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In Petersburg we will come together again As if we had buried the sun there. — Osip Mandelstam What city in the world can boast as many great poets and novelists as St. Petersburg? Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Blok, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, the Bohemian Kharms, the satirist Zoshchenko, Brodsky (the poet who became an exile in the United States), to name a few . . . they created a mystique that became the real city. With its white nights, it majestic River Neva and Italianate architecture, this “window on the West,” as it is called in Russia, St. Petersburg prompted Alexander Blok to write: Live yet another quarter century All will be the same, there’s no escape.

A lesser-known fact about St. Petersburg in the 20th century is that women have played an significant role in the city’s cultural history. The first university for women in Russia was the St. Petersburg Higher Bestuzhev Courses, as it was called. (It was here that, nearly a century ago, Akhmatova and Blok appeared together on stage for an historic poetry reading.) Decades later, in the 1970s, Russia’s first feminist samizdat journals, such as Maria, and Women and Russia, sprang up there.

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