The history of this outstanding three-storey mansion in the style of “early modern” dates back to the 1730s, when Bolshaya and Malaya Morskaya Street appeared in St. Petersburg. The owners and tenants of the house were constantly changing till the day in 1897 when state councilor Ivan Rukavishnikov buys the mansion for his daughter Elena so it becomes her dowry. Elena marries Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, and a couple of years later (1899) the great novelist Vladimir Nabokov was born.
Vladimir Nabokov had enjoyable and happy childhood and youth in this beautiful house. He received an excellent education at home, learned English and French, got into literature, entomology and chess.
The Revolution of 1917 makes the Nabokovs leave the house and move to the south of Russia, and then to Europe. Germany, France, the United States, the Swiss town Montreux… Vladimir Nabokov will never come back to Russia, and the house on Bolshaya Morskaya will always be his “only house in the world”.
The museum occupies the first floor and includes the former dining room, the drawing room and the library. Old parquet floor, beautiful ceiling, walls and doors decorated with refined Art Nouveau patterns, soft glow of antique chandeliers – quiet and elegant atmosphere of Imperial Russia. After the revolution, the house on Bolshaya Morskaya was taken by the local military commissariat, and the original layout of rooms has been forever lost.
Collection of the world’s only Vladimir Nabokov museum was started from scratch. A lot of priceless items were donated by relatives and friends of the great writer, as well as foreign institutions and collectors. Now you can come and see the rare first editions of Nabokov’s books, his pencils, manuscripts, pince-nez, and wardrobe items, the Scrabble game with autographs of the writer, net for catching butterflies and a unique collection of “trophies” caught by Vladimir Nabokov.
The upper two floors of the house (the parents’ floor and the children’s floor) are occupied by a children’s art school named after Bortniansky. But you can go upstairs and see the secret treasure of the house – the original stunning old stained glass windows made in Riga by the famous master Ernest Thode.
Two more things to mention. First of all, the site of Nabokov house is a real find for anyone interested in Vladimir Nabokov, his family, personality, life, as well as the architectural details of his house! So informative. Russian and English languages.
And the second. The entrance is free of charge which is always a plus.