With more and more Russian-born citizens setting up home in London, Britain’s capital has fast emerged as one of Russian travellers top cities of choice to visit, where many are delighted to discover many cultural ties between the two great nations…
The British Library
(96 Euston Road NW1 2DB)
This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most dramatic – certainly one of the most far-reaching – events in history; the Russian Revolution saw the overthrow of the nation’s centuries-old ruling aristocracy in favour of the Bolshevik working proletariat under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. And, from April 28th through to August 29th, a major exhibition at this literary haven of a venue will throw a spotlight on the momentous incident. That said, ‘Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths’ aims to do something a little different from what’s come before; through posters, photos, banners, uniforms, film and letters, it will focus on the lives and experiences of ordinary Russian people caught up in the revolution and the seismic change it brought to their lives. All the same, one of the key items to be displayed will be a 1902 letter written by Lenin himself, which he composed in seeking to become a reader at the British Museum Library (which is now run by the British Library), during his time living in the UK capital.
(116 Knightsbridge SW1X 7PJ)
Located in the salubrious environs of Knightsbridge (and, thus, just a short hop on the Tube away from any Central London hotel like, say, The Marble Arch by Montcalm London), this restaurant definitely aims to be the most ‘Russian’ you’ll come across in the UK – come to that, it’s probably more Russian than many you’ll come across in Moscow and St. Petersburg. With an interior décor that seeks to replicate a traditional ‘Russkiye’ sitting room – stacking dolls, the Cheburashka (or ‘Topple’) monkey-like toy character and even a traditional bear – it’s the perfect place in which to treat your taste buds to the best Russian cuisine you’ll have west of the Volga. Try out the likes of golubtsi (cabbage rolls complete with delicious fillings) or soup borsch (primarily featuring beetroots) and wash it down with a shot or two of supreme vodka flavoured with horseradish, oats and honey or cucumber!
Statues, sculptures and more
If you keep an eye out you’ll actually catch sight of one or two determinedly Russian works of street art in London – yes, really. Perhaps the most intriguing – and therefore most unmissable – is a bronze sculpture comprising a statue of Peter the Great, a statue of his favourite court dwarf and his travelling throne all in a line, to be found in the Docklands district of Deptford (Glaisher Street). Somewhat cartoonish-looking it may be but also highly charismatic, it was erected in 1998 as a gift from the Russian state to commemorate the great tercentenary of the Tsar’s sojourn in London while he studied shipbuilding in Greenwich. More centrally, you can espy a gilded statue of legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova atop the Victoria Palace Theatre (1A Warwick Place) and make sure you pop into St. James’s Park and take a look at the pelicans in residence – no, they’re not Russian, but their ancestors were, having been shipped over as a gift to King Charles II by Tsar Alexis in 1664.