Mosaic Courtyard: colour and pacifism in St. Petersburg

When we look for things to do in St. Petersburg, we usually get a predictable column of tips. Visits to the Hermitage and strolls along Nevsky Prospect appear there with an almost tedious regularity.  I wouldn’t want to dismiss those classical attractions, of course. However, there’re some lesser-known and younger treasures, that don’t get generally included into “highlights” itineraries.

One of those is the Mosaic Courtyard, hidden behind one of the houses of Ulitsa Tchaikovskogo (literally “Tchaikovsky Street”). Famous among many local dwellers, but largely unknown to tourists, this little gem is situated in one of the deep “wells-courtyards”, characteristic for old houses of St. Petersburg. There, you will find walls and pathways blooming with colourful mosaics. You will also be surrounded by sculptures of every sort, from miniature to monumental.

This unexpected explosion of colour seems almost natural; it’s as if the very stones of the city rebelled against the monotony of urban landscape. But, of course, these are actually results of meticulous work, carried out by the students of nearby Minor Academy of Arts.

“Glorious are the bringers of truth and beauty!” is a rough translation.

“Glorious are the bringers of truth and beauty!” is a rough translation.

The daring, unparalleled project was conceived by the founder of the Academy, esteemed Russian artist Vladimir Lubenko. In every work he strives to express his bold views, firmly anti-war and anti-prejudice. For example, one of the mosaic compositions here uses traditional font and style of militarist, patriotic, hail-our-heroes images. However, the text itself reads: “Glorious are the bringers of truth and beauty!”…

Lubenko himself was born during WW2 and grew up in a staunchly Communist family. And, while the reality of Communism didn’t meet his (or anyone’s, for that matter) expectations, he still holds true to one of its tenets: a bright idea of international community, free of ethnic squabbles. His idea of a perfect future, as the artist had stated, is one of tolerance and sustainability, where people of different nations and ethnicities will live in harmony with each other and with nature.

Well, this ideal still seems to be lying quite far in the future. However, Lubenko and his students use their own modest powers to bring some more peacefulness and beauty into the world, changing it one courtyard at a time.

Summer is probably the best time to visit the Mosaic Courtyard, when the works are surrounded by blooms and illuminated by sunlight. However, you can also use the visit to bring some colour into grey days of autumn. The place is located behind 2, Ulitsa Tchaikovskogo. Although, I must admit, you’d have to go deeper into the courtyard to see the works; these are not called “wells-courtyards” for nothing!

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