The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the foremost events of the 20th century, not only sparking a new era for Russia, but a new way of thinking about economy, politics and society for the rest of the world.
The revolution came following a complete loss of faith in then-emperor of the Russian Empire, Tsar Nicholas II, as well as a rise in Marxian socialism under Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party. In February 1917, Lenin seized control of the Russian government, forced the abdication of the emperor, and became the virtual dictator of a new communist state that would eventually become the foundation of the Soviet Union.
Now, 100 years after Lenin’s rise to power and 26 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, interest in the Russian Revolution is flourishing — with many travellers keen to discover more about this fascinating period in Russian history. Throughout Russia, a multitude of heritage sites hark back to the country’s revolutionary past — providing poignant insight into this ground-breaking global event.
At Scenic, our luxury river cruises on the Volga River provide the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the history of the Russian Revolution — transporting you between St Petersburg and Moscow on an unforgettable journey of exploration and discovery.
To give you a taste of some of the heritage sites you can unearth during a river cruise on this epic waterway, here we look at some of the key sites where it’s possible to trace the legacy of the Russian Revolution.
At the time of the Russian Revolution, St Petersburg (or Petrograd as it was known at the time) was the capital city of the Russian Empire, a title it had held since 1713. After the communist uprising, Lenin moved the Russian capital back to Moscow, with St Petersburg becoming the second city of the Soviet Union. The city was renamed Leningrad in 1924 in homage to the renowned Marxist revolutionist, a name which lasted until the fall of the USSR in 1991.
St Petersburg is home to over 200 heritage sites and attractions which proved instrumental in the Russian Revolution; here is a pick of those you should visit during a stopover in the city.
Cruiser Aurora Museum
Built in 1897, the Russian battle cruiser Aurora was originally used as part of the Baltic Fleet in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904. The ship later played an important role in the revolution, when Bolshevik revolutionists used it to bombard the Winter Palace (the then-residence of the Provisional Russian Government), effectively signalling the start of the revolution and over 70 years of communist rule.
Today, the Aurora is permanently docked at the St Petersburg Harbour, and visitors are permitted to step on board the vessel for an exclusive tour of the crew quarters, bridge and engine room — all of which have been painstakingly restored. The ship also hosts a number of exhibits, detailing its history of service from 1897 onward.
Field of Mars
The St Petersburg Field of Mars is one of the largest memorials to the victims of the revolution in all of Russia, and features an eternal flame at its centre, commemorating the enduring memory of those who lost their lives in 1917.
Today, the Field of Mars site is home to several hectares of landscaped gardens and pathways, making it a popular spot for picnicking during the summer; but it hasn’t always been used as parkland. During the communist era, the Field of Mars was used to grow vegetables and crops, providing much-needed sustenance for the city’s residents when food was scarce.
Museum of Political History of Russia
The Museum of Political History of Russia is perhaps the most significant heritage building relating to the Russian Revolution. Lenin and his Bolshevik supporters seized this art nouveau mansion from the government in 1917, later turning it into their official headquarters. It was here where Lenin made his famous speeches from a first-floor balcony (which still exists), rallying the Russian people with the new dawn of Marxism.
As well as offering a complete timeline of the Russian Revolution, the Museum of Political History of Russia contains many other interesting artefacts relating to Russia’s political legacy, including the video camera used by Mikhail Gorbachev to address the nation during the August Putsch of 1991, and a section of the Berlin Wall.
As the capital city of the Soviet Union, Moscow is the best place to get to grips with Russia’s communist past, and find out more about the legacy of the revolution. From Red Square to the Khodynka Field; Moscow is littered with poignant relics of its Marxist past, as well as imposing Soviet fortresses which now serve only to protect Russia’s young democracy.
Here is a collection of the must-see communist sites in Moscow.
The first place to visit on a tour of Moscow’s communist sites ought to be the Kremlin, the impressive home of Russian governments past and present. Vladimir Lenin himself chose the building as his official residence in 1918, and it was from here that he founded the Soviet Union in 1922.
In Russian, the term kremlin means ‘fortress inside a city’, and that’s exactly what awaits inside this vast fortified complex. The Kremlin is home to five palaces, four cathedrals and the Kremlin Wall, whose fortified structure helped protect Lenin during the Russian Civil War of the early 20th century.
Moscow’s Red Square became a focal point for the new communist state after the revolution of 1917, with Lenin using the square to showcase Russia’s military might on the world stage. The square itself separates the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and the former royal palace from the merchant quarter of Kitay-gorod, and is considered to be at the very cultural and political heart of the Russian capital — perhaps even Russia itself.
Red Square is also home to Lenin’s Mausoleum, the final resting place of Vladimir Lenin, whose preserved body is displayed in a tomb within the monument itself. The monumental granite structure which marks the site of Lenin’s tomb is still used during political rallies by Russia’s elected representatives.
Named after the October Revolution, the second stage in the Bolshevik movement; Moscow’s Revolution Square is a large public square, separated from Red Square by the Lenin Museum. It’s here where you’ll find the former Moscow City Hall, whose architecture combines Russian Revival and Neo-Renaissance styles, as well as several other iconic landmarks, including Resurrection Gate and the State Historical Museum of Russia.
For those hoping to take a walking tour of Russia’s famous communist sites, Revolution Square is a great place to start. The square features a number of Metro stops, and is a short walk to Red Square, as well as other sites like the ex-KGB headquarters and the Solovetsky Stone.
To discover the fascinating history of the Russian Revolution for yourself, take a look at our collection of luxury river cruises in Russia or call us on 0808 115 4053 for further details.