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Photographs of Ayn Rand's Petrograd (St. Petersburg)

The assorted historical photographs below show what St. Petersburg/Petrograd was like during the years that Ayn Rand grew up there.

St. Petersburg in 1905. Student demonstrators march down the street.

The Russia of Rand's birth was a troubled place. In the year she was born, 1905, the government of Czar Nicholas II was faced with a possible revolution. Although the actual revolution would not occur until over a decade later, the Czar was forced to make concessions, including the creation of Russia's first democratically elected legislature. The photo above shows student demonstrators marching down the streets of Rand's hometown of St. Petersburg in 1905.


Nevsky Prospect in 1906.

Despite some continuing political unrest, between 1905 and 1917, St. Petersburg was relatively ordinary place to be. The major thoroughfare Nevsky Prospect, later a scene of violence during the revolutionary year of 1917, was peaceful and bustling on the day in 1906 shown above.


St. Petersburg newspaper vendors in 1912.

Rand reportedly learned to read by the age of six. Perhaps she might have read something sold by one of the St. Petersburg news vendors shown above, standing outside the Gostiny Dvor shopping center in 1912.


A group of boy scouts from St. Petersburg. Photo dated May 29, 1915.

Russia's involvement in World War I exacerbated the Czar's political problems, but the young Rand would have seen little impact initially as she proceeded with her daily life. The same was true for other children. The photo above shows a group of boy scouts from St. Petersburg, recently renamed Petrograd to avoid the Germanic associations of the old name, in May 1915.


Petrograd on June 18, 1917. Demonstrators march down the streets carrying a banner demanding a Socialist government.

The year 1917 was a tumultuous one in Russia. Like millions of other Russians, the young Ayn Rand watched as successive revolutions first swept out the Czar, and then brought in Lenin and the Communists. The photo above shows demonstrators marching down the streets of Petrograd. The banner in the foreground demands that the government turn over power to the Socialists and imprison Czar Nicholas II. The picture is dated June 18, 1917.


Petrograd on July 4, 1917. Demonstrators on the crossroads of Nevsky Prospect and Sadovay Street flee as government troops fire into the crowd.

Peaceful demonstration was replaced by violence as the year progressed. The photo above shows demonstrators at the crossroads of Nevsky Prospect and Sadovay Street in Petrograd, fleeing as government troops fire into the crowd. The picture is dated July 4, 1917.


Petrograd in 1917. Members of the Red Guard on a flatbed truck with rifles aimed.

As the Russian Revolution progressed, the government effectively lost control of Petrograd. The "Red Guard" of the Petrograd Soviet began to take over instead. In 1917, Rand would have watched as troops like the ones shown above usurped police functions, leading up to the eventual Communist takeover of the government.


Soldiers of the Women's Battalion marching in Petrograd in 1917.

In May 1917, a Women's Battalion was formed under the authority of the provisional government that had overthrown the Czar. The provisional government was led first by George Lvov and then by Alexander Kerensky, whom the young Rand idolized. Some 2,000 women joined the Women's Battalion. At 12, Rand was too young to be with the women in the photo above as they marched through Petrograd, but one wonders what she thought of these women as they tried to defend the government against the Communists. The Women's Battalion was among the defenders when the Communists assaulted the Winter Palace in Petrograd in October 1917. After the Communists came to power, the battalion was disbanded in November 1917.


Petrograd in January 1922. People brave the winter cold to to barter goods in a square.

The Communist revolution briefly drove Rand's family out of Petrograd to the Crimea. In 1921 they returned home. During this same year, peasant revolts in Petrograd helped spur Lenin's "New Economic Policy," which allowed a limited restoration of private trade. The photo above shows people gathering in a square to barter goods in the cold of January 1922.


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