16. St Petersburg from the Water

Kanal Griboedeva i tserkov’ Voskreseniia = Canale de Gribojedoff et l’eglise de la Résurrection, Léningrade
[St Petersburg?, 1937?]

The view captured on this Soviet-era postcard looks northeast from the opulent Nevsky Prospect up the Griboedov Canal to the distinctive Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, built to mark the spot where Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. During Dostoevsky’s lifetime, the canal was called the Ekaterinskii, or Catherine, Canal and the church was not present.

The events of Crime and Punishment take place in the neighborhood located southeast of Nevsky Prospect, around a bend in the Ekaterinskii Canal, called ‘Kanava’ or the ‘Ditch’ in the novel. Sonya’s apartment overlooks the ‘Ditch’ halfway between the Voznesenskii Bridge and Stoliarnyi Pereulok, while the Pawnbroker lives at the intersection of the Canal and present-day Rimsky-Korsakov Prospect. Raskolnikov crosses the Kokoshkin Bridge over the canal when he returns to his apartment on Stoliarnyi Pereulok. While St Petersburg is famous for its baroque façades and sweeping views across the Neva River, the neighbourhood Dostoevsky describes is poor, characterized by squalid tenements and a population suffering from disease, alcoholism, and abuse. Just a few minutes’ walk away, the broad Neva may inspire sublime feelings, but the contrast of the brackish ‘Ditch’ speaks to the troubled lives of those who dwell along it.

Dr Katherine Bowers

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