League of Nations: French in St. Petersburg

Almost everyone knows that the French once lived in St. Petersburg. Now for most citizens, their presence in the city is limited to baguettes in the bakery and concerts of Jan Thiersen once a year. But if you dig a little deeper, the French are somehow involved literally in all areas of our lives: starting from what we eat and ending with where we store money.


The first French appeared in St. Petersburg almost immediately after the founding of the city, and throughout the 18th century their number only increased. At first it was artisans, architects, sculptors and other people of art. For example, the famous Jean-Baptiste Leblond, who was the chief urban architect for three years and developed the very first master plan of the city, according to which the center was to be located on Vasilievsky Island.

A major surge in French emigration occurred after the revolution in Paris. Then almost one and a half thousand visitors swore allegiance to the Russian crown. And by 1830, 4,000 Frenchmen were living in St. Petersburg — about 0.5 percent of the city’s population. After the deterioration of relations between countries, many were sent back to their homeland.

Despite the fact that most of the Russian nobles were known as frankophones and deliberately burred in their speech, foreign visitors, as a rule, quickly became Russified. Many of them gave the children Russian names and adopted local customs.


4 000

the French lived
in Petersburg in 1830

≈ 400

the French live
In Petersburg
at present

At the moment, there are many times less Frenchmen in Russia than before, but they are represented by two very large official organizations: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for business and political relations, and the Alliance Francais network is responsible for promoting the language and culture.

Key areas of employment




services sector)



Agate mori

Consulate Press Officer
In Petersburg


About 400 Frenchmen live in St. Petersburg. Many of them here got married or got married. They work in the tertiary sector of the economy.

French students who come to St. Petersburg to study, most often specialize in international relations or economics. The consulate helps them in the preparation of various administrative documents in the same way as if they applied to the city hall in France.


French University College, St. Petersburg State University

A little-known, but in its own way unique educational institution. The fact is that the French higher education system does not involve entrance exams. You just need to come, write a statement and a motivation letter - and start learning. There are only two prerequisites: the applicant must be over 18 years old and at the time of admission he must study at any Russian university for at least three years.

The college is free, but its completion is highly dependent on the student's diligence. Absenteeism is not allowed, but French is not necessary to know: it can be studied right in college. During the training, students are sent for internships in Europe, and at the exit they receive diplomas of the French magistracy.

Subjects at College:

law, literature, history,
sociology, philosophy

Studying timein college:

2 years

Each year, 15 foreign teachers come to college to give a short course of lectures (24 academic hours) for nine days. The basic composition of teachers of five changes quite rarely.

Louis Royer

Director of French University College


To enter the University in France, you must finish what we call undergraduate, and you have high school. In fact, you do not need to pass any exams, but the system is gradually changing. Because the faculty has a limited number of places.

Many students have a hard time learning. In the afternoon they study at their university, and in the evening - at our place. We have very strict orders - there are visit lists. In addition, high motivation is needed. Sometimes students do not understand that we are not only learning French. The most important thing for us is the opportunity to study in French.

Institute of France in St. Petersburg

One of the most active foreign cultural institutions in the city. In fact, any cultural event, one way or another connected with France - from art exhibitions and theater tours to performances by French musicians in St. Petersburg clubs - is carried out with the assistance of the Institute. One of the most important projects over the past year is the French scene at the Stereoleto festival, which took place exactly on Bastille Day on July 14th. It featured indie rockers Zombie Zombie, DJ Zebra, mimes and street artists.

The institute itself is located in house 12 on Nevsky Prospect, where at the end of the 19th century the head of the French troupe of the Mikhailovsky Theater lived. The first floor of the building is occupied by the French bank Credit Agricole.

Michelle Grunge

Director of the Institute of France in St. Petersburg


In Russia there are two holidays that made a huge impression on me. Firstly, it is March 8, a holiday for women. We do not have such a holiday in France. Secondly, it is, of course, "Scarlet Sails". I was surprised that something as abstract and positive as Green’s Scarlet Sails could bring together thousands and thousands of young people. I think that in France this is simply impossible.

Students from France

Students who came from France to St. Petersburg to study under a four- or six-year program at local universities are hardly to be met. But many participate in exchange programs: SPbU and Finek have corresponding agreements with foreign universities.

Mathieu anrio



I am studying at the University of Franche-Comté at the Faculty of Commerce and Marketing in the fifth year of the Master's program. He chose Finek for an internship to get an education in Russian in the field of foreign economic relations. Our university has only two agreements with Russian universities: Finekom and Moscow State University.

I will work in a consulting company in France, where the "Russian department" will open soon. Therefore, I came here, I will be engaged in international trade.


One of the largest French companies represented in St. Petersburg is the Novotel hotel chain, which appeared in St. Petersburg in 2004. As a rule, all Frenchmen - businessmen, politicians, tourists, airline employees who come to St. Petersburg on business - stop here.

Edgar Poly

Novotel Director
In Petersburg


I am an economic adviser to the consulate, and we have a fairly large community of businessmen here. From a business point of view, there are no special differences between St. Petersburg and any other European city. But much more employees are needed here than anywhere else. For example, breakfast in France from 7 to 9, and here it is possible 24 hours, room service is also around the clock. In France, everything is stricter - there is no laundry, no drying, and they clean the rooms only at certain times.

Everyday life

Stereotypes and habits

The French go to Petersburg for several reasons. As a rule, either work or personal relationships leads them to the city. Many note the local unhurried and calm (in comparison with Paris or Moscow) lifestyle.

Edgar Poly: "I first came to St. Petersburg from Moscow, where I worked, in the late 1990s and realized that I want to work here. Moscow is a city that you can’t walk on foot. But I like to walk, and it works just as easy here like in Paris. "

Vincent Domerg

French teacher


I was attracted to the Russian language (I love its sound). But it would not be entirely fair to keep silent about the fact that love for a Petersburger also played a role.

Almost all the French moving to St. Petersburg pay the same attention to the city: winter and high-heeled walking on ice, architecture, poor quality roads, scary Soviet cars and homeless animals. In addition to these rather commonplace things that every second foreigner notes, there are other features that hit the French. Firstly, it is an amazing ostentatious luxury and extravagance of the local population. Secondly, a completely different course of life and working day in St. Petersburg. French institutions rarely work until late: even in Paris it is quite rare to see night cafes or establishments open until at least 9pm.

Victor von waldo



The first time I came in 2006 to my girlfriend, whom I later married. Several things surprised me then. Firstly, huge pits on the roads. Secondly, the ability to calmly catch a taxi on the street. In general, the “Zhiguli” ride itself is amazing. And, finally, homeless dogs surprised and scared, who live around the clock at the Bolshevik Prospekt metro station, next to which I live.

Mathieu Henriot: “The vast majority of foreign students live in a hostel located very close to the university. I live in a private apartment, which I rent with my Russian friends. Therefore, I have additional problems: finding the fastest way to the university through traffic jams, quickly sorting out the subway” .

Vincent Domerg: "I was struck by this strong contrast between the rich and modest people: an incredible amount of Porsche, Maserati, etc. I thought it was not like in France at all: those who have money show it to everyone.

But many people are very sociable. When I first arrived in St. Petersburg, I had to go to the area of ​​Bolshevik Avenue, and there I was a little lost. In my hands I had a flower in a pot, which I bought along the way. It was terribly cold, and the flower was bad. People helped me find my way back and even gave advice on how to save this poor flower. This story may sound naive, but I can tell you many other examples of how open and friendly people can be here.

The bookstores, which are open all night, were also very surprised: it’s strange to go to the House of War Books, which, unfortunately, no longer exists, at 4 a.m. and buy a book. "

Edgar Poly: “In St. Petersburg, you start working at 10 am, and not at 8, like in Moscow. The time is completely different here, the working day is completely different. If there, in Moscow, the working day at 6 pm is already over, then you can work until late and no one will pay attention to it. "


The St. Petersburg French, with all the variety of clubs and restaurants with national cuisine, do not have special places where they meet. Moreover, there is no community organizing their leisure. There are only two places that almost all St. Petersburg French go to: the consulate and the Institute of France.

Victor von Waldo: “The French community is not very active here. Sometimes we meet when we go to get a book or CD at the French Institute. But there is no place where everyone gathers. But I think that in the near future I will gather compatriots to play football or rugby , make a team - maybe we will play on an ongoing basis.

By the way, there are French services in the Catholic Cathedral of St. Catherine. But, unfortunately, they are not very popular among local foreigners. "

Mathieu Henriot: “My Russian friends advised me to go to the Senoval restaurant, where you can try Russian cuisine at competitive prices. I also often go to the theater or to the cinema located on Vosstaniya Square. Other foreigners told me that they often visit the Radio club Baby near the university.

The French have no newspaper in St. Petersburg. But almost all the major publications in French - Le Figaro (right-wing newspaper), Libération (left-wing newspaper), Le Nouvel Observateur (socio-political weekly) - can be found in the media library. "

Cuisine and restaurants

Despite the abundance of restaurants with national cuisine, many St. Petersburg French people prefer to eat and cook at home. Often this is due to the fact that institutions that position themselves as French offer, in principle, any dishes of European cuisine. National color is reflected except in a pair of items and the interior.

The main French restaurant in the city is Cote Jardin at the Novotel Hotel. It serves traditional dishes from ratatouille to quiches, and one of the cooks is the owner of two Michelin stars. The wine, of course, is also French, but the ingredients for the kitchen - eggs, meat, vegetables - are mostly still local.

Silivi Buillan



Usually my friends and I don’t go anywhere, we gather at each other’s house. I am used to cooking myself: making ratatouille or quiche loren - a dish from my homeland, Lorraine.

In general, in St. Petersburg, everything is very good with classical music. But it’s better to live in a small French town. Here you get very tired while traveling in transport.

Vincent Domerg: “In St. Petersburg, there is a Garçon bakery network that offers quite tasty croissants. There is also a Jean-Jacques cafe; but I don’t eat there, and it seems to me that this is just marketing. If the name sounds more or less in French, this should attract customers, it doesn’t matter that the cuisine inside is not very French. I especially lack French cheese. It is not even in the French Auchan hypermarket chain, and if there is, it is very expensive compared to ours. "

Mathieu Henriot: “I never go to French restaurants and cafes, because I came to Russia to live life in Russian. I try to do everything in Russian. This way I can more easily get acquainted with Petersburgers and their habits. I’m well used to Russian cuisine , which is very tasty and varied. I eat herring under a fur coat, dumplings, cutlets, borsch. "

Almost any traditional French dish can be prepared at home. The main thing is to have an oven and patience.

Quiche loren

Dough, beans, onions, ham, cheese, eggs, cream, nutmeg. A special mold is required, in which
put the dough



Vegetable stew. Spices (to taste), onions, eggplant, zucchini must be added to it



Puff pastry, the filling is added to taste,
but classic croissants do not contain the filling at all

Victor von Waldo: “Of course, I often cook French dishes. Kish-loren, with spinach, and chicken. In winter, I make a reblashon — a mixture of potatoes and cheese, which I specially bring from France. Sometimes chocolate pies and tart tarten (apple and caramel tart) ) ".


Over 30 00 students

enrolled in French courses at the Institute of France in 2011


27,000 documents 

stored in the library of the French Institute
at present. In addition, it is the oldest foreign library in St. Petersburg.


64,000 viewers

 attended events
with the participation of the French Institute in 2011

Watch the video: UEFA EURO 2020 ST. PETERSBURG HOST CITY (April 2020).

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