The life of Alexander Blok, a poet of the Silver Age, was closely connected with St Petersburg University. It was here that he was born, spent his childhood and youth, and married Liubov Mendeleeva.
The tour starts with the panorama of the University central entrance. Then it moves on to the Rector’s wing that was built in 1794. This is where Andrey Beketov lived. He was rector of the University, professor of botany and the poet’s grandfather. On 16 November 1880 the poet was born here.
Having finished Vvedenskaya school in 1898, Blok applied to the Faculty of Law at St Petersburg University. As he explained later, he had made such a choice because of his ‘laziness and unconsciousness’. Also, after his demanding school years he had been looking for easier times.
It is much more interesting at the University, of course. And also there is a feeling of freedom. However, I don’t overindulge in it and attend lectures regularly.
Alexander Blok, a letter to his Father (1898)
The online tour includes the building ‘Jeu de Paume’ (a house for ball games), where from 1904 poets of St Petersburg University used to gather. In the 1900s, the Faculty of History and Philology became one of the most important literary centres of the Silver Age. The first works by Blok were published in the University student journals.
In November 1990, Blok wrote a letter to Boris Nikolsky, privat-docent of the Faculty of Law, a poet and a researcher of Afanasy Fet and Alexander Pushkin, and an editor of the students’ ‘Literature and art collection’. In his letter Blok suggested publishing his poetry there. However, his literary career started only in March 1903 in the students’ “Literature and art collection” and in the magazine ‘Novy Put’ (‘The new way’).
In 1901, Blok was absorbed in his private life and arduous literary work. At the end of the summer of 1901, in Shakhmatovo, he decided to transfer to the Faculty of History and Philology. It was a very well-considered decision: now that his laziness and unconsciousness were gone, he realised that he was most interested in philology, not law. On 27 September 1901, Blok applied for transfer from one faculty to the other.
The virtual tour includes the Twelve Collegia building. This is where Blok spent his student years. In 1946–1947, in the corridor, a memorial gallery was created of portraits of outstanding scientists and workers of culture who had been graduates of the University. This was on the initiative of the rector of the University Alexander Voznesensky. Today, there are more than 80 portraits, sculptures and busts. The portrait of Blok is in the southern part of the corridor, next to his grandfather, the scientist Andrey Beketov.
Blok and the Mendeleev family
The life of the poet went hand in hand with the family of Dmitri Mendeleev, who was a close and cherished friend of the Beketovs. In 1903, Blok married his daughter Liubov, and so Mendeleev became his father-in-law.
The virtual tour goes on to the University church. The architectural masterpiece of federal importance, the church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul, is located in the Twelve Collegia building. It was consecrated by order of Nicholas I on Patron Saints’ day on 12 July 1837 by bishop of Pskov Nathaniel in honour of the saint patrons of St Petersburg. The church was closed in 1919. Regular service started again in 1996. It is where Alexander Blok was baptised and in 1903 betrothed to Liubov Mendeleeva.
St Petersburg University played an important role in the development of the great Russian poet. Being a student, Blok evolved from total indifference to social life to dramatic articles about common people and intelligence. Researchers point out that it was the ‘right way for a true poet and a citizen’.
On 29 May 2002, the first monument to Alexander Blok was unveiled in the city, which he had glorified as a city of ‘snows and mists’. The monument was created by the sculptor Evgeny Rotanov and was placed in the Modern Sculpture Park of the University.