Tikhvin Cemetery

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"So, Mr Giles, we meet at last." No, the Passport Control man at Pulkovo airport didn't actually say that but, having spent many Cold War years monitoring Russian radio broadcasts I'd rather hoped he would. Never mind, here I was at last, keen to rub the rust from my Russian and make the acquaintance of some cultural heroes of mine.

Being a fan of Feodor Dostoevsky I really had only two choices of hotel, the Dostoevsky or the Brothers Karamazov. I stayed at the Hotel Dostoevsky, just round the corner from his house, now a museum. the hotel even had a Raskolnikov Bar, named after the contradictory character in Crime and Punishment.

Dostoevsky's death, in 1881 was a cause of widespread mourning, and it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people thronged Nevsky Prospekt as his funeral cortège made its way to Tikhvin cemetery. It is along this wide boulevard that you should go, as far as the Ploshchad Aleksandra Nevskovo. The cemetery is just across the square. Go through the entrance, turn right, and there he is, Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, his statue almost as glum as he was in real life.

As I paid my respects it began to snow, quickly blanketing the graves and adding to the other-worldly experience. Wandering past dostoevsky's grave I could hardly believe my eyes. The cemetery seemed to be packed with composers – a veritable cacophony of them. the 'Mighty Handful', St Petersburg's musical gang were all there – Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin. Here was Pyotr Tchaikovsky, over there Mikhail Glinka, with Anton Rubinstein and Alxander Glaznov nearby. The snow had muffled the sounds of the city, but I swear I could hear, very softly, cannon fire from the Battle of Borodino and the triumphant chimes of cathedral bells

For a lover of Russian culture it is a unique and moving experience – especially when the snow plays tricks ith your senses.

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