The bloody founding of St Petersburg

Peter on his high horse

St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire. By Jonathan Miles. Random House; 488 pages; £25. To be published in America by Pegasus in March 2018.

ANNA AKHMATOVA, one of Russia’s finest 20th-century poets, once described St Petersburg as being “particularly well suited to catastrophes”. Founded in 1703, the city went on to experience two historical traumas—the Russian revolution and the siege of Leningrad, as it was known under the Soviets. In his new biography of the tormented delta, Jonathan Miles, a British cultural historian, manoeuvres swiftly through these tragedies, devoting the bulk of his attention to the social and cultural life beneath the city’s “spiders’ webs of tramlines”.

By almost every measure St Petersburg is a haunted metropolis. The windswept city built on the mouth of the Neva is prone to flooding, as is vividly described in Pushkin’s “The Bronze…Continue reading

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Personal pronouns are changing fast

NOT so long ago a man could be jailed in Texas for sex with another man. In 2015 a county clerk in Kentucky was jailed for refusing to certify the marriage of two men. Gay rights in America proceeded at an extraordinary rate between Lawrence v Texas (2003), in which …

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