Still, the reactions in St. Petersburg this week were similar to those following the attacks in Paris and Brussels. Tragic events tend to bring people together. There was almost no panic or anger. Many residents, having felt sad and lost, were speaking about a clear need to help others. People were willing to share their pain and to provide emotional support. This phenomenon was present the day after the blast, especially on the re-opened subway.
Last but not least, St.Petersburg is indeed unique. It is a city with a notoriously bad climate, a place far less wealthy than its imaginary competitor (Moscow), and a former imperial capital, still deploring its loss of status. All this provokes a special mixture of love and hate, inspiration and exhaustion, pride and depression in its residents. They may not have much in the way of sun, money or even professional opportunities, but they seem to have time for each other.
St. Petersburg has an identity, one that is unique in Russia. That identity attracts people from around the world to visit the city, seeking the spirit that makes Russia’s “cultural capital” special. We saw the city’s special character over the last few days, when Petersburgers banded together to help each other in the aftermath of a tragedy. I hope we’ll see more of this civic spirit in the future.
Angelina Davydova is a journalist based in St. Petersburg