Established in 1703 by the sheer will of its charismatic founder, the homicidal megalomaniac Peter the Great, St. Petersburg's dazzling yet unhinged reputation was quickly cemented by the sadistic dominion of its early rulers. This city, in its successive incarnations—St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad and, once again, St. Petersburg—has always been a place of perpetual contradiction.It was a window to Europe and the Enlightenment, but so much of Russia’s unique glory was also created here: its literature, music, dance, and, for a time, its political vision. It gave birth to the artistic genius of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, Pavlova and Nureyev. Yet, for all its glittering palaces, fairytale balls and enchanting gardens, the blood of thousands has been spilt on its snow-filled streets.It has been a hotbed of war and revolution, a place of siege and starvation, and the crucible for Lenin and Stalin’s power-hungry brutality. In St. Petersburg, Jonathan Miles recreates the drama of three hundred years in this paradoxical and brilliant city, bringing us up to the present day, when its fate hangs in the balance once more.
Cultural historian Jonathan Miles has a personal engagement with St. Petersburg and its people that dates back to the Soviet era. Born in a trunk, Jonathan spent his childhood in America and Canada and currently lives in Paris. Graduating magna cum laude from University College, London, he received his doctorate from Jesus College, Oxford. Early books include studies of British artists Eric Gill and David Jones. His Wreck of the Medusa—currently under option for a full-length motion picture—is a voyage through the artistic, political and moral clashes of Restoration France. The New York Times called it ‘"enthrallingly recounted. The narrative is brilliantly meted out." His Nine Lives of Otto Katz—the tale of a flamboyant Soviet intriguer and spy—was hailed by the Los Angeles Times "as unique among accounts of that world." Visit him at jonathanmiles.net.