Come along and discover the Russian heritage that can be seen in Paris. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, many Russians flee their country and come to France, to settle in town.
From the most beautiful and secrete Orthodox places of worship to this Russian bookstore by the Place des Voges, to the staple store in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area and their fantastic Matryoshka dolls, and the Petite Russsie (Little Russia), a neighborhood-village in the 13th arrondissement, perched 10 meters above the ground, go and discover Russia in Paris!
Russian heritage and places in Paris:
Paris houses a wonderful Russian Orthodox Cathedral near the Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement. Of neo-Byzantine Moscow style, it is the main place of Orthodox cult in Paris. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral has been built in the 19th century. At that time, the Russian population keeps increasing in Paris and it is Napoleon III who gives the ultimate green light for its construction. In terms of financing, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral sees the light thanks to donations from Tsar Alexander II as well as many Orthodox people in France.
Blessed on September 11, 1861, the day beforeSaint Alexander Nevsky Day, hero of Russia, the church is dedicated to him. In 1922, the church becomes a cathedral. And what a beautiful cathedral! Rather discreet, it reveals all its splendor when we come in using the Boulevard de Courcelles. You cannot miss its magnificent central fresco and its golden bubbles. Three times a week, curious visitors can walk the door of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and discover its heavy indoor decoration typical of Orthodox churches: gildings galore, frescoes, apses richly decorated with Alexey Bogolyubov’s paintings and beautiful iconostases.
Do not forget to visit the crypt, because it is a parish very different from the church and services are conducted in French and not in Slav. For the anecdote, it is in this very church that Pablo Picasso married Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova in 1918 under the witnessing eyes of Jean Cocteau, poet Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire!
You cannot miss the huge golden domes when walking along the Seine, by the Musée du Quai Branly. Recently inaugurated, in 2016, the Holy Trinity Cathedral is the episcopal see of the Diocese of Chersonesus. Built by famous architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, this Orthodox church is topped with five majestic bell towers featuring the traditional poppy heads covered in 90,000 mat gold leaves, and an Orthodox cross at over 36 meters high, mixing Byzantine and Russian styles.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Paris is part of an ensemble of buildings creating the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center, housing two exhibition rooms, a French-Russian school, an auditorium, and a café.
It is one of the best-kept secrets in Paris. Set in the 19th arrondissement, at 93 rue de Crimée, the Russian church Saint-Serge de Radonège looks like no other place of worship in the city. Originally a German Lutheran church, the latter has been confiscated by the government for WWI, and auctioned on July 18, 1924, on Saint-Serge de Radonège day, purchased by the Orthodox community of Paris, always growing since the 1917 Revolution.
Open to tours during the Sunday’s service, and on other days of the week – if you run into someone willing to let you in – the Russian church Saint-Serge de Radonège holds many treasures in a heavy and golden style like Russian neo-gothic paintings by Dimitri Semionovitch Stelletsky, old books, and beautiful stained-glass windows, without forgetting, outside, the surprising colorful wooden porch inspired by izba, the traditional Russian houses.
Overlooking timbered houses from another surprising city called the Petite Alsace, the Petit Russie gathers about twenty small middle-class houses built… on the third floor of a building, on the rooftop of a garage in the 13th arrondissement.
Far from looking like the Russian izbas, this ensemble is actually named after the first inhabitants. These little houses have been built in 1912 by a taxi company to house – above the garage – their drivers, most of them being penniless white Russians who ran away from their country during the 1917 Revolution. If you wish to visit this astounding place, you have to rely on luck and the kindness of locals to be allowed in.
Open in the 3rd arrondissement since 1952, a stone’s throw from the Place des Vosges, the Librairie du Globe is the place to be for all lovers of the Russian culture. Classic and contemporary books in Russian, books about Russia, travel guides, dictionaries, newspapers, as well as DVDs, CDs and audio-books, Russian culture is to be enjoyed on every material so you can improve your skills.
All the more so as many events are held all year around: Russian classes, conferences, debates and seminaries, literary meetings and readings, exhibitions, concerts, and entertainments for the youngest ones, and even a cine-club to discover the greatest gems of the Russian cinema.
Named after the Peterhof Palace, built close to Saint-Petersburg by Tsar Peter the Great to equal the beauty of the Palace of Versailles, the Peterhof store is an institution in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. We must say the magnificent and many Matryoshka dolls visible in the windows – the famous Russian dolls of decreasing sizes place one inside another – catch the eye.
Go in and find many traditional Russian items such as home décor, clothing, but not only. Among Peterhof’s treasure, the staple Matryoshka dols then, as well as icons, and golden eggs, jewels and even fur ushankas. It has it all so you can feel like in Doctor Zhivago.
It is in the Paris area, in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, Essonne, the Russian cemetery opens in 1927. Genuine place of remembrance, that has become the biggest Russian cemetery abroad, about 15,000 Russians or French from Russian origin come to France following the 1917 Russian Revolution are buried, in about 5,000 graves.
In a tree-filled and bucolic setting, among pine trees and birch trees, the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois houses a few famous names from the Russian arts and culture including movie-maker Andrei Tarkovsky, painter Sergei Poliakoff, writer Sergei Bulgakov, as well as Literature Nobel Prize Ivan Bunin.
For our last stage of this exploration of the Russian heritage, head to Bougival, Yvelines, to discover the Ivan Turgenev Museum. In 1874, the Russian writer purchases this master house for opera singer Pauline Viardot. After settling his family in law, the writer got himself a traditional dacha built, close to the main house, where he lived until the end, when he died, on September 3, 1883, not without writing his main work there, “Virgin Soil” and “Poems in Prose”, and welcoming his many friends from the art circle: Emile Zola, Alphonse Daudet or even Henry James.
Turned into a museum since then, this half-Swiss/half-Russian-inspired cabin gathers 245 pieces: rare manuscripts, engravings, sculptures and paintings that belonged to the writer, as well a Turgenev’s square fortepiano, that has been played by Brahms and been listed as historic monument in 1990. On the first floor of the museum, two rooms from Turgenev’s flat have been reconstructed, his work office and his bedroom.
And do not forget about the Russian restaurants in Paris to enjoy comforting traditional dishes!
Dates and Opening Time
Starts 17 January 2022