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Q+A with CIEE: St. Petersburg

Gettyimages-621116352This summer, we are excited to announce a new program in St. Petersburg, Russia – Exploring St. Petersburg through the Arts: Classical to Cutting Edge. Our Portland, Maine staff asked the CIEE: St. Petersburg team a little about the local arts scene, the history behind it, and soccer culture. 

Meeting local artists will be a unique opportunity for students to take the pulse of Russia’s contemporary art scene. Can you tell us what participants this summer can expect?

Throughout the summer program, we will be acquainting students with different aspects of Russian contemporary art, including full immersion into the local art scene meeting local artists, musicians, film directors, and theatre crews. To unveil just a few names:


Ilya Demutsky is a Russian multi-award winning composer, performer, and conductor. His works include compositions for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensemble, piano, voice, as well as electronic and film music. 

Demutsky’s music for the full-length ballet, A Hero of Our Time, at the legendary Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow has won him the most coveted Russian theatre award, the Golden Mask, for the Best Composer in Musical Theatre, and the production was named the Best Ballet Production for 2015/2016.

Demutsky is excited to meet with our students and talk to them about today’s Russian ballet and theatre.

Website: http://demutsky.com


Aron Zinshtein is a contemporary Russian artist, a Member of the Academy of Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg since 1994. Zinstein has a record of more than 32 personal and 25 group exhibitions in Russia, Europe, and US. His works are owned by the Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg, Fyodor Dostoevsky Museum in St. Petersburg, Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, Kiev Museum of Russian Art, Bristol Museum (UK) and private collectors in Russia, Germany, US, France, UK, Italy, Japan, and Israel. 

Zinstein would love to have our students at his art studio, show them how he works and talk about the visual art scene in Russia and Saint Petersburg of the 21st century.

Website: www.aronzinshtein.ru


Viktor Tikhomirov is a Russian award-winning artist, writer, screenwriter and film director. Tikhomirov is a part of St. Petersburg prominent art group Mitki (read more: https://www.rbth.com/arts/2017/06/28/petersburg-artists-mitki_790112). Tikhomirov cinematic works are mostly in the genre of documentary and drama. Tikhomirov is known for his short motion pictures dedicated to the lives of Russian writers and art visionaries of the 20th and 21st century.  

Tikhomirov is glad to invite our students to attend his work studio and talk to them about filmmaking and Mitki art movement.


Open air public Street art museum of St. Petersburg features young developing street art that is a clear-cut reflection of today’s Russian urban life. The museum is willing to offer our students opportunities to meet with its most prominent contributors in an informal format, where artists such as Tima Radya, Kirill Kto, and Nikita Nomerz, who will show their works and reflect on their significance.

More on the museum and the artists: streetartmuseum.ru/en/expo  


Staff writers and columnists of the porusski online magazine featuring today’s Russian art, fashion, and lifestyle (available only in Russian) are happy to become our guides to the backstage of St. Petersburg’s contemporary theatre. Together with porusski, we will dive into the vibrant theatre life and visit Bolshoi Puppet Theatre, Urban Theatre, Social Arts Theatre, “Rain Theatre”, where we will meet with directors, playwrights, and acting crews, talk about contemporary urban theatre movement and attend rehearsals.

Russia will also be in the World Cup this summer! Can you tell us a little bit about what soccer means for the residents of St. Petersburg, and what participants should expect? 

The history of soccer in the Soviet Union start in 1930s with the voluntary sport clubs representing various public organizations. For example, CSKA (Central Sport Club of Army) Soccer Club was a sport club for the Soviet Army, and therefore the most athletes and fans of that team were from the military. Same applies to Dinamo (Soviet Police), Lokomotiv (Railways and Metro), Torpedo (Metal and car industry), Spartak (trade unions) and other soccer clubs in Moscow. Fans in the Soviet Union capital could easily identify with a sport club, according to their occupation or social class.

At the same time, in Leningrad (former name of St. Petersburg) we had only one team and this is why people would identify with this team regardless of their socio-economic class or heritage. This created a special atmosphere around the Zenit Soccer Club, which has been preserved until today. Even when this club was relegated to the Tier Two of Russian soccer, it was still strongly supported by its fans. Throughout the years, the philosophy of the fan movement of the Zenit was “we have only local athletes on our team, and we are proud of it”. Being proud of the team that was different from the others has always been a distinctive feature of the St. Petersburg soccer fan movement.

Needless to say, soccer is a hugely popular sport in Russia and in St. Petersburg, and hosting Confederation Cup in 2017 and World Cup in 2018 is definitely a big deal for the city residents. Together with our students, we will organize soccer watching parties and meetings with local soccer enthusiasts, supporters, bloggers, and representatives of the local Soccer Club. In addition, we will visit the vicinity of the newly-built Zenit Arena stadium and the parks and facilities surrounding it on the off-game days.

Interested in learning more? Check out our Summer Abroad program in St. Petersburg: Exploring St. Petersburg through the Arts: Classical to Cutting Edge.