Borscht for the boys: pupils sample Russian culture on trip to Moscow and St Petersburg

Borscht for the boys: pupils sample Russian culture on trip to Moscow and St Petersburg

Sixth-formers enjoyed some traditional food – as well as plentiful helpings of History and Politics – on their trip to Russia.

The party of 30 boys from Years 12 and 13, along with four members of staff, landed in Moscow for a six-day, two-city tour, during which they learned more about Russian life, from the era of the Tsars through the soviet period and up to the present day.

Helen MacGregor, Head of History, said: “It was a great trip; the boys really got into the culture of the country. The visit not only increased their understanding of their A-level History material but also of modern-day politics, including the reasons for the evident popularity of President Putin among Russian voters.”

Among the highlights were visits to Red Square and to the dark marble pyramid that is Lenin’s Mausoleum. “He died in 1924 and the boys have learned so much about him, so it was amazing to actually see him,” said Miss MacGregor. The boys also saw Stalin’s resting place in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.

In the afternoon they had a guided tour of the Novodevichy Cemetery. Constructed in 1898 its importance dates to the 1930s when it became home to the remains of famous Russians whose bodies were disinterred when Stalin ordered the demolition of the abbeys. Anton Chekhov, Nikita Kruschev and Boris Yeltsin are among those buried at Novodevichy.

In the evening there was a total change of mood with a visit to the HC Spartak Ice Hockey stadium. The group stayed in a hotel for the first night where they partook of traditional Russian fare, namely borscht and cabbage soup. “The boys enjoyed trying the local food, but Moscow’s McDonalds was also a hit,” added Miss MacGregor.

After a second day of sightseeing in Moscow, which took in the Patriotic War Museum and the Metro, the boys relished a game of bowling. They then took the Grand Express overnight train to travel the 800 kms to St Petersburg. “It was so exciting to be whizzing through Russia in the dark to arrive in St Petersburg the following morning,” said Miss MacGregor.

“The boys were blown away by the beauty of the palaces there. So much gold and decoration, including the Amber Room in the Catherine Palace, which had to be recreated after it was dismantled and disappeared during WWII, presumably looted by the Nazis.”

Whilst in St Petersburg, the boys went to a Soviet Arcade Machine Museum where they tried out a selection of old games, including pinball and table football.

On the final morning, the boys went to the Hermitage Museum, which boasts the second largest art collection in the world, ranked second only to The Louvre in Paris. The museum and gallery were founded by Catherine the Great and house a collection of more than 3 million items, although only a small proportion is on public display at any one time.

Miss MacGregor said: “Trips both support what the boys learn in the classroom whilst offering them unique enrichment opportunities. They returned with much greater insight into the topics they have been studying, having had a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”