St. Petersburg hits 300

Just two years after celebrating its own tercentennial anniversary, Yale is celebrating another tercentennial — the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg.

To mark the event, Yale is hosting a three-day international conference entitled “St. Petersburg: 300 Years.” The conference, which began Thursday, celebrates the literary, artistic and musical heritage of St. Petersburg through various exhibitions and symposiums as well as a concert by the Yale Russian Chorus.

Participants include speakers from the State Hermitage Museum and the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, from the All-Russian State Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow, and the Moscow State University, as well as several European and American universities.

John Bennett, an employee in the African Collection at the Sterling Memorial Library, said this conference is particularly significant.

“This is the single most important and impressive series of events that Yale has managed to put together this semester, and possibly this academic year,” Bennett said.

The event features two exhibitions at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Sterling Memorial Library.

One exhibition, “St. Petersburg: A Portrait of a Great City,” premiered Thursday afternoon at Beinecke in front of 200 attendees. The exhibition featured books, manuscripts, prints and photographs documenting the role of St. Petersburg as a cultural, artistic and literary center from its founding through World War II.

The exhibition also included noteworthy Russian artifacts, including the library’s renowned Romanov albums and a recently acquired manuscript of dissident writer Anna Akhmatova’s “Poem Without a Hero” describing the Stalinist era.

Vincent Giroud, Beinecke curator of modern books and manuscripts, organized the exhibition.

“The exhibition focuses on treasures from the Yale collections — things unique to Yale,” Giroud said. “Our collections give very good on accounts of St. Petersburg by foreign visitors. However, while the exhibits are uniquely Yale, the accumulation of these treasures [creates] a portrait of St. Petersburg.”

“St. Petersburg: 300 Years,” an exhibit at the Sterling Memorial Library, features maps, coins and medals from its collections and the collections of the Yale University Art Gallery. The exhibition will open today.

Two conferences, “Visual Arts in the Time of Peter the Great” and “St. Petersburg as the Capital of Russia,” took place Thursday at the Yale Center for British Art.

Irina Gordienko, a scientific review administrator for the National Institute of Health, expressed some disappointment in the lectures.

“Some lectures disappointed me,” Gordienko said. “St. Petersburg is such an amazing city and the lectures could have been much more interesting. Still, I’m glad I came.”

Several other conference sessions, including “Visual Arts after Peter the Great,” “Libraries and Treasures of St. Petersburg,” “The St. Petersburg Theme in Russian Literature,” and “The Flowering of Culture in St. Petersburg,” will take place in various buildings on campus today and Saturday.

The weekend celebration will conclude Saturday with a concert featuring current and former members of the Yale Russian Chorus, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The campus celebration is sponsored by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Sterling Memorial Library and the History and Slavic Languages and Literatures departments.

One of the participants in a three-day international conference celebrating St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary speaks on its opening day.
Khanh Nguyen
One of the participants in a three-day international conference celebrating St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary speaks on its opening day. "St. Petersburg: 300 Years" comprises exhibits at the Sterling Memorial Library and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and will conclude with a concert by the Yale Russian Chorus.

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