St. Petersburg – Week 2
Our second week in St. Petersburg has been highlighted by visits with extraordinary business people, long days, and many museums showcasing Russian history.
Friday entailed a visit to the Peter and Paul fortress, a remnant from the times of Peter the Great. Although the fort never fulfilled it’s original purpose to hold off a potential attack from the Swedish, it was employed as a prison for political enemies of the State. We toured a beautiful chapel which held the bodies of a long line of the Czars and the jail cells of the prisoners. We then travelled to the ethnography museum, which showcases traditional Russian farming practices, clothing, and houses. Seeing all of these ancient artifacts after the modern ones gave us a great perspective of the full scope of Russian history.
We were able to enjoy a free weekend Saturday and Sunday, which gave us time to finish up our papers on Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground.
Monday was a full day of classes. Professor Coyle’s section is kicking into gear, so he prepared us for some visits we would be having that week and got us thinking about business specifically in Russia.
Tuesday, we discussed the leaders of Russia’s revolution, particularly focusing on Lenin. Later that day, we went to see the offices he occupied, some of his personal belongings, and the mansion he used as a headquarters for the revolution. We even saw the balcony where he made his famous speech. We then moved to the museum of Political History, where we saw more artifacts from Soviet Russia and got a better idea of how Russia functioned during that time. At around 7, we sat in on Professor Coyle’s transcontinental class between Babson and students at the Graduate School of Management in St. Petersburg. Through video conferencing, the two classes shared Professor Coyle and were able to answer the same questions he posed in class – and even take a quiz at the same time. After class, we spoke with his Russian students and learned more about the Russian education system.
Wednesday was ship day. We began by watching one of the greatest movies in cinema, the Battleship Potemkin. It is a story about the Russian revolution, but also a great example of cinema coming out of Russia in the 1920s (funded by the government!). Afterwards, we went to the battleship Aurora, an iconic ship in Russia’s naval history. The ship was built in 1897, used in several wars, and even sunk in the 1940s to keep it safe from the Germans. After the war was settled, she was brought up from the sea and refurbished in to the museum we visited. There are several examples of ship life and artifacts, as well as an extensive detail of the ship’s history. Next, an unplanned excursion to a cemetery from the first world war was an incredibly moving experience. Among mounds of earth labeled with a year are the mass graves of the hundreds of thousands who died during the siege on St. Petersburg in the second world war.
To keep up the ocean trend, we visited the Artillery Museum and learned more about the naval history of Russia. The museum housed models of submarines and ships, flags from world wars, prize flags taken from Nazis, and models of different types of shells used to sink ships.
We finished the day with an inspirational visit to Oleg Zherebsov, one of the great entrepreneurs of Russia. After founding a chain of Costco-like stores called Lenta, he sold his shares to pursue a new venture in the pharmaceutical industry. He was very generous in sharing information about his past experience building the business and his future plans to manufacture sterile IV bags, which are not currently widely available in Russian hospitals at this time. This was truly one of the great highlights of the trip so far.