In this guest post, Professor Tony Cross (Fellow 1986 – 2004) reports on a recent and clearly exhilarating trip to St Petersburg.

I was attending what was in fact the Sixth Congress of Petrine Towns, held annually in June at the time of Peter the Great’s birthday. This year it also coincided with the British-Russia Year of Culture and its theme was Five Centuries of British-Russian Cultural Contacts.

I gave a paper on ‘The British Tourist in Imperial Russia’ at the opening plenary session in the Hermitage Theatre and also chaired a session. I was also interviewed along with the Director of the Hermitage and the Russian Federation Deputy Minister of Culture by a battery of media and appeared on the evening Moscow news!

Flag 2 DSC_0045-1024x576Later to my astonishment I was presented with a large flag given to all towns in Russia and abroad connected in some way with Peter the Great. Peter in fact never visited Cambridge (he had a disastrous trip to Oxford) and the only link was a mysterious entry in an expenses book for his visit to England in 1698 which read: “To the old man who came from Cambridge two guineas”. I was given the flag apparently because I had attended all the previous Petrine congresses and given papers!

TC 2DSC_00921-801x1024If that was not enough for the day, I was asked at very short notice if I would say a few words on behalf of all the foreign participants at the congress from the stage before a concert given to all participants at the Peterhof Palace outside St Petersburg, following the Minister of Culture, the Governor St Petersburg and the Head of the Peterhof Museum.

The next day I had the additional honour with a young Russian colleague of ‘firing’ the midday cannon from the ramparts of the Peter and Paul Fortress and was presented with the shell case (which I successfully brought through customs).

IMG_20140608_120100-1Tony Cross IMG_20140608_120100-1

Finally at the last session of the congress I ‘presented’ my latest book In the Lands of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography of First-hand English-language Accounts of the Russian Empire (1613-1917) – just published by Open Book Publishers of Cambridge.

All this was so different from the first of my many visits to Leningrad/St Petersburg in January 1960, when I was in my last year as an undergraduate at Trinity Hall.

In the Lands of the Romanovs: Anthony Cross, April 2014

In the Lands of the Romanovs

“This is a real treasure trove for anyone who is interested in comparative studies, history of relations between Russia and the West and simply for those who get excited talking about the image of Russia beyond her borders.” Alexander Anichkin, European Book Review

Publisher’s description: Over the course of more than three centuries of Romanov rule in Russia, foreign visitors and residents produced a vast corpus of literature conveying their experiences and impressions of the country. The product of years of painstaking research by one of the world’s foremost authorities on Anglo-Russian relations, In the Lands of the Romanovs is the realization of a major bibliographical project that records the details of over 1200 English-language accounts of the Russian Empire.

Ranging chronologically from the accession of Mikhail Fedorovich in 1613 to the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917, this is the most comprehensive bibliography of first-hand accounts of Russia ever to be published. Far more than an inventory of accounts by travellers and tourists, Anthony Cross’s ambitious and wide-ranging work includes personal records of residence in or visits to Russia by writers ranging from diplomats to merchants, physicians to clergymen, gardeners to governesses, as well as by participants in the French invasion of 1812 and in the Crimean War of 1854-56.

Providing full bibliographical details and concise, informative annotation for each entry, this substantial bibliography will be an invaluable tool for anyone with an interest in contacts between Russia and the West during the centuries of Romanov rule.”

Nicola Padfield

About Nicola Padfield

Nicola Padfield MA, Dip Crim, DES became Master of Fitzwilliam College in October 2013. She is a Reader in Criminal and Penal Justice at the Law Faculty, University of Cambridge, and has been a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College since 1991.

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