Students explore St. Petersburg with SRAS
The Church on Spilt Blood
as seen on the SRAS St.
Petersburg Walking Tour!
  SRAS students tour the summer gardens.
SRAS students touring
the summer gardens.

St. Petersburg Culture Lab
Learn Russian, Live St. Petersburg!

SRAS cultural programs are designed to give you a wide introduction to your city and to Russia as a whole. These structured experiences are laid-back, educational, and an opportunity for students to get to know each other.

In our experience, however, most students prefer to save on the costs of organized activities and to have mostly free time – to study, to peruse independent interests, and to spend time with the friends they make from around the world while in Russia.

To strike a balance between these needs and wants, we offer several core activities, attendance to which is required and the cost of which is included in most programs (see the individual program pages for details). We also offer several optional experiences which are available at additional cost.

1. Included Events

St. Petersburg Walking Tour
Our original tour begins with a stroll down historic Nevsky Prospekt. We will visit the Cathedral of Our Mother of Kazan, see the Alexandrinsky Theater, the monument to Catherine the Great, and the Engineers' Castle. We will walk through the Mikhailovsky Gardens to the Church on Spilt Blood, past the Hermitage, and then to St Isaac's Cathedral and colonnade. Students will have the opportunity to gain a bird's eye view of St. Petersburg from the top of St. Isaac's. On the way, we will enjoy an informal discussion about myths, history, daily life in St Petersburg, and learn about Russia's culture, language, economy, and politics. Our tour is also focused on introducing you to some of the cultural differences between Russia and the West - so that you can better adapt to them and learn from them. Questions are always welcome and encouraged!

Tour of the Hermitage
Our Hermitage tour will give you a general overview of the collections of one of the most famous art museums in the world. Through the art and its surroundings (it is housed in the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian Emperors), we will also talk about Russian history, how present-day Russia came about, and the place of art in society. Students will see original works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, and one of the world best collections of impressionist paintings anywhere in the world. Students are strongly encouraged to ask questions of the guide.

Russian Museum
The Russian Museum houses the world’s largest collection of Russian-produced art. The tour gives a great opportunity to get an idea about different periods and trends of art in Russia. We will talk about icon painting, the vanguard art of the early 20th century, and much in between including folk crafts, classical art, impressionistic and socialist realist art. The museum often arranges temporary exhibitions that the students will have a chance to see on their own in addition to their guided tour of the museum. Relations between art and politics of the Soviet period can be a good topic to discuss here.

More About:

The Summer Imperial Residences
The imperial summer residences are very important for getting a 'feel' of the imperial splendor of the former capital of the Russian Empire. During our tour we will visit Pavlovsk Imperial Palace or Catherine’s Palace, two of the better preserved palaces filled with incredible art treasures. These Palaces have rich histories and each can provide us with an excellent opportunity to talk about court life and politics in Russia in the late 18-th and early 19-th centuries. If the weather is good on the way back to the city we will stop in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) and walk in its elegant Park. Both places are very beautiful in any season. In summer we take opportunity to take our students to see one of the 'ten wonders of Russia' - the fountains of Peterhof, the world famous Imperial palace and park founded by Peter the Great himself.

Siege of Leningrad Sites
World War II (The Great Patriotic War) is an extremely important part of Russia’s, and in particular, St. Petersburg’s, history. During the war, there was a 900-day siege of Leningrad when all routes to and from the city were blocked and food sources were cut off. More than 600,000 citizens (mostly the elderly, and women and children) died during this tragic but heroic refusal to surrender the city. Students will have a chance to visit sites commemorating this period of St. Petersburg’s history. Some of the stops may include the massive and sombering Monument to the Defenders of Leningrad – civilians and soldiers fighting side by side; one of two Blockade museums exhibiting artifacts and footage from the siege; trenches just outside the city at the actual spot of the enemy line; and the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, a poignant reminder of the scale of the tragedy that the city faced where more than a half million are buried.

Living and Working in Russia Seminar
We meet at a Georgian restaurant to sample some of the tastiest dishes from the former Soviet Union. Invited guests in the past have included members of the US Foreign Service, and foreigners involved in research, entrepreneurship, management, finance, translation, and teaching English in Russia. We discuss in detail how one obtains the necessary documentation to live and work long-term in Russia. We then, with our guests, hold an open discussion on searching for jobs and housing, navigating the often-arduous Russian bureaucracy, and prospects in the Russian economy.

Many experts of Russian art consider Novgorod to be a Russian Florence; no other Russian city has managed to preserve so many ancient architectural monuments adorned with wall murals. Today the city is an exceptionally bright city, filled with parks, a beach, and fascinating architecture. Novgorod, whose name means "New City," is actually one of the oldest in Russia. Founded by Varangian Norseman as a trading post, its first written mention dates to the 9th century, although it was probably around well before that. This city is at once the birthplace of the Russian state, and one of the last cities to have been subdued by that state.

Yusupov Palace
The Yusupovs were one of imperial Russia’s richest families. Decended from the Khans, their political connections and business interests were diverse and extensive. The tour includes the opulent rooms of different generations of the family including the rococo private theatre and the rooms associated with the assassination of Gregory Rasputin – the mysterious former advisor to the tsar who cultivated a notoriously famous cult of personality around himself. This is a good place to talk about Rasputin’s role in the fall the Romanovs and the coming of Communism to Russia.

Peter and Paul Fortress
This fortress is the oldest part of the city, built by Peter the Great to protect the lands that he had regained from Sweden. Ironically, it never served as a military fortification but was used as the royal burial place, political prison, and the state mint. Prisoners held here included Alexei, son of Peter the Great, and some Romanovs. The Romanovs were rebuired here after their remains were exhumed and identified after the collapse of Communism. This is an excellent place to learn about Russian history.

Social Event
Meet with locals for a fun event to make local contacts.

Cultural Performance
Each semester, students are treated to one cultural performance. In this past, this has generally been a play or ballet but has also, based on requests and scheduling, could be a puppet show, a jazz performance or even concerts by modern groups such as The Red Elvises.

Outside the Kremlin walls.
  Broaden your horizons
even further! Choosing a
program in St. Petersburg
doesn't have to mean
missing Moscow!

2. Optional Events

Moscow (Optional for RSL; Included for Russian Studies)
This optional trip brings you to Moscow for two to three days, depending on school schedule. Cost differs by semester, but usually ranges between $300-400 and includes train fare, hostel accommodations, and our Moscow Walking Tour, a tour of Red Square, and a tour of facinating Novodevichi Convent and Cemetary complex (see our Moscow Cultural Program for more information; see also this writeup by a St. Petersburg student who took our Moscow trip in 2011!).

Cooking Class
Learn to make traditional Russian foods from a real Russian babushka! Cost is usually about $10-12 and space is limited (you'll be asked to RSVP).

Other Events
Your St. Petersburg coordinator will keep a close eye on events and let you know of other unique tours or experiences such as plays and ballets, exciting Russian cultural events such as Maslenitsa festivities and St. Petersburg City Day celebrations, and opportunities for language exchanges. These events are often available at little or no cost.

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