This tour will give you a unique opportunity to see and feel nowadays that part of Russia’s life that has left such a deep mark on world history.
Back to USSR tour can be done in any number of days individually as well as it can be incorporated in any other of our tours according to you wish.
St Petersburg, from tsars to revolution
St. Petersburg is a city where not only the Russian, but the whole world’s history has changed in the most dramatic way. The cruiser Aurora, which you can step on board during the tour, made an ill-fated shot that heralded the beginning of the coup in October 1917 which was later called the Great October Revolution in Soviet Union.
The cruiser had a long story before the revolution of 1917, it participated in the Russian-Japanese War, and in Soviet times, it played a significant role in the defense of Leningrad during the Siege in 1941-1944.
Aurora’s shot served as a signal for the revolutionary sailors to storm the Winter Palace through the Arch of the General Staff. Now the passage throught the Arch to the Palace Square where the Winter Palace stands is free but in October 1917 it was closed with a decorative lattice.
The revolutionary rebels overcame this obstacle, passed through the square and broke into the building of the Winter Palace where they arrested the members of the Provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky, Nicholas II had already abdicated 7 months before that.
A new era has begun for the country, when the palaces of the nobility, including the Tsars’ home, Winter Palace, were nationalized and eventually became museums, for example, the luxurious Yusupov Palace or the mansion of Matilda Kseshinskaya, famous ballerina and beloved of Nicholas II, which now houses the Museum of Political History, where we will also organize a thrilling tour for you.
Matilda Kseshinskaya, a prima-ballerina of Mariinsky theatre was the owner of an elegant Art Nouveau mansion in the very center of St Petersburg, the Petrogradskaya side. She lived there from 1906 till 1917 and her mansion was one of the centers of cultural and social life of high end society of St Petersburg. During the February Revolution 1917 when Nicolas II was forced to abdicate and the power was taken by Provisional government Kshesinskaya, along with her son Vladimir, left her mansion in a hurry. The deserted building was arbitrarily occupied by revolutionary soldiers, and from April till July 1917 Lenin worked here and delivered speeches from the balcony of the mansion. So the house turned, as the Petrograd newspapers wrote, into the main headquarters of the Leninists (the Bolsheviks). Kshesinskaya made several attempts to regain the property but in vain. And she finally left St Petersburg to Kislovodsk in July 1917 and in 1920 she moved to Paris and never returned back to Russia.
While visiting the State Museum of Political History of Russia located in the mansion, you will know a lot about the history of Russia from the following exhibitions held in the museum:
Another excursion you may take in this museum is about the owner of the mansion called Matilda Kshesinskaya, fouettes of fate. This tour is designed to provide a full overview of the personal and creative biography of the famous ballerina who left a significant footprint in Russian art.
In July 1917 Lenin’s tribune was a balcony at the former mansion of Kseshinskaya but by October the same year the Bolshevics influence became higher and they moved their headquarters to a bigger building, the Smolny. Lenin’s office is still preserved here and once a week an excursion there is held.
The history of the Smolny building goes back to the times of Catherine the Great when the Institute of the Noble Maidens was founded in 1764. Its aim was to give a high quality education to girls from the noble families. It was the first women’s educational institution in Russia, which marked the beginning of women’s education in the country. Girls were accepted from the age of six, and they were students for twelve years. The institute existed in St Petersburg until 1917, after the October coup it moved to Novocherkassk. In February 1919, the last graduation took place there, in the summer of the same year, the teachers and the remaining students left Russia together with the White Army. The Institute was resumed in Serbia, where it functioned until 1932.
In 1917 the Soviet history of the Smolny began. Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was held here, at which the leader of the Bolsheviks Vladimir Lenin announced the overthrow of the Provisional Government and the establishment of a new political system in the country. The famous Decrees on Peace and Land were signed here. The first Soviet government, the Council of People’s Commissars headed by Vladimir Lenin, was also elected here.
Now St Petersburg Government is sitting at the Smolny building.
Another landmark interesting to visit was also designed during Soviet times and remind us about challenging times in the history of St Petersburg.
The monument to the Defenders of Leningrad was built in memory of the heroes of the citizens during the Great Patriotic War and the Siege of Leningrad that lasted 900 days in 1941-1944.
The composition is located on Victory Square near Moskovskaya metro station, in the place where the front road was located during the war, and a powerful node of resistance to the enemy was created — with pillboxes and steel hedgehogs, anti-tank barriers and an artillery piece.
The decision to create an architectural ensemble dedicated to the feat of Leningrad was made during the war years, but it became possible to implement it only 30 years later in 1975.
About Soviet naval history
Excursion to the icebreaker Krasin and to the submarine Komsomolets
For literature lovers
We recommend to visit an amazing museum of Iosif Brodsky, a world known Russian poet who got literature Nobel prize. The museum is located in his apartment where he lived with parents and has an absolutely unique atmosphere. Another poet’s museum we highly recommend not to miss is Anna Akhmatova’s momorial apartment in Fontannyj house
Moscow, the Soviet Empire’s capital
The capital was moved from imperial St. Petersburg to already Soviet Moscow in 1918 straight after the revolution and the soviet legacy here is more concentrated and represented by bigger number of monuments and art spaces than in St Petersburg.
Of course talking about Soviet times you can’t avoid that part of the Red Square that was a peculiar symbol of them, these are the Lenin’s mausoleum and the Kremlin’s red brick wall behind the mausoleum.
During Soviet times, the leaders of the Communist Party rose to the open upper floor of the mausoleum 4 times a year to greet military parades from there. This practice of questionable ethics ended with the fall of the Soviet Union but Lenin’s mummy is still inside of this building though his last will to be buried at the cemetery was not fulfilled. There are still disputes inside of the Russian society about the “right” decision of this case.
Another Tanatos thing at the Red square associated with USSR is the Kremlin’s red brick wall behind the mausoleum where many of the Soviet big leaders and famous people were burried. Among them are Iosif Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Sergey Korolev, Georgiy Zhukov.
Leaving behind the Red square you will head towards the Alexander Garden, one of first urban public parks in Moscow, stretching along the western Kremlin wall between the buildings of the Moscow Manege and the Kremlin.
The gardens were built from 1819 to 1823 and were originally called the Kremlin Gardens. After the coronation of Alexander II in 1856, the gardens were renamed the Alexander Gardens.
Towards the main entrance to the park is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame brought from the Field of Mars in Leningrad in 1967.
The Guard Post of Honor at the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the walls of the Moscow Kremlin (also known as Post No. 1) is the main guard post in Russia. It used to be located in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum, but was moved to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in the 1990s.
Another interesting landmark of the Back to USSR tour can be your visit to Ukraine hotel located in one of the famous «7 sisters» buildings or 7 soviet sky-scrapers called «Stalin’s vysotki» (vysotka – high building in Russian) where you will admire the distinguished soviet design.
From the height of «vysotkys» we will move underground and even there will find a features of the Soviet era while having a ride in Moscow metro and seeing several the most beautiful stations like Ploschad Revolutsii (Revolution Square) with 76 statues in the socialist realism style or Novoslobodskaya with colouful stain glasses decorated in “Stalin’s ampir” style.
The most famous statues at Ploschad Revolutsii station are the soldier with dog, a sailor and an aviator, students in young pioneers uniforms. Several of the sculptures are widely believed to bring good luck to those who touch them. The practice is targeted at specific areas on individual sculptures, including the soldier’s pistol, the patrolman’s dog and the female student’s shoe. While in the station you will see numerous passengers touching the statues as they pass, and the bronze of these details is highly polished as a result. This is quite funny, isn’t it?
In the afternoon Soviet Moscow will offer you a chance to have a lunch in one of the several restaurants where soviet style interiors as well as the menus are kept.
Near the VDNH metro station another very Soviet art space can impress you. There is no other place in Moscow like the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNH) to see the rise of communist aesthetics. It was created as all Soviet exhibition dedicated to demonstrate the achievements of the USSR in 1935.
There you will see pavilions of the former Soviet republics, each with its own original architecture, Fountain of Friendship of Peoples with 16 huge golden sculptures and the most expressive monument of the communist era, called «Worker and Kolkhoz woman» by Vera Mukhina which was originally created to crown the Soviet pavilion of the World’s Fair in Paris in 1937.
On Cosmonauts Alley at VDNH Exhibition the Moscow Museum of Cosmonautics is waiting for you, preserving the history of the time when the USSR achieved great success in space conquest by launching the first satellite, the famous Sputnik-1, and performing the first manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin in April 1961. You can learn everything about Russian cosmonauts and see an extensive collection of artifacts and space capsules, including the legendary satellite, a mock-up of the Mir space station, a lunar rover and many others.
Have you heard a rather funny fact about Yuri Gagarin that he flew into space having a rank of senior lieutenant and returned an hour and a half later as a major skipping a rank of captain? But Soviet Union’s obsession with arms was not that funny and the existence of such military objects like Stalin’s bunker or Bunker-42 is just another conformation of this fact. Great that now it’s just a tourist site where we can organize an exciting tour for you.
Bunker-42 is tightly connected with the name of Joseph Stalin, a Soviet leader from 1929 till 1953 and the times of Cold war between the US and Soviet Union.
Bunker was built between 1950-1956 by direct order of Stalin and was a top-secret military object used until 1986 as a command center for strategic nuclear missile bombers of the Soviet Air Force. It is located 65 meters underground (corresponding to 18 floors) in the centre of Moscow, near Taganskaya metro station, just in 13 km from the Kremlin, and the location of the bunker was not accidental: it was assumed that in case of nuclear attack, Joseph Stalin would be able to quickly get from the Kremlin to the shelter and the facility would become a reliable place for the top officials of the Soviet Union to work and would be completely protected from all the damaging factors of a nuclear explosion.
Stalin’s influence is tragic on Russian history and the fate of people thanks to the repressions he initialed in the late 20s of the last century. He was the leader of the country during the Great Patriotic War, during which 26 million Soviet people died defending their homeland and helping other nations to liberate the world from fascism.
In the National museum of the history of the Great Patriotic war on Poklonnaya Hill you will find how the Soviet people were defending Russia during 4 tough years of that war from 1941 to 1945. The Victory Monument located near the museum represents all joy, pride of the victory over fascism and of course sorrow that so many people didn’t return home from this terrible war.
This tour is one of the options how you can enjoy the Soviet legacy in both capitals but it can be modified according to the number of days you have and preferences about cultural content you would like to see in Moscow and St Petersburg. Please feel free to share with us your ideas and we will do our best to prepare a tailor made itinerary for you. Thank you for choosing Nordic travel!
About military history
We recommend a tour to Military vehicles and equipment museum and a trip to Patriot Park where you can shoot Kalashnikov or even ride a real tank
A tour to the Star city, famous for Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center