Every city has its symbols and in St. Petersburg there are quite many, including the State Hermitage, the Mariinsky Theatre and others. One of the lesser known is, surprisingly so, cats which St. Petersburg has plenty of. The most famous of them are Hermitage cats and a cat couple at Malaya Sadovaya st.
The first actual cat monument placed on a plinth was introduced to the city back in 2002. It is called The Monument to a Lab Cat and is located on the Vasilievsky Island at the St. Petersburg State University campus. The construction was initiated by the department of anatomy and physiology of the University as a way to show appreciation to everything that lab cats have contributed to the progress of the mankind.
But let’s backtrack a little. Cats Elisey and Vasilisa «live» on parapets of two buildings of Malaya Sadovaya st. Bronze animals were created by a renowned St. Petersburg sculptor Vladimir Petrovichev and eventually gifted to the city in 2000. Although there are many theories as to what they might symbolize, the most popular one dates back to the days of the Siege of Leningrad. During the siege, the city suffered from a terrible shortage of food. On top of that it became flooded with rats which began to destroy the supplies thus risking the life of hundred thousands of people. Somehow, the army managed to bring cats to the city, which fulfilled the most important task at that point: they got rid of rats, completely. Nowadays, it’s a popular tourist attraction. It is believed that the one who can throw a coin to the cat so that it stays on the parapet will have his or her dream come true.
Almost 300 years ago, similar issue emerged at the State Hermitage. As soon as the Winter Palace was built it practically became flooded with rats, which was a direct threat to the art pieces in the building. Elizabeth of Russia heard of the same situation in the town of Kazan and how cats helped to solve it, quickly and efficiently. She ordered those cats and soon enough the Winter Palace was rat-free. Ever since, the Hermitage cats became an integral part of the museum history. Nowadays they are officially considered a part of the Hermitage staff, each with a yellow bow, its own passport, a place to sleep and regular visits to the vet. They are not allowed to visit the museum halls and for the most part live in the basement where they hunt rats, however, you can see some of them outside during summer. To learn more about the Hermitage cats, book your private tour to the State Hermitage.
There are also quite a few cats located outside the city. A perfect opportunity to meet the most popular ones is through your private tour to Peterhof. Three similar cats near the Red Lake are believed to make dreams come true; each one of them, however, is responsible for different things. The white one will help with the family issues, the black one protects from mean people and bad vibes, the red one will give confidence and courage. The only thing you have to do is ask – whisper in the ear and be ready to have your life turned around.
If you are fond of interacting with those cats that are actually cats, not monuments or symbols, there is a cafe in St. Petersburg called «Respublika Koshek» (The Republic of Cats) with a division of Cat Museum, an art cafe, a library and a room full of different cats. Pet them, hold them, hear their stories from the staff – and enjoy an unforgettable experience.
As you can see, cats are indeed one of the most popular «unofficial» symbols in St. Petersburg. No wonder cards, magnets and mugs with cats on them are sold virtually everywhere. Pick your souvenir – and let St. Petersburg stay in your memory as the most cat-friendly city in the world. With Hello Russia Tours you’ll know the most unusual facts about St. Petersburg.