3. The Senate and Synod

The Senate and Synod

Questions to consider:

The two descriptions coincide almost completely, with the exception of the name of the Church to which the Synod belongs. Baedeker names it “The Greek Catholic Church” thus stressing its difference from the Roman Catholic Church whereas Keller identifies it as “The Greek Orthodox Church.”

Although the Baedeker guidebook does not dwell at length on the Senate and Synod, it provides a brief description of their functions in the introduction. Baedeker explains:

“The executive power is vested in the Tzar and is delegated to: (1). The Council of Ministers …. (2). The Ruling Senate, divided into various departments. Its functions include the publications and registration of laws, and it constitutes the final Court of Appeal in both civil and criminal cases … (3). The Holy Synod…The Holy Synod consists of the highest dignitaries of the Russian Church, summoned by the Tzar. Its president is the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. The Tzar is represented by the Procurator General, a layman who introduces the subjects to be discussed and without whose consent no resolution is valid.”

In contrast, Keller does not pay specific attention to the city’s administration and government. Instead, he indulges in touring the city’s picturesque streets and people, and providing “practical notes for sight-seeing.” If Baedeker’s text acknowledges the city’s political and religious power, Keller’s vision of Petersburg thrives on the city’s urban exoticism. For example, in his preface Keller represents the Russian policeman, a potential figure of authority and power, as the urban equivalent of an obliging servant:

“The Russian Policeman is always looked upon as a terrible personage. The very name suggests terror to the Western ear. In reality one will find in the Russian Policeman, the so-called gorodovoy, the opposite of this. He stands at every crossing and at every hundred yards in the busy thoroughfares; he, like his London brother, directs the traffic and is, like him, angry when a vehicle takes the wrong side; he helps lost wayfarers, lends assistance in case of accident and is always willing and ready to oblige.”

How can we understand the different ways in which the two guidebooks relate to sites and markers of Russian political and religious power? Keller depicts the Russian policeman as a familiar sight thus making him appear “normal” in the eyes of the tourist. Yet Keller undermines the policeman’s power as he divests him of his own will so that the foreigner does not feel threatened by this “terrible personage.”

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The archway joining the Senate and Synod


The Bronze Horseman
The Main Map
St. Isaac's Cathedral