15. St Petersburg from the Rooftops

S. Peterburgʺ: vidʺ sʺ Isaakievskago sobora = St. Pétersbourg: vue prise de la Cathédrale de St. Isaac
St Petersburg: Izdanie “Rishar”, [1910?]

The image on display is a postcard produced by the firm Rishar (from the French Richard), ca 1910. The view on the postcard is from the famous St Isaac’s Cathedral, which was built between 1818 and 1858. The postcard overlooks the southeast section of St Petersburg, across St Isaac’s Square towards Nevsky Prospect and the Kazan Cathedral. This view is more aesthetically pleasing than the view to the southwest, where the events of the novel are set. The centre of the city is compact, and when Dostoevsky was writing, slums existed within a few minutes’ walk from fashionable hotels. Much of the area has remained markedly unchanged in the picture here from the time of the novel.

In Crime and Punishment, the main character, Raskolnikov, has a genuine connection with the city. Sizeable sections of the novel are devoted to his descriptions of his walks through the metropolis, which include a moment of contemplation of St Isaac’s itself from a bridge over the River Neva. Raskolnikov would certainly have been familiar with the streets, canals, and buildings shown in this view.

Jasper Edwards

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