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Not too far from the institute are the blue, star-spotted domes of Troisky Cathedral. For many students who walk past the church their first question is the same, “What’s with the giant column of cannons out front?”
Колонна Славы / The Column of Glory
Every day when walking to or from the institute, you’ve undoubtedly seen the glorious, white and blue masterpiece of architecture that is the Trinity Cathedral (Троицкий Собор). If you’ve seen the cathedral then you’ve undoubtedly seen the giant, dark, cannon encrusted column that stands in front of it. This is the Column of Glory (Колонна Славы), which has quite an interesting history all of its own.
Victory and Trophies
The Column of Glory was built as a Victory Memorial dedicated to Russia’s victory in one of the many Russo-Turkish Wars that punctuate the history of the Russian Empire. In 1877, in response to Turkish atrocities during the suppression of revolts in the Balkans and desiring to regain power and territory lost during the Crimean War, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire at the head of a coalition made up of Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, and Montenegro. The victory of the Russian-led coalition in 1878 led to the recognition of Bulgarian autonomy within the Ottoman Empire and the independence of Serbia, Romania and Montenegro.
The Column of Glory was constructed using 128 Turkish trophy cannons from different periods. Inside the column there was space for a spiral staircase and display areas for regimental colours and the keys of Ottoman towns and captured during the war. Around the base of the column are memorial plaques which are inscribed with the names officers who fell during the conflict. The monument was opened on October 12th 1886 by Emperor Alexander III, who had led troops in the 1877-78 war whilst he was still just the heir to the throne.
Demolition and Restoration
In the Soviet Period the Column of Glory was torn down. In 1929 the Soviet Government had the monument dismantled and sold it to Germany. In its place a monument was erected to the architect who designed the Trinity Cathedral, Vasily Stasov. In 2003, to mark the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg, a replica of the Column of Glory was built according to the blueprints of the original. Copies of the original trophy cannons were cast by the Russian Novolipetsk Steel Company and the finished replica was erected outside the Trinity Cathedral in 2004.
The Column of Glory was not the only architectural wonder to be lost during the Soviet Period. You can find out more about St Petersburg’s lost buildings and what replaced them here (https://karpovka.com/2017/03/13/324869/).