Visit Dvortsovaya, take a picture with the Bronze Horseman and walk past Isaakievskiy. Take a series of photos at Nevsky and enjoy lunch at one of the city’s numerous cafes – that is a must for just about everyone visiting St. Petersburg for the first time. Do you recognize yourselves, dear guests of the city?
Andrey Fedorov, reporter: “And, of course, post all those shots on social media. I’ve been here and saw St. Petersburg. Big, historic and beautiful. Many tourists think like that. Although its hard to surprise anyone with such pictures. The city is in top-10 of the most photographed cities on social media. It seems that it has been digitized from every angle”.
We enter the door code, walk inside the building and are being quiet. Thus following instructions from third year journalism students Sofiya and Polina Khutinayevy – authors of the alternative city guidebook. Detailing the city which is concealed from many – and yet very popular online.
Twelve profit houses. Several dozen shots of building entrances, which have been seen by millions online. And, most importantly, detailed description of the route. All this, according to the students, had been available on the internet for a long time. All they’ve done – as part of their class paper – is bundling these facts together.
Sofya and Polina Khutinayevy: “We structured all the information online and created three routes – so that people could walk them without the problems we had faced. Where to go, which door to knock at. It even got scary at times – you ring a door which was meant to be opened, and then someone asks you who do you want to see. And you’re forced to improvise”.
Andrey Fedorov, reporter: “St. Petersburg resembles a puzzle which has been put together. And most of the pictures taken here are panoramic. All the while even the slightest details here deserve a separate mention. Those can open the city to you – in a completely new light”.
And that is the thing which bloggers are using actively – having shredded the city into bits in their accounts.
Kseniya Sidorina found a topic for her page about six months ago – literally under her feet. She is a great admirer of Mettlach tiles. Since then, she has posted more than 200 times about it.
Thanks to her blog, her followers have learnt that St. Petersburg’s profit houses hold the produce of not three factories from Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany and Russia – as many had believed – but from nineteen. And have also seen hundreds of patterns. The most popular commentary – “they no longer make these”.
Kseniya Sidorina, blogger: “I’m a market expert, so I know who my followers are. Those are people under 40 years old. Seventy percent of my 11 thousand followers are women. And those are entirely different people – those who are professionally interested in tiles or girls who admire the beautiful things. Very different people”.
Alexander Gornostayev has a little fewer followers. He posts unique shop windows on social media. There are thousands of those in the city, but this number diminishes with every year.
Alexander Gornostayev: “I was inspired by a lamentable trend of the recent years. We are constantly losing our heritage – with a worrying regularity. So I have made an attempt to gather and preserve it all in a certain archive – to keep that memory alive for our children”.
Behind these doors is a literature club, where Sergey Esenin used to participate. And those also happen to be the doors very popular online these days. According to Oleg Fedorov, it’s one of those details which we see every day, yet those stay somewhat in the shadows. But it’s interesting to study history through those.
Oleg Fedorov, tour guide: “When a person has access to a certain element, one would eventually see the wider picture. For instance, I started researching marble statues inside building entrances. Which eventually led me to a building’s history and, subsequently, to architecture of the Petrogradsky district. It’s a pleasant phenomenon, which I fully support”.
Alexey Shishkin tells the story of St. Petersburg’s profit houses online. For instance, this one was owned by a family of traders - the Nelaevs. There was even a church inside the building. And you would never guess that based on architecture alone. From the outside, it is all about neo-classicism. Inside – flowers and decorative modern style. Huge faces and flowers on the walls – this must’ve come from Western Europe. Or was inspired by the Vitebsky rail station, which was being constructed at that time. But most likely Paris or Brussels.
Alexey explains the popularity of such blogs online by the phenomenon of clip mentality and the development of digital technologies. These days, it only takes a picture and a short text with interesting facts to attract an audience.
Alexey Shishkin, blogger: “Several decades ago, such volume of regional history was not accessible. One had to go on a lengthy trip to obtain it. But now we can go online and turn to archives of the places where the city’s residents went to after the Revolution. The places where they took their personal archives and state documents”.
Specialists believe that this detailed digitization of St. Petersburg is only the beginning of a new round of regional history boom. There will be many more of such accounts. Because the city consists of millions of unique elements – so every person would be able to find something interesting.
Andrey Fedorov, reporter: “You can open a detailed St. Petersburg by yourself or get that information from different sources. But it’s definitely much more comfortable when everything’s in one place – on our channel and online. Search, follow and comment!”