• Michael Laxer

A trip along Leningrad's Nevsky Prospect, USSR 1974



The Nevsky Prospect is the most famous street in what is now again called St. Petersburg and this was equally true during the Soviet era. Leningrad's greatest thoroughfare was known by two different names during the early USSR but the Nevsky Prospect name was reintroduced at the end of the siege of the city in 1944. This was a nod to popular opinion which had never truly adopted the name change.


The street was a center of culture, shopping, politics and daily city life. Here we look at it through 18 postcard images from 1975 as well as the text of a short description of it from a Soviet magazine in 1964.


The images provide a terrific look at the grand avenue as they are of many different types, with some night images, winter and summer and even a very evocative photo of the street in the rain that is painting like. They also feature various buildings and landmarks like the House of Books, the Palace of the Young Pioneers, the Palace of Art Workers and others.


NEVSKY PROSPECT (1964)


Over one hundred years ago Nicholas Gogol wrote: "There is nothing better than Nevsky Prospect, at least, not in Petersburg; it is the city's one and all. How brilliant, sparkling —this beauty of our capital! ... Nevsky Prospect is the all-inclusive communication of Petersburg."

Nevsky Prospect at its widest — some sixty meters — can't compare with the new avenues, in certain spots it narrows down to twenty five meters ...


Nevsky Prospect is no symphony of stone — the work of one creator. It was built during two centuries, and its one hundred and eighty two buildings are the work of some hundred and fifty architects. Nevsky's stores, cafes, movie theatres are no match for the spacious modern structures of the recently built districts.


One architect, trying to pinpoint Nevsky's charm, said: "It is perfectly proportioned."


Yes, it is. If you were to stand at one end of it and look at its silhouette, you will admit that the street with its buildings look like a geometric figure — the Russian letter — turned upside down, each "wall" (the buildings) being half as long as the basis — the street.


Nevsky flows river-like, widening here and there to make room for squares. It breathes history — and that is part of its charm. A little over a century ago the square in front of the Kazan cathedral was the site of the first demonstration in Russia when a red flag was waved.


But the modern also makes its way on to Nevsky Prospect. The old lanterns opposite the Academic Theater have long installed electric lights instead of gas. The metro roars under Nevsky, and people no longer cross the street — they use underpasses.


So, then, what is the essence of Nevsky's charm, what is its secret? Perhaps the fact that this street has absorbed the very soul of this unique city? That the magic of Leningrad can be almost physically felt on Nevsky Prospect?


But, then, is it really necessary to reveal Nevsky's secret?


For the unsaid and unknown is probably what constitutes its charm.


Photos 1975:



Gostiny Dvor, the city's largest department store.



The tower of the former Town Hall



Anichkov Bridge with the Palace of Young Pioneers in the background.



At the corner of Sadovaya Street, a public library building in the background.



Nevsky in the rain.



View of Brodsky St. and the Square of Art from Nevsky.



Across the street from the Academic Comedy Theatre



The Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism



View of the Palace Square and the Arch of the General Headquarters



Building of the Communist Party Committee of Kuibishev District



The Admiralty



Memorial plaque in honour of the 900 day siege during World War II with an inscription from the war period on House No. 14 that read ""Citizens! During shelling this side of the street is the most dangerous."



Public Swimming Pool in a former Lutheran church.



People's Bridge with the former Stroganov Palace in the background



The House of Books



The Palace of Art Workers



Ostrovsky Square with the Pushkin Academic Drama Theatre in the background



The "Moscow" Railway Station



The Prospect, 1964