Smolny Institute

St Petersburg

Built by Giacomo Quarenghi between 1806 and 1808 as a school for aristocratic girls, the Smolny Institute was thrust into the limelight in 1917 when it became the headquarters for the Bolshevik Central Committee and the Petrograd Soviet. From here, Trotsky and Lenin directed the October Revolution, and in the Hall of Acts (Aktovy zal) on 25 October, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets conferred power on a Bolshevik government led by Lenin.

The Smolny Institute served as the seat of Soviet power until March 1918, when the capital was relocated to Moscow. In 1934, the powerful Leningrad Party chief Sergei Kirov was assassinated in its corridors, on orders from Stalin, ridding the Soviet leader of a perceived rival and simultaneously providing the perfect pretext for the notorious Leningrad purges. Today St Petersburg’s governor continues to run the city from here. Although it's closed to the public, some of the big tour companies, such as SPB Tours (, include a short visit inside the Smolny Institute on multiday tours around St Petersburg.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby St Petersburg attractions

1. Smolny Cathedral

0.19 MILES

If baroque is your thing, then look no further than the sky-blue Smolny Cathedral, an unrivalled masterpiece of the genre that ranks among Bartolomeo…

2. Tauride Palace & Gardens

0.73 MILES

Catherine the Great had this baroque palace built in 1783 for Grigory Potemkin, a famed general and her companion for many years. Today it is home to the…

3. Leningrad Centre


This new high-tech entertainment complex houses two theatres, a gallery, a top-floor restaurant and two bars on the ground floor. It's set in a former…

4. Anna Akhmatova Monument

1.14 MILES

This moving statue of St Petersburg’s most famous 20th-century poet was unveiled in 2006, across the river from the notorious Kresty holding prison, to…

6. Bread Museum

1.36 MILES

This quirky little museum pays tribute to bread and the role it has played in history (of the city and of the world). A model bakery exhibits the…

7. Street Art Museum

1.43 MILES

It's well worth the effort making the trip out to see this magnificent collection of street art set inside a former 11-hectare industrial site. You'll…

8. Finland Station

1.54 MILES

Rebuilt in the 1970s in rectilinear Soviet style, the Finland Station (Finlyandsky vokzal) endures as a place of historical significance, where Lenin…