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Dernov Apartment House ("Tower of Vyacheslav Ivanov")

Like others of the most famous apartment buildings in St. Petersburg, the Dernov House combines striking architecture with rich associations with some of the greatest names in the city's history.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the cream of St. Petersburg's artistic elite met in the corner tower of this house overlooking the famous Tavrichesky Sad (Tauride Garden) every Wednesday. Alexander Blok first read his famous poem The Stranger here and a young Anna Akhmatova also demonstrated her precocious talent. Vyacheslav Bryusov, Andrey Bely, Max Voloshin, Nikolai Gumilev, Nikolai Berdyaev, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Leonid Andreev and many other major figures of the Silver Age were also regulars. The owners of this sixth floor apartment and hosts of these "literary meetings" were the poet Vyacheslav Ivanov and his wife Lydia Zinovieva-Annibal.

Dernov House - Tower of Vyacheslav Ivanov in St Petersburg, Russia
Dernov House - Tower of Vyacheslav Ivanov

This house was built by Mikhail Kondratev for the merchant Ivan Dernov in 1905 at the intersection of Tavricheskaya Ulitsa and Tverskaya Ulitsa. The ornate, eclectic facades feature beautiful decorations, including the finely sculpted dragons on the building's bay windows, and balconies with intricate wrought-iron balconies. The dominant feature of the building, however, is its massive corner tower, which curves well over 180 degrees into recesses in the two facades.

The Dernov apartment building was typical of its time, with a range of apartments catering to tenants with differing levels of income. The lift did not reach the cheapest apartments on the sixth floor, although tenants had the advantage of access to the roof, and guests at the "Tower" could enjoy the nighttime cityscape.

Dragons on the Ivanov Tower in St Petersburg, Russia
Dragons on the Ivanov Tower

Vyacheslav Ivanov was a famous Russian poet, philosopher, and one of the main theorists of Symbolism. The subjects he offered his guests for discussion included "Romanticism and the modern soul" and "Individualism and the new art". Thus the Tower became a sort of spiritual home for the various talents that gathered there. The weekly meetings ceased when the Ivanov family left Russia in 1912, but the Tower remained a powerful symbol of the cultural flowering of the Silver Age, which was permanently halted with the outbreak of the First World War.

An art school known as the "Tavricheskaya College" occupied the ground floor until 1961. The premises are now occupied by a kindergarten, while the rest of the building contains elite apartments. Many of the original decorations have survived, although their dilapidated state gives only a vague impression of how grand they must have been. It is sometimes possible to see the interiors, including several fine stained-glass windows, as part of a guided tour.

Address:35, Tavricheskaya Ulitsa / 1, Tverskaya Ulitsa
Metro stations:Chernyshevskaya
Directions:On exiting Chernyshevskaya Metro Station, turn left on Kirochnaya Ulitsa until Tavricheskaya Ulitsa and turn left (walk about 15 minutes).
What's nearby? Tavrichesky Garden, Tavrichesky Palace, Shpalernaya Ulitsa, Kirochnaya Ulitsa, Suvorov Museum
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