Alexander Blok

Alexander Blok (1880-1921)

Alexander Blok (1880-1921) moved into the barracks on the banks of the Karpovka in 1889, when his mother married officer Frants Kublitskii- Piottukh. Blok spent here his formative years there, writing his first poetry there. By the time he left in 1906, he had christened the humble little river on the city outskirts "My quiet Karpovka." The barracks were the embarkation point of the poet's urban routes, including his daily stroll to the gymnasium on Bolshoi prospect, and, later, to Saint Petersburg State University along the Neva.

Being a passionate city walker, or, in the words of the prominent theoretician of modernity and the motivating force behind our project Walter Benjamin, a flâneur. Of course, Benjamin's ideal flâneur was Baudelaire, a poet cast in Benjamin's ground-breaking work Arcades of Paris as a collector and connoisseur of his city, someone who can connect the public and the private spheres, see "through" the facades and understand the languages of the city crowd.

I argue, that for turn-of-the-century Petersburg Alexandr Blok can be seen as such flâneur par excellence. Celebrated as a poet and as a sex symbol of sorts, he was transparent for his city. But at the same time, he himself easily penetrated through various surfaces of Petersburg society, from salons to brothels, from theatres to saloons, and thus the city became transparent for him. Those who will follow my virtual map, will be able to see through the walls of the houses on Karpovka embankment as if through Blok's own eyes. For example, walking by the house of Maria Savina designed by the important architect of Petersburg Art Nouveau M.F. Geisler, the poet could easily visualize the actress whom he admired many times on the stage of the Imperial Alexandrinskii Theatre; stopping by the small pink house next to Savina's whimsical mansion, he could conjure up of his many acquaintances, poets and artists who resided there, people like Dmitrii Mitrokhin, a famous etcher and illustrator of books by Mikhail Kuzmin, Andrei Remizov and other Petersburg modernists. Thus, Alexander Blok's walk by the river may suddenly grow into a panoramic vision of the artistic life of Petersburg of the time.

This itinerary has many urban echoes on our website: one can also follow the poet into his legendary "death march" or climb with him to the roof of Viacheslav Ivanov's apartment - to enjoy that truly sublime view of Modernism via Petersburg style.


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