Anna Akhmatova Museum – An Insight into Life Under Stalinist Rule

by Elena on November 5, 2012

anna akhmatova portrait museum

Anna Akhmatova - a celebrated poet who lived under Soviet rule.

Often appearing on top-ten lists of things to do in St. Petersburg, the Anna Akhmatova Museum at Fontanny Dom is a great opportunity to learn more about the life of artists and writers in Russia. Have a thoroughly literary day and visit the Dostoyevsky Museum too, then have dinner at The Idiot cafe and bask in your newfound literary profundity. Situated at Naberezhnaya Reki Fontanki, the museum’s entry is just off Liteny which itself runs off Nevsky Propekt. It can be a little hard to locate so ask your Ulko Tours guide for assistance and note the absence of fountains at Fountain House where the museum is housed!

Who Was Anna Akhmatova?

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) is a remarkable modernist Russian and Soviet era poet who survived the Blockade and whose work offers a glimpse of life under Stalinist rule. Excerpts of her poetry are translated for museum visitors to enjoy and the photographs and artefacts of her life are explained by a quite wonderful audio guide available in English. Rather than reading dry facts about the politics of the Stalin era, see how artists and writers, and their peers lived at the time with this eloquent unofficial insight into Russian life.

Fascinating Russian History

The Anna Akhmatova Museum comprises the preserved apartment of the poet, along with carefully selected pieces that help tell the story of this fascinating period of Russian history. Most of the exhibits are labelled only in Russian but written English notices are present in some places. The audio guide is definitely a main pull for the museum, however, as it combines facts about Akhmatova’s life with incredible details about life in the Soviet Union.

Not Just for Poetry Fans

To enjoy this museum you need not be a fan of Russian poetry, any poetry, or even have any literary leanings as it is engrossing simply for the insight into Russia’s recent history. The staff at the museum are extremely helpful and the exhibits are well curated for maximum enjoyment. Be warned that Akhmatova’s story is not a happy one, however, and there’s a real sense of tragedy surrounding the poet.

Life Under Stalin

Leafing through her family photo album and hearing about her struggles under the oppressive regime provides a poignant reminder of the difficulties faced by people in St Petersburg and across Russia during the early twentieth century. Anna Akhmatova’s son and husband were imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, along with Dostoyevsky and many other Russians.

anna akhmatova museum

The apartment has been lovingly preserved to display Akhmatova's possessions and other exhibits.

Visiting the Anna Akhmatova Museum

The Anna Akhmatova Museum houses her own library, Josif Brodsky’s library, Lesman’s collection of rare books and poetry of the last century and also collections of graphics belonging to Nesmelov and Gumilev (Akhmatova’s first husband). According to the museum’s website there are more than 50,000 exhibits included in the current collection. The audio guide costs around 115 rubles and is available upstairs after buying an entrance ticket (around 200 rubles) to the museum.

The museum is open daily (except for Mondays) from 11am to 6pm; 1pm to 8pm on the last Wednesday of the month. Until December 2nd the museum houses an interactive exhibition about St Petersburg children’s literature (Secrets in Closets), with an exhibition of Marina Belkina’s graphic art on until November 13th (Thirteen Ways to See a Blackbird).

Ask Ulko Tours to help you combine the visit to the Anna Akhmatova Museum with a trip to the prison museum at the Peter and Paul Fortress and you will soon be considering yourself lucky that you face none of the difficulties of life as a Russian intellectual under Stalinist rule.

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