Petersburg Prologue

Your excellencies, eminences, honours, citizens!

What is our Russian Empire?

Our Russian Empire is a geographical entity, which means: a part of a certain planet. And the Russian Empire comprises: in the first place – Great, Little, White and Red Rus; in the second – the realms of Georgia, Poland, Kazan and Astrakhan; in the third, it comprises … But – et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.1

Our Russian Empire consists of many towns and cities: capital, provincial, district, downgraded;2 and further – of the original capital city and of the mother of Russian cities.

The original capital city is Moscow; and the mother of Russian cities is Kiev.

Petersburg, or Saint Petersburg, or Piter (which is the same) authentically belongs to the Russian Empire. While Tsargrad,3 Konstantinograd (or, as is said, Constantinople), belongs by right of inheritance.4 And on it we shall not expatiate.

We shall expatiate more on Petersburg: there is Petersburg, or Saint Petersburg, or Piter5 (which is the same). On the basis of the same judgements the Nevsky Prospect is a Petersburg prospect.

The Nevsky Prospect possesses a striking quality: it consists of space for the circulation of the public; numbered houses delimit it; the numeration goes in the order of the houses – and one’s search for the required house is much facilitated. The Nevsky Prospect, like all prospects, is a public prospect; that is: a prospect for the circulation of the public (not of the air, for example); the houses that form its lateral limits are – hm … yes: for the public.6 In the evening the Nevsky Prospect is illuminated by electricity. While in the daytime the Nevsky Prospect needs no illumination.

The Nevsky Prospect is rectilinear (speaking between ourselves) because it is a European prospect; and every European prospect is not simply a prospect, but (as I have already said) a European prospect, because … yes …

Because the Nevsky Prospect is a rectilinear prospect.

The Nevsky Prospect is a not unimportant prospect in this non-Russian – capital – city. Other Russian cities are a wooden pile of wretched little cottages.

And Petersburg is strikingly different from them all.

If, however, you continue to assert a most absurd myth – the existence of a Moscow population of one and a half million – then one must admit that the capital is Moscow, for only in capitals are there populations of one and half million: while in provincial towns there are no populations of one and a half million – have not been, and will not be. And in accordance with the absurd myth it will be seen that the capital is not Petersburg.

But if Petersburg is not the capital, then there is no Petersburg. It only seems to exist.7

Whatever the truth of the matter, Petersburg not only seems to us, but also does exist – on maps: as two little circles that sit one inside the other with a black point in the centre; and from this mathematical point, which has no dimension, it energetically declares that it exists: from there, from this point, there rushes in a torrent a swarm of the freshly printed book; impetuously from this invisible point rushes the government circular.