he Siege of Leningrad, Russia, by German forces during World War II, was one of the most lethal in a major city in modern history. The city is now known as St. Petersburg (the named changed after the fall of the Soviet Union), and it’s a paradise for war history enthusiasts, with more than 10 museums dedicated exclusively to war history, including the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad, the Central Navy Museum, and the Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps. Even more interesting are the four sea vessel-museums available for tours: the Cruiser Aurora, which helped start the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution; a C-189 Russian submarine, rescued in 2005 from the ocean floor; the Narodovolets D-2 Russian Submarine, which launched 12 torpedo attacks during World War II; and the Krasin Icebreaker ship, which led Allied convoys to the Soviet Union during World War II.
Museums don’t usually excite me, but the thought of touring vintage Russian war ships and submarines appealed to me when I was in St. Petersburg in 2012. When I showed up at the Krasin Icebreaker, English-speaking tour guide Vladimir Korzun offered to take me around, and I was relieved to find someone so knowledgeable: he had worked on the ship since 1999, as an engineer, a maritime instructor, and a tour guide. Vladmir explained to me in detail how an icebreaker ship works and why it’s essential for a Russian navy, and then he proceeded to give me meticulous tour of every room and facet of the ship (including the amazingly old-fashioned vacuum-tube-based messaging system run from the captain’s deck). The best part were his detailed stories (complete with old newspaper clippings) about the Krasin’s most famous expeditions: it rescued downed balloonist Umberto Nobile during a failed 1928 Italian Polar expedition, and it saved a German passenger ship, disabled by an iceberg, in 1835. If I had had more time in St. Petersburg, I would have paid Vladimir to take me through the Cruiser Aurora and the two Russian submarine museums too. No war history enthusiasts should miss any of them. WB
22, Naberezhnaya Leitenanta Shmidta, corner of 23rd Liniya, V.O. Metro: Vasileostrovskaya. +7 (812) 325-3547. Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm (last admission is 5pm). Adult: RUB 250. Students: RUB 150. Children: RUB 70. For an excellent English-speaking tour, contact Vladimir Korzun at +7 911 934-23-20 or by e-mail at email@example.com. www.krassin.ru.
To read the whole story of the trip on which I discovered Krasin Icebreaker, read: Prancing on rooftops — In St. Petersburg, Russia, every night can be New Year's Eve.