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The Gap Year Course

This is an intensive six week winter course, conceived as an introduction to Russia viewed through the concentrated and dramatic history of St Petersburg. Transformed from a marshy fishing village by Peter the Great into the extraordinary capital of a vast empire, it has, in the Hermitage, one of the great museums of the world, countless architectural masterpieces and a cultural history of great brilliance. The tumultuous events of the 20th century are still very resonant and to live in the city today is to experience it changing before one's eyes.

This is the only course of its kind operating in Russia. It offers a foretaste of university life whilst providing an opportunity to study with like-minded individuals and lecturers from a broad range of professions.

The course is directly relevant to students of Russian. It is of equal interest for students going on to study History or History of Art, or for those with a particular interest in Russia. In addition to the programme of lectures and guided visits students are able to pursue individual interests through a series of optional classes and to immerse themselves in the day to day life of a fascinating and extraordinary city.

Lecturers and guides are of the highest calibre and chosen for their ability to bring their subjects alive. The lecturers are drawn from a wide range of academic and professional fields, both within and outside Russia. Those from abroad stay with the course for between three and five days, and all are available to discuss their subjects and advise on future study. Dinners provide an opportunity for students to talk informally with their lecturers.

Subjects covered include History, Architecture, Art and Collecting, Literature, Philosophy, City Design and Conservation, Ballet, Opera, Music, Contemporary Culture and Politics. Lectures take place in three centrally located sites - the Rumiantsev Palace, on the River Neva, which is also the Museum of the Siege of Leningrad, the Vladimir Nabokov Museum, an art nouveau building where Nabokov was born and brought up and the lecture hall of the Mayakovsky Library, a foreign language lending library.

There are guided visits to all the major sites in the area, including the palaces of Tsarskoye Selo (with a private tour of the Catherine palace and park), Pavlovsk, Peterhof, Oranienbaum, Gatchina and the Tauride Palace. Weekend trips take place further afield, to the medieval cities of Pskov and Novgorod, as well as to a number of destinations not usually on the tourist routes, such as Nabokov's country estate, the great painter Repin's art nouveau house and studio, the monuments and cemeteries of the Siege of Leningrad and the palace of Strelna, newly restored by President Putin.

There are opportunities for walking across the frozen sea of the Gulf of Finland, for cross country skiing, for sledding and troika rides at Pavlovsk and for skating in the park of Yelagin. Two weekends out of the six are left entirely free.

PETERSBURG STUDIES has an agreement with the Volunteers Programme of the Hermitage. In their free time, students have the opportunity to participate in the daily workings of a world class museum thereby also becoming more familiar with its collections. Volunteers receive a pass, which allows them to enter the Hermitage, as well as several other Russian museums, without charge.

A PETERSBURG STUDIES certificate will be granted at the end of the course on completion of the programme.

Sample schedules for two days:
9.15am-10.30am - Russian language classes
11am-12.30pm - Lecture, Catherine the Great as a Collector, given by Catherine Phillips
12.30pm-1pm - picnic lunch in the lecture rooms
2pm-5pm - the students divide into smaller groups for a Tour of Catherine's principal living quarters in the Hermitage given by Alexei Leporc, an afternoon of volunteering in the museum or a study session in the department of Old Master Drawings with Alexei Larionov
8pm - dinner in the hotel restaurant (on an evening where a visit to the Mariinksi or to the Philarmonia Hall is planned, a later dinner will take place in the hotel)

9.30am - Lecture, The Silver Age - Art and Literature in the early 20th Century, given by Mark Sutcliffe
11.30am - visit with Mark Sutcliffe to the great 20th Century poet Anna Akhmatova's communal apartment, now a museum
1-2pm - lunch in a Russian cafe
2.30-4pm - tour with Alexei Leporc of Mathilde Kschessinska's house (ballerina and mistress of Tsar Nicholas II) and of the Art Nouveau streets of Petrogradskaya
4.30-6pm - optional classes (e.g. Russian, drawing, piano, cooking)
8pm - informal talk about modern day Russia given by journalist John Varoli, taking place in a private apartment and followed by dinner

Optional Activities

All the following are optional classes/activities and it is left to individual students to sign up for those that interest them.

Russian language, at appropriate levels, taught by a team of local teachers to small groups of students
St Petersburg charities - the opportunity for voluntary work, one afternoon a week, in children's and old people's homes (organised through the International Women's Committee)
Volunteering at the Hermitage
Drawing at the St Petersburg Academy
Working alongside a print maker
Russian cooking
Work experience in a film studio
Study in the Galitzine Library, a study library with an excellent collection of books in English about Russia
Visits to contemporary artists' studios
Piano or singing lessons
Yoga, skating, cross-country skiing

Students may need to hire or buy specialised materials or equipment for some of these activities.

The Hermitage The Nabokov Museum The Mariinski Theatre The Rumantsiav Palace Tsarskoye Selo