The October Revolution may have taken place 100 years ago, but its legacy remains visible today in the buildings and monuments scattered throughout the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. This month many Russians will be looking back to that pivotal moment in history when Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace and arrested the provisional government.
St. Petersburg-born photographer and blogger Vladislav Karpyuk traced the path of the revolution through his hometown and documented what remains of its history in Deutsche Welle’s Instagram account @dw_stories.
The first stop on the photographic journey is the Aurora on the bank of the river Neva. With its mast serenely reflected on the calm water, it’s easy to overlook the famous battleship’s role in the dramatic events that unfolded a century ago. On the morning of October 25, the cruiser, which had been moored alongside the Winter Palace for repairs, aimed its cannons at the royal palace and fired the first shot in the Bolsheviks’ assault on the provisional government. Today the ship has been restored and now serves as a museum.
By 1917 the Winter Palace no longer actually served as a royal residence for the czars. At the time of the October Revolution it was the seat of the provisional government and administrative offices. During the siege, the baroque palace was left largely undefended after much of the military personnel had pledged support to the Bolsheviks. Once the Aurora opened fire on the palace, revolutionary forces began storming the surrounding government buildings until, one by one, they fell. When the provisional government refused to accept an ultimatum for surrender, artillery fire increased and the Bolsheviks eventually gained entry into the main palace, searched each room and arrested all the members of the government.
Originally built in 1732 and renovated and expanded several times in the following centuries, the palace today houses one of the world’s most famous museums, the Hermitage. More than three million visitors tour the opulent museum each year. Its collection of paintings is the largest in the world and includes works ranging from the European classics by Rembrandt, Rafael and Titian to early 20th-century highlights by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Picasso.
For almost seven decades, until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the city of St. Petersburg was called Leningrad as a tribute to Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the October Revolution and founder of the USSR. Traces of Lenin’s legacy are still visible throughout the city in the form of street addresses, building names and larger-than-life statues. But Russia’s relationship with Lenin,who is remembered for his violent persecution of political opponents, remains ambivalent.
For DW’s Instagram account, Vladislav Karpyuk met up with 18-year-old Dmitri, who could be called a modern-day revolutionary. The young man from St. Petersburg and his friends represent the digitally connected generation taking to the streets to demand political change. Like many young Russians, he opposes Vladimir Putin and supports Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Dmitri has demonstrated against corruption and even risked going to prison for his ideals.
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