Completed in 1900, the battleship Aurora was destined for fame. One of the few survivors of the Tsushima battle of the Russo-Japan war in 1905, it would go on to feature prominently in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The signal to storm the Winter Palace was a shot fired from her decks.
Though damaged during WWII, the Aurora has been fully restored and is now one of St. Petersburg’s premier tourist attractions. Raised from her watery grave after being sunk in September of 1941, visitors can roam her decks and get a tour of 20th century history unlike any other in the city.
Anchored at the Petrogradskaya Embankment on the Petrograd side of St. Petersburg along the Neva River, it has been visited by more than 28 million people in the past 50 years. The city was named Petrograd early in the Soviet era, then later Leningrad. It reverted to its historical name after the dissolution of the Soviet system.
Through the years the ship saw many changes. During the restoration process the funnels were replaced, as was most of the hull below the waterline. But the appearance is much as it was that fateful date in October, 1917 when its crew launched the first naval attack of the Communist Revolution.
The view of the city itself from the forecastle of the Aurora is also much like it was 90 years earlier. It isn’t difficult to imagine the smoke and chaos that engulfed this city of culture along Russia’s northern shore.
During the 900-day Siege of Leningrad of WWII (known to the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War), the guns were removed. They served for almost three years on the front line in defense of St. Petersburg against the invading Germans. They were subsequently refitted, then later fully restored in 1957.
Having served actively for over 50 years in the Russian Navy, the Aurora has found even more lasting fame as St. Petersburg’s only floating museum. Inside there are numerous plaques and other items depicting its long and colorful history.
The ship is nearby the historic wooden cabin of Peter the Great, erected as his first, temporary home when founding the city in 1703. It is now surrounded by a brick enclosure to preserve it and makes for a great side trip while in the area.
The Petrogradskaya Embankment is easily reached by St. Petersburg’s metro. Exit at Gorkovskaya or Ploschad Lenina.