the choice of which can be quiet scarce and / or striking to begin with) tells you a lot about the Soviet way of life in general.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

The recipe in question is at the very bottom of the page, written by my Granny’s hand. Some of the instructions must have been added later, probably when my Granny’s memory started to fade a bit and she had to resort to more detailed recipes. I will share with you my Mother’s take on this recipe combined with my changes, so this is a true family recipe.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

A year ago – Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

2 years ago – Finnish Sourdough Flatbread and Cookies with History

3 years ago – German, French and Polish Sourdough Bread

4 years ago – Winter Light and Lemon Cake

5 years ago – Winter’s Here. Time for Spicy Rye Bread

6 years ago – Flammekueche

Sigary or Cigars from my Granny’s recipe book

Ingredients

  • 200 g smetana or 15% fat sour cream
  • 180 g butter, melted*
  • 2-2.5 glasses or about 320-350 g flour
  • jelly / jam / confiture of your choice (tangy ones are best)
  • powdered sugar

Procedure

Melt the butter and add in the smetana. Start adding the flour gradually until you get smooth malleable dough. Optional – place your  dough covered into the fridge for about half an hour. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 190 ‘C**.

Take a piece roughly the size of a big walnut and start rolling it mostly in one direction so that you get a long strip resembling an oval. The thinner you roll your dough the more layers of it you will get in your cigar. Spread your jam over the dough in a thin layer leaving narrow margin on the edges. If your jam has bits of fruit in it, place a small bit in the middle of the strip. Start rolling the strip starting from the top edge (it’s somewhat easier this way) so that you get … well, a cigar. These cigars won’t spread so you can place them pretty closely on the baking mat but mind that the jam will most certainly leek out (I would suggest using silicon rather than paper – to collect all the jam drippings :).

Bake for about 20 minutes or until your cigars are nicely browned. They become crispy and pretty fragile when they cool down. While they are still warm, roll them in powdered sugar. The best here is home-made grounded sugar that will contain some larger bits as well – for a more Soviet-gourmet experience.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

Remarks

As I was making this recipe I had to stop as I realized I didn’t really know what to do once I mixed all the ingredients. So I put the dough into the fridge, a step which was not in the recipe, until my Mother came back home and explained me the procedure. I guess you can omit it or give your dough a short chill anyway. For this recipe I used two types of homemade (Mother-made) jam – plum jam and apple jam – both with large bits of fruit in them. I had to pick out one piece of fruit per a cigar. You see, the dough itself is quite fragile so you probably won’t be able to put in a chunkier jam. My Granny’s side note says that you can add some sugar to the dough but I wouldn’t do that as the jam provides all the sweetness you need.

* I reduced the amount of butter in this recipe – the original recipe actually called for margarine as it was and still is much cheaper than butter.

** We had to experiment with the oven temperature with the first batch. For some reason my Mother thought that these should be baked at a pretty low temperature, so we started somewhere at 120’C and them moved up to almost 200 as the cigars just wouldn’t brown. We baked our second batch at about 190’C for exactly 21 minutes.

Result

Sweet and tangy, crispy but moist too. Such a treat! One of those things I haven’t tasted for years.

Cigars from my Granny's Recipe Book

I intend to make more recipes from my Granny’s recipe book. There are those that with just their taste can bring back so many childhood memories.

And no, I do not smoke and in no way do I promote it!

Adding this post to the Sweet recipe collection.

G.

no recipe

And September is Gone

and September is gone

…and where did September go?

and September is gone

And we are still collecting apples at our dacha and having a cozy moment of being inside –  our verandah is definitely the place to be…

and September is gone

… while outside there’s a sudden rain with the sun shining brightly. Well, if you can call sudden a rain that is most ostentatiously preceded by very dark clouds.

and September is gone

There was warm sun, there were sunbeams breaking free through the clouds, there was wind, there were apples falling on our heads. Such a privilege to have a place to escape to and not from! Dacha, I love you, you know!

and September is gone

On the days like this, you learn how to carpe diem at least sometimes. And as usual – some physical work in the fresh autumn air is always good for you.

and September is gone

A sheer pleasure to go around with your camera and try to seize the moment, the colors and the senses:

and September is gone
I know this place by heart. And it is in my heart. I remember daydreaming about going to our dacha sitting in the classroom in those short winter days, making the whole journey there in my mind, following every turn of the road.

and September is gone

Years go by, the world around you changes but there is this place that will always stay yours, keeping your memories for you, looking so comfortably reassuringly familiar just when you need it.

and September is gone
Hello October! What do you have on your mind, I wonder?

and September is gone

Back home, listening to Enya’s ‘A Day Without Rain’ in an old-fashioned way (i.e. with a CD player). I would listen to this album every autumn, it used to be my soundtrack of the season. It might sound a bit too sentimental / banal, but indeed, where have those years gone?

A whole new month ahead of us. Lots of apples to eat too 🙂

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

St Petersburg in March

Griboedova Canal, St Petersburg

I was just about to post these photos taken back in March to say goodbye to winter when we had a snow storm all of a sudden! I hope that this will not prevent the spring to take over…

Griboedova Canal, St Petersburg

I’m now reading Mikhail Prishvin‘s diary from 1930 and 1931 and he calls this first period of spring ‘the spring of light’. Look how light it is at 6 in the morning! I have a privilege to contemplate the sunrise from my 23rd floor every day:

Spring Light in St Petersburg

And then 12 hours later same day:

Spring Light in St Petersburg

The spring of light starts around February 20, I suppose, and by March 8 you can jog in the early morning and actually enjoy the first rays of sunshine. Now that the day is long you feel you can do more in one day: it’s a shame not to when the sun stays up so long!

Griboedova Canal, St Petersburg

Walking along the Griboyedova Canal makes you wonder why anyone might ever want to leave this city – it has everything! A special place on this planet indeed.

Griboedova Canal, St Petersburg

A few days before that walk in the spring sun, we went to a much needed and long-waited-for concert of the only Russian performer I actually love, Zemfira. The first time I went to her concert was 16 years ago and that was one of the strongest emotional experiences I ever got. Just love her music, her creativity, her voice, her talent. Love being part of the love that is exchanged between her and the people who love her. This shot was taken just before the concert – a warm evening and such a great concert!

Sunset

This post is a continuation to Spring in St Petersburg. The Beginning and it joins my St Petersburg series.

G.

no recipe · St Petersburg

Spring in St Petersburg. The Beginning

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

The frosty mornings do not discourage us. We believe that the spring has come to St Petersburg! Just a few shots of the city on a fine sunny day: we’ll walk together from the Summer Garden to Nevsky. Look at the clear ‘washed’ sky and the warm sun which is eager to melt this ice away!

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

The Summer Garden is in its transparent state now – when I walk along the Fontanka river, I can see though its bare trees. On some mornings the garden appears to be silver.

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

The crazy St Petersburg springtime sun – so very intense my eyeglasses become super dark immediately and my head starts aching. Two more things that distinguish the early spring in St Pete: wind and sand.

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

Going to this church soon to hear the choir performing Rachmaninov.

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

The pseudo-Russian style and the mosaics – so very elaborate that you can barely register all the details.

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

The grate of the Mikhaylovsky garden (belongs to the Russian Museum) which is close to the Church of the Saviour on Blood is one of my favourites. Its gates also feature some mosaics.

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

Soon it will all be covered in luscious green. Oh how we miss the green colour here in St Petersburg!

St Petersburg, Spring 2016

And here our short walk ends. We’re close to the Nevsky Prospekt and its busy crowds prevent you from observing the nature and its symbiosis with the city.

Adding this to the St Petersburg series.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Rossosh, the Other Russia

Rossosh, Russia

Rossosh in the South of Russia is where my mother was born. Last time we were there with her was 25 years ago and to tell you the truth I do not remember much. There were stories, photos and those silent family movies from that last visit which in reality constructed my own ‘memories’ of it all. It seems as if I remember something but most probably it was all just created in my mind by what I later saw in the family albums.

Rossosh, Russia

This was a very old-school journey. Regardless of all those shops and sushi and ugly contemporary buildings and shopping centers you can see in any Russian city. There is something to this place which suggests a very heavy trace of the old ways of life still present in the town and the villages around it.

Rossosh, Russia

It was a rather short visit too, for family reasons we had to come back earlier – but I guess we saw almost everything we could. My mother who would spend her summer holidays at her babushka’s place as a child, was obviously taken aback by all those changes and now absent places, buildings and other objects which she preserved in her memories.

Rossosh, Russia

What was present though was this stupendous aroma of the sunflower seeds being processed for sunflower oil. Just sweeping you off your feet and making you instantly craving for a pan of sizzling potatoes! This land where Rossosh stands is called Chernozem or black soil. And it IS black!

Rossosh, Russia

And almost everything grows there miraculously fast, just drop an apricot seed in your garden – and you will get an apricot tree soon! The problem with this region is that the droughts can easily ruin all your harvest, turning you into a bankrupt. We visited our relatives in a village called Ukrainsky, a former sovkhoz (it is in fact close to the border with Ukraine).

Rossosh, Russia

And they actually do speak a certain Ukrainian-like dialect there. And their Russian is also reminding me of what I heard in Ukraine… And these traditional mazanki houses (wikipedia claims it’s called wattle and daub in English) just transport you somewhere into the Gogol’s tales!

Rossosh, Russia

Look closer at the roof – it is first covered with reed and then with composition roofing (a later addition) – a traditional way applied to most of the houses in the town, Mom says. And these windows are amazing! It’s obvious that glass was kind of expensive and rare back when it was built!

Rossosh, Russia

My childhood memories do not contain any of these details. I just remember that the street we lived in (in a third of a former merchant’s house, separated into tiny one-floor apartments with all the conveniences in the yard) had more trees and that there was that mount of sand in front of it. And we hid a sandal in there with my sister, just to make our mother’s life easier, you know 🙂

Rossosh, Russia

Saw these nalichniki (traditional window casing moldings) too often in Rossosh to believe they were kind of a characteristic trait of the town. My guess is that they introduced them somewhere in the 1970s to make them all look alike…

Rossosh, Russia

This window belongs to the only house we saw which had the authentic reed-covered roof. With all its ruinous look it had this curtain moving with the wind. Someone used to care for this house, someone made this window look pretty. Love decadence but at the same time I always feel sad when I see something which was useful and who knows, very cozy too, so irreversibly abandoned.

Rossosh, Russia

Hand-painted advertisements promising you loads of cheap fur coats and bed sheets to be sold at the local house of culture, – THE best! Next to it was an abandoned park with a ruined pavilion and the remains of the dancing place. AND the aroma of sunflower seeds as there IS a functioning factory still!

Rossosh, Russia

A very 1970s view to my mind. There’s something about this town that is either 1990s or 1970s, I couldn’t make out the period it got stuck in exactly. The other thing which amazed us was the feeling of spring rather than of late autumn the last day we were there – such a disarming and confusing feeling when you see those multi-coloured leaves just about to fall to the ground!

Rossosh, Russia

The coat of arms of Rossosh on the gates of the market place – the town took its name from the Old Slavic for ‘bifurcating river’. And the apples there are AMAZING there! And it’s such a SHAME they never reach our shops here in St Petersburg. They are pink inside, they are super sweet and not acidic as our local apples are. And they make thick apple juice with no sugar added! Ohhh…

Rossosh, Russia

They also make wonderful honey there. But in vain did we search for it in the local shops and at the market even. If you need authentic honey from Rossosh you have to buy a local paper, find a producer and make an appointment. This is how you avoid buying Moscow honey while travelling in the honey region!

Rossosh, Russia

Golden Lenin. Mum says it’s typical of the Southern towns to paint their heroes in gold. The WWII monument was also painted in gold. BTW, there is this explanatory plaque for the new generations apparently: Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the first socialist state in the world. Probably to justify his still standing out there in the middle of the square.

Rossosh, Russia

A local Venus de Milo – a pioner-girl without a hand. This couple is right in front of the school where my great grandmother used to work. I remember her telling me about the war times when they had to write on the book margins for the lack of any paper. And she also taught me to read faster and lots of other curious things I struggle to recall now…

Rossosh checklist

  • bookstore & postcards – none
  • museum – nope
  • local food – homemade borscht, potatoes and apple juice! Plus a nice fruit braid and delicious grapes…
  • market – full of clothes and other junk because we were there on Monday when the food is not sold there
  • old town – it IS old anyway 🙂 There’s a 19th century church near the market and merchant houses here and there

I definitely miss traveling in Russia this autumn. Even though it takes ridiculously long train rides to get around, I enjoy this slow-tempo discovering of my country!

P.S. Just remembered two hilarious names we encountered in Rossosh – Aphrodite Lux for a beauty salon and Ritual Plus for funeral services. Everything better than the ordinary!

Adding this to my Travel and On Russia sections.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Museum of Political History of Russia

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

It just dawned on me that I was born in the last year USSR celebrated a round anniversary of the October Revolution in its lifetime. Four more years – and the country with that name ceased to exist.  Now we discover it in the museums, striving to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. In the museums formerly known as Museum of Revolution, for example, located in a curious art nouveau mansion:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

I finally visited one of the most information-rich museums of St Petersburg so far is the Museum of Political History of Russia on the Petrogradskaya side of Neva. This St Petersburg museum definitely requires a separate post – and at least 3-4 hours to visit. I liked that the museum does not come down to being just a large banal display of USSR-related bric-à-brac. There’s a lot to learn round all these objects (if only in Russian sometimes…) and somehow all this engages you emotionally too.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

A copy of a 1929 poster by Boris Schwartz: “Vodka is a foe, savings bank – a friend!”. A Soviet poster is an art in itself. Especially those of the late 1980s – with blemished colours and same old images, stale propaganda slogans and irrelevantly outdated verses (people’s eyes would just glide over them without even noticing them). Take a look on some posters here (scroll down) – some of them are pretty absurd if you don’t know the habitual Soviet propaganda repeated throughout the years, but mostly they are just sadly good-for-nothing. Meanwhile there were those late 1980s – early 1990s posters created outside the established ideology, which pretty bold and poignant:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

The CCCP evolution: Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev. Who’s next?

A propaganda picture in a propaganda picture: An ideal kindergarten of the 1930s with the famous picture showing Stalin holding a happy girl whose parents he would later persecute.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

By the way, Lenin was frequently portrayed and referred to as Grandfather Lenin although he died at 54! Stalin never reached this ‘grandfather’ status, probably because right upon his death the anti-cult campaign started and so he was never mythologized as an ideal and originator, but rather as a powerful follower already during his lifetime.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Would you like your dessert served on this 1940 NKVD plate? NKVD was the predecessor of KGB, in case you were wondering. Or would you rather prefer this 1918 plate with a menacing revolutionary “Those not with us are against us” (ironically attributed to Jesus).

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Talking about food, here’s a veeeery Spartan BREAKFAST menu at some high-rank health resort where many of the Brezhnev’s cohort were curing their sores, dated 22nd of February, 1979. Yes, everything was regulated and ordered from the above. The menu goes like this: “Granular caviar, stuffed pike perch, tenderloin with prunes, veggies. Russian schi (soup from greens) with vatrushka, baked crabs, fried turkey. Apples in wine, coffee.” I wonder, did they ever regain their health with such breakfasts? And what were the dinners and lunches then?

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

But nor everyone was frequenting high-rank spa resorts. There was the majority of those living in pretty modest apartments, often shared with others, called kommunalnaya kvartira aka kommunalka.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

I think this reconstruction of a Soviet kitchen is rather fair and true-to-life – you can still find these two-coloured walls and the tiled floor in kommunalka and in the public places. This right corner can not be dated exactly cause people were using same things much longer than they do now – hence the ‘universality’ of such a reconstruction:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Always in the food line, here’s how to upgrade the box where you keep your sweets with these radically red tins celebrating the 10th anniversary of the October revolution!

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

If you like trinkets, here’s something to stand out from the crowd, a medallion and a ring with Lenin:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

The room with the Brezhnev’s stagnant era had more objects that I personally could recognize and relate to. The habitual Chronicles of the Current Events reports and the lies upon lies which could fool no one, a stable but also a very stale period which led to a series of deaths – both of the succeeding party leaders and the regime itself.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

The round object on the left shows a record diameter of… I forgot what 🙂

As the years went by, the official art lost a lot in its creativity. And it covered every aspect of the country’s life: people used to have the same books, same wardrobes, same clothes, same kitchenware, same cherished tea sets lovingly stuffed behind the glass doors of the same furniture sets, same everything… and in order to possess these commodities, people used to stand in lines and give bribe – on other words, GET as opposed to purchase. “Where did you get that?” was the first question one asked the happy owner of one of these commodities (or an even happier owner, if we are talking about something from abroad). More on this – in the Ironiya Sudby movie.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

And this corner is a very witty idea:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

It is the Soviet jokes corner – I got stuck there for some time 🙂 You just pick up the (old school heavy Soviet) receiver and listen to all those anecdotes which used to brighten up the Soviet life, were spread all over the country and repeated even within the nomenklatura (establishment), but which could easily cost someone their life. One of the jokes I enjoyed best goes like this: Why is the Soviet sun so joyful in the morning? Cause it knows that when the evening comes it will be in the West.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

There were Western LPs illegally copied on the X-ray slides (‘music on bones’), there were entire books copied as photos, there were people making tape recorders from spare parts at military plants to record censored singers. And there were books, magazines and other stuff (re)typed or hand-written in the still of the night while working at some heating plant – those were called samizdat copies – literally published on one’s own.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

And if you were working for the government instead of being a dissident, this is how the Soviet spies could hide their microscopic (for those times, 1950s-80s) cameras – with a fake button which you attach to your inconspicuous overcoat!

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

That was the last room I visited (while I was there the storm started), living the museum really tired but information-full. A few words about the two mansions it’s located in: the one in the first two pictures of this post is the 1909-10 Brant mansion, connected to the adjacent Kschessinskaya’s mansion, the prima ballerina. More photos of these two mansions here. Now that I’ve been inside I can tell you that Kschessinskaya’s house must have been super-lush. Not that I liked it that much, a bit too heavy to my mind, though the use of wood makes it less monumental and cold. In the next room there’s a beautiful wooden staircase which Lenin must have mounted o deliver his revolutionary speech, I guess.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

A reconstructed room telling the story of Kschessinskaya’s life (with some of her costumes) and mansion. Never liked these plisse curtains, they were the must for all the Soviet establishments, e.g. palaces of culture:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Important info on the Museum of Political History of Russia: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm (Wednesday until 8 pm) except Thursdays. Closed every last Monday. Location: Kuybysheva Street 2/4 (Gorkovskaya metro station). Tickets cost 200 rubles. For those interested there are some Soviet-themed souvenirs. There are audioguides and excursions in English, German and French (+ in the rooms with no tags in English there are brochures with translations). There’s a branch on Gorokhovaya Street telling the history of the Political Police in Russia but I’ve not been there. Plan for quite a lengthy visit – the museum covers the country’s history from Catherine II (18th century) up to today!

By the way, should you have a spare crimson jacket from the 1990s, the museum will be happy to accept it as a gift! 🙂

Adding this to my St Petersburg series and the posts on Russia. More St Petersburg museums here and here.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Moskovsky District: Little Moscow in St Petersburg

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Continuing my investigations into the Moskovsky District of St Petersurg, I travelled farther this time, stopping at the brightest specimens of the official Soviet architectural style during the ‘reign’ of Stalin – neo-classicism (aka Stalin’s classicism). I don’t really like it the way I love modern or am attracted to constructivism but without it Moskovsky district of St Petersburg would just not be what it is.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Let’s begin our walk (or bicycle trip) from the building and the square intended to become the city’s new focal point back in Stalin’s times. Dom Sovetov, or the House of Soviets, built in 1936-1941 on Moskovsky Avenue, just before the war broke out, was initially projected in a very imperialistic style (see here and here). Interestingly enough, if you google “Dom Sovetov“, the first in line would be the monster building in Kaliningrad 🙂

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

This huge House of Soviets in St Petersburg is also quite monstrous-looking especially now with its darkened facades and apparently degrading decorations. It’s now used as an office building. Never been inside but can imagine the grandeur of the interiors.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

It’s hard to imagine now, but back at the time when Dom Sovetov was being built, the surroundings were just void fields, its being located far to the south of the city center, along the historic road leading to Moscow and Tsarskoye Selo.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Now this industrial district is one of the most prestigious in St Petersburg, with construction sites springing all over the place – and there’s even the highest building in the city, the one on the left among the towers in between the Stalinist houses:

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Lenin’s statue is right there in the center of the square which was supposed to become the new center of the city. Lenin, as it’s always is with the statues of our ex-leaders, is eagerly pointing somewhere over there, possibly in the direction of the highest tower in St Pete, who knows. Well, a city (re)named Leningrad (city of Lenin) just has to have Lenins all over the place. In various shapes and sizes, usually as an approximately 3-meter statue or a head (bust) with the umptieth time reproduced features, to accommodate a less spacious places.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

There are usually several legends as to where each and every Lenin in the USSR is pointing, like to the nearest ryumochnaya or booze place (from ryumka – shot glass), cemetery (Vse tam budem, or We’ll all eventually end up there) or the river… They also claim that from a certain angle this particular Lenin’s hat that he’s holding (not very easily identifiable in the first place) transforms into, well, not exactly what it is supposed to represent 🙂 And they also call this statue ‘dancing Lenin’, just look at his left leg!

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Enough for Lenin, let’s take a breath of beauty and nature just behind the House of Soviets and the Moskovskaya Square. This is Chesmenskaya Church (or Chesme Church) built in the 18th century. And that’s the hidden gem of the entire district to my mind! Although not at all free from a bloody relation to Stalin – it used to be right in the middle of a labour concentration camp… And now back to our Moscow-style architecture that is so very prolific in the district:

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg
Built in 1954-57 as a obschezhitiye – a hall of residence

Imagine getting a flat in such a decorated house in the time when the city was recovering from the tragedy of the war, the destruction of the Siege of Leningrad. That was the time when decoration and hyper-decoration was not just à la mode, it was dictated by the state. So even a very dull-looking block of flats was duly transformed into a palace with all the pseudo-classic columns, arches and styled Soviet symbols. And how would you imagine a place a Soviet mother would leave her kid in while at work?

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

This is not a typical kindergarten though, it’s oval in shape (built around 1954 after an individual project, that is, not a typical project used all over the USSR) and has this relief depicting happy and (super)plump Soviet childhood:

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Moving even further into the Moskovsky District up along the Moskovsky Avenue near the Park Pobedy (Victory Park), one comes face to face with this monster of a house unofficially dubbed Washington (or rather Vashington, according to the Russian pronunciation). I wonder what can be more official than a name given by the people themselves? By the way, they say that the House of Soviets was aka White House, so here we are in a Little America 🙂

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Trying to get this building fit in one shot is impossible. See the massive red door in a brown portal? A very typical detail for a very imposing Stalinist architecture, especially in a governmental or around-communist-party construction. Built in 1957 this grand thing was the first 12-floor building in Leningrad. It goes without saying that ‘Vashington‘ was not supposed to house an ordinary Soviet worker.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Yet another not-your-proletariat-building close to Park Pobedy. It’s on Moskovsky Avenue, the wanna-be main artery of the city. It is a very important street of St Petersburg – but definitely not just because Stalin wanted it so. This 1940-53 building is however one of the most distinctive features of Moskovsky Avenue, its tower being a landmark of the entire district. People still call it Dom so shpilem (House with a spire) and they say Russian rock legend Viktor Tsoy lived here when he was a boy.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

Superhuman arches and Pompeii-like decorations:

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

This is also the home for one of the most cherished and true-to-the-origins Pirozhkovaya – a cafe with Russian pirozhki (small pies with various fillings) invariably serving everyone from a biker to a busy office employee since 1956. It’s thus one of the oldest inexpensive authentic eating places still functioning in the city. No, I didn’t go inside (to add my bike to the motorbike’s company) but they say that the cafe is the paradise for those prone to the Soviet food nostalgia.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

That day I also spent some time in the Park Pobedy itself but now that I know the history of the place (it being the city’s incinerator during the Siege of Leningrad), I somehow felt very hushed and little among the statues of athletic Soviet youth and alleys of war heroes. The landscape is nonetheless beautiful and the park is frequented by moms with prams. They say Moskovsky District is one of the greenest in St Petersburg.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

What is sure though is that the district built to become the new center of the second city in USSR, has been gradually and inevitably turned into… a place where people live.

Moskovsky District, St Petersburg

The grand plans of the Soviet leaders might as well never become reality, but they have surely given a certain grand feeling to the life of this district. And not only the architectural freaks notice it 🙂

I finally did get to another house where Viktor Tsoy lived (not far from the one with the tower), a 1970s wardrobe / bath ‘on legs’ built after a Swedish project – but to tell you the truth, it didn’t in any way impress me much. There are much more interesting places around yet to discover, that I will one day share with you.

Adding this to my St Petersburg series.

G.