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Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг, English transliteration: Sankt-Peterburg), colloquially known as Питер (transliterated "Piter"), formerly known as Leningrad (Ленингра́д, 1924–1991) and Petrograd (Петрогра́д, 1914–1924), is a city located in Northwestern Russia on the delta of the river Neva at the east end of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea.
Founded by tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as a "window to Europe", it served thenceforth as the capital of the country during the imperial period of its history until 1918. With about 4.7 million inhabitants (2002), it is today Russia's second largest city, Europe's fourth largest city, a major European cultural center and the most important Russian Baltic Sea port.
St. Petersburg is the northernmost city in the world with over one million people. The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the city, for over 300 years Russia's political and cultural centre, is impressive even today and to honor it people call it often "the Northern Capital" (северная столица).
St. Petersburg is administrative center of the Leningrad Oblast (while being a separate region) and the Northwestern Federal District (Северо-западный федеральный округ).
Landmarks and tourist attractions
The majestic appearance of St. Petersburg is achieved through a variety of architectural details including long, straight boulevards, vast spaces, gardens and parks, decorative wrought-iron fences, monumental and decorative sculptures. The Neva River itself, together with its many canals and their granite embankments and bridges, gives the city a unique and striking ambience. These bodies of water give St. Petersburg the name of "Venice of the North".
St. Petersburg's position near the Arctic Circle, on the same latitude as nearby Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo (60° N), causes twilight to last all night in May, June and July. This celebrated phenomenon is known as the "white nights." The white nights are closely linked to another attraction — the nine drawbridges spanning the Neva. Tourists flock to see the bridges drawn and lowered again at night to allow shipping to pass through the city.
The historical center of St. Petersburg, sometimes called the outdoor museum of Neoclassicism, was the first Russian patrimony inscribed in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
St Petersburg has been known as the city of palaces. One of the earliest of these is the Summer Palace a modest house built for Peter I in the Summer Garden (1710–1714). Much more imposing are the baroque residences of his associates, such as the Kikin Hall and the Menshikov Palace on the Neva Embankment, constructed from designs by Domenico Trezini in 1710–1716. A residence adjacent to the Menshikov palace was redesigned for Peter II and now houses the state university.
Probably the most illustrious of imperial palaces is the baroque Winter Palace (1754–1762), a huge building with dazzlingly luxurious interiors, now housing the Hermitage Museum. The same architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, was also responsible for three residences in the vicinity of the Nevsky Prospect: the Stroganov palace (1752–1754, now a wax museum), the Vorontsov palace (1749–1757, now a military school), and the Anichkov palace.jpg (1741–1750, many times rebuilt, now a palace for children). Other baroque palaces include the Sheremetev house on the Fontanka embankment (also called the Fountain House), and the Beloselsky-Belozersky palace (1846–1848) on the Nevsky Prospect, formerly a residence of the Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich.
Of Neoclassical palaces, the foremost is St Michael's (or Engineers') Castle, constructed for Emperor Paul in 1797–1801 to replace the earlier Summer Palace. The Tauride palace of Prince Potemkin (1783–1789), situated nearby, used to be a seat of the first Russian parliament. Just to the left from the Hermitage buildings is the Marble Palace, commissioned by Count Orlov and built in 1768–1785 from various sorts of marble to a Neoclassical design by Antonio Rinaldi. The Michael Palace (1819–1825), famed for its opulent interiors and named after its first lodger, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, now houses the Russian Museum. Also built in the Neoclassical style are the Yusupov palace (the 1790s); the Razumovsky palace (1762–1766); the Shuvalov palace (1830–1838), where Rasputin was killed; and the Yelagin Palace (1818–1822), a sumptuous summer dacha of the imperial family, situated on the Yelagin Island.
The last important residences were built for Nicholas I's children: the Maria Palace (1839–1844), located just opposite St Isaac's Cathedral and housing a city council, the Nicholas palace (1853–61), and the New Michael Palace (1857-1861).
The church buildings mostly belong to the Russian government. The largest church in the city is St Isaac's Cathedral (1818–1858), one of the biggest domed buildings in the world, constructed for 40 years under supervision of its architect, Auguste de Montferrand. Another magnificent church in the Empire style is the Kazan Cathedral (1801–1811), situated on the Nevsky prospect and modelled after St Peter's, Vatican. No tourist can miss the Church of the Savior on Blood (1883–1907), a gorgeous monument in the old Russian style which marks the spot of Alexander II's assassination. As Peter the Great forbid to build onion spires, this church is exceptional in the city with its onion-shaped tower.
The Peter and Paul Cathedral (1712–1732), a long-time symbol of the city, contains the sepulchres of Peter the Great and other Russian emperors. Apart from these four principal cathedrals, which operate today primarily as museums, there are numerous other churches.
Of baroque structures, the grandest is the white-and-blue Smolny Cathedral (1748–1764), a striking design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, but never completed. It is followed by the Naval Cathedral of St Nicholas (1753–1762), a lofty structure dedicated to the Russian Navy, the outside being covered with plaques to sailors lost at sea. The church of Sts Simeon and Anna (1731–1734), St Sampson Cathedral (1728–1740), St Pantaleon church (1735–1739), and St Andrew Cathedral (1764–1780) are all worth mentioning.
The Neoclassical churches are too numerous to count. Many of them are intended to dominate vast squares, like St Vladimir's Cathedral (1769–1789), not to be confused with the church of Our Lady of Vladimir (1761–1783). The Transfiguration (1827–29) and the Trinity Cathedrals (1828–1835) were both designed by Vasily Stasov. Smaller churches include the Konyushennaya (1816–1823), also by Stasov, the "Easter Cake" church (1785–1787), noted for its droll appearance, St Catherine church on the Vasilievsky Island (1768–1771), and numerous non-Orthodox churches on the Nevsky Prospect.
The Alexander Nevsky Monastery, intended to house the relics of St Alexander Nevsky, contains two cathedrals and several smaller churches in various styles. It is also remarkable for the Tikhvin Cemetery, where many notable Russians are buried.
The city has two small churches in the early Gothic Revival style, those of St John the Baptist (1776–1781) and the Chesmenskaya (1777–1780), both designed by Georg Velten. The late 19th-century and early 20th-century temples are all constructed from Russian Revival or Byzantine Revival designs. Finally, the cathedral mosque (1909–1920), reputedly the largest in Europe, is built after the model of Timurid temples in Samarkand.
The Peter and Paul Fortress, formerly a political prison, occupies a dominant position in the center of the city. A boardwalk was built along a portion of the fortress wall, giving visitors a clear view of the city across the river to the south. On the other bank of the Neva, the spit of the Vasilievsky island is graced by the former Bourse building (1805–1810), reminiscent of a classic Greek temple, with two great Rostral Columns , decorated with ships' prows, standing in front of it.
Undoubtedly the most famous of St. Petersburg's museums is the Hermitage, one of the world's largest and richest collections of Western European art. Its vast holdings were originally exhibited in the Greek Revival building (1838–1852) by Leo von Klenze , now called the New Hermitage. But the first Russian museum was established by Peter the Great in the Kunstkammer , erected in 1718–1734 on the opposite bank of the Neva River and formerly a home to the Russian Academy of Sciences. Other popular tourist destinations include the Museum of Applied Arts (1885–1895), the Ethnography Museum (1900–1911), the Suvorov Museum of Military History (1901–1904), and the Political History Museum (1904–06).
The imperial government institutions were housed in the General Staff building on the Palace Square (1820–1827), with a huge triumphal arch in the centre, the Senate and Synod buildings on the Senate Square (1827–1843), the Imperial Cabinet (1803–1805) on the Nevsky Prospect, the Assignation Bank (1783–1790), the Customs Office (1829–1832), and the splendid Admiralty (1806–1823), one of the city's most conspicuous landmarks. Most of these buildings were designed either by Giacomo Quarenghi , or by Carlo Rossi .
The former imperial capital is rich in educational institutions. Saint Petersburg State University occupies several buildings on the Vasilievsky Island, including the spacious baroque edifice of Twelve Collegia (1722–1744). The Academy of Arts (1764–1788), an exceedingly handsome structure, overlooks a quayside adorned with genuine Egyptian griffins and sphinxes. The Smolny Institute (1806–1808), originally the first school for Russian women, was picked up by Lenin as his headquarters during the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Catherine Institute (1804–1807), also designed by Quarenghi, has been affiliated with the Russian National Library . Another Neoclassical building by Quarenghi, a roomy Horse Guards Riding School (1804–1807), was recently designated the Central Exhibition Hall.
Some of the city shops and storehouses are landmarks in their own right. For example, the monumental New Holland Arch (1779–1787) and adjacent walls of the New Holland isle are occupied by commercial enterprises. The Merchant Court on the Nevsky Prospect (1761–1785), also designed by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, houses a large supermarket, several coffee bars and a metro station. Nearby is the Circular Market, erected in 1785–1790. Other department stores, built in the majestic Art Nouveau style, line the Nevsky Prospect and include the Eliseev emporium, the House of Books, and the Passage.
St Petersburg is a home to many theatres. The Alexandrine Theatre, built in 1828–1832 by Carlo Rossi, was named after the wife of Nicholas I. Much more famous outside Russia is the Mariinsky Theatre (formerly known as the Kirov Theatre of Opera and Ballet), which has been styled the capital of the world ballet. The city conservatory, the first in Russia, was opened in 1862 and bears the name of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov; its alumni include Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.
Probably the most familiar symbol of St Petersburg is the equestrian statue of Peter the Great, installed in 1782 on the Senate Square . Considered the greatest masterpiece of the French-born Etienne Maurice Falconet, the statue figures prominently in the Russian literature under the name of the Bronze Horseman.
The Palace Square is dominated by the unique Alexander Column (1830–1834), the tallest of its kind in the world and so nicely set that no attachment to the base is needed. A striking monument to Generalissimo Suvorov, represented as a youthful god of war, was erected in 1801 on the Field of Mars , formerly used for military parades and popular festivities. St Isaac's Square is graced by a monument to Nicholas I, which was spared by Bolshevik authorities from destruction as the only equestrian statue in the world with merely two support points (the rear feet of the horse).
The public monuments of St Petersburg also include the circular statue of Catherine II on the Nevsky Prospect, fine horse statues on the Anichkov bridge, a Rodin-like equestrian statue of Alexander III, and the Tercentenary monument presented by France in 2003 and installed on the Sennaya Square.
Some of the most important events in the city's history are represented by particular monuments. The Russian victory over Napoleon, for example, was commemorated with two triumphal arches, one at the Narva, another at the Moscow gates. Following this tradition, the Piskarevskoye Cemetery was opened in 1960 as a monument to the victims of the 900-Day Siege.
St Petersburg is surrounded with imperial residences, some of which were inscribed in the World Heritage list together with the city. These include Peterhof, with the Grand Peterhof Palace and glorious fountain cascades; Tsarskoe Selo, with the baroque Catherine Palace and the neoclassical Alexander Palace; and Pavlovsk, which contains a domed palace of Emperor Paul (1782–1786) and one of the largest English-style parks in Europe.
Much of Peterhof and Tsarskoe Selo had to be restored after being dynamited by the retreating Germans in 1944. Other imperial residences have yet to be revived to their former glory. Gatchina, lying 45 km southwest of St Petersburg, retains a royal castle with 600 rooms surrounded by a park. Oranienbaum, founded by Prince Menshikov, features his spacious baroque residence and the sumptuously decorated Chinese palace. Strelna has a hunting lodge of Peter the Great and the reconstructed Constantine Palace, used for official summits of the Russian president with foreign leaders.
Other notable suburbs are Shlisselburg, with a medieval fortress, and Kronstadt, with its 19th-century fortifications and naval monuments.
Tsar Peter the Great founded the city on May 27 (May 16, Old Style), 1703 after reconquering the Ingrian land from Sweden. He named it after his patron saint, the apostle Saint Peter. The original name of Sankt-Pitersburh was actually Dutch; Peter had lived and studied in that country for some time. The Swedish fortress of Nyen and later Nöteborg had formerly occupied the site, in the marshlands where the river Neva drains into the Gulf of Finland.
Since construction began during a time of war, the new city's first building was a fortification. Known today as the Peter and Paul Fortress, it originally also bore the name of Sankti-Pitersburh. It was laid down on Zaichiy (Hare) Island, just off the right bank of the Neva, a couple of miles inland from the Gulf. The marshland was drained and the city spread outward from the fortress under the supervision of German engineers Peter invited to Russia. Peter forbade the construction of stone buildings in all of Russia outside of St. Petersburg, so that all stonemasons would come to help build the new city. Serfs provided most of the labor for the project. According to one estimate, 30,000 died.
St. Petersburg was founded to become the new capital of Russia. By virtue of its position on an arm of the Baltic Sea, it was called by Pushkin a "window on the West". Russia would be a major British trading partner for years to come. It was also a base for Peter's navy, protected by the island fortress of Kronstadt, built soon after the city.
In the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, Russia's elite built lavishly in the city, leaving many palaces that survive to this day. But the city also suffered from terrible floods, one of which was described by Pushkin in his Bronze Horseman.
Alexander II's emancipation of the serfs (1861) caused the influx of large numbers of poor into the city. Tenements were erected on the outskirts, and nascent industry sprang up. By the end of the century, St Petersburg had grown up into one of the largest industrial hubs in Europe.
With the growth of industry, radical movements were also astir. Socialist organizations were responsible for the assassinations of many royal officials, including that of Alexander II in 1881. The Revolution of 1905 began here and spread rapidly into the provinces. During World War I, the name Sankt Peterburg was seen to be too German and, on the initiative of Tsar Nicholas II, the city was renamed Petrograd on August 31 (August 18, Old Style), 1914.
1917 saw the beginnings of the Russian Revolution. The first step (the February Revolution) was the removal of the Tsarist government and the introduction of a provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet. The new government was overthrown in the October Revolution, and the Russian Civil War broke out. The city's proximity to anti-revolutionary armies, and generally unstable political climate, forced Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin to flee to Russia's historic former capital at Moscow on March 5, 1918. The move may have been intended as temporary (it was certainly portrayed as such), but Moscow has remained the capital ever since. On January 24, 1924, three days after Lenin's death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor. The central committee's reason for renaming the city again was that Lenin had led the October revolution. Deeper reasons existed at the level of political symbolism: Saint Petersburg had stood as the head of the Tsarist empire. After Moscow it was the largest city and the change gave great prestige to Lenin. The renaming to Leningrad emphatically symbolised the upheaval that had occurred to the social and political system.
The government's removal to Moscow caused a reversal of the mass immigration of the latter 19th century. The benefits of capital status had left the city. Petrograd's population in 1920 was a third of what it had been in 1915 (see table below).
During World War II, Leningrad was surrounded and besieged by the German Wehrmacht in the Siege of Leningrad from September 8, 1941, until January 27, 1944, a total of twenty-nine months. A "Road of Life" was established over Lake Ladoga (frozen for a large part of the year), but it was open to airstrikes; only one out of three supply trucks that embarked on the journey reached its destination. Another route, running through the frontline, was opened on January 18, 1943. Some 800,000 of the city's 3,000,000 inhabitants are estimated to have perished. For the heroic tenacity of the city's population, Leningrad became the first Soviet city to be awarded the title Hero City.
According to some historians, Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin delayed the breaking of the siege and stymied the evacuation of the city with the intention of letting its intelligentsia perish at the hands of the Germans. Many of those Leningraders who were evacuated to distant corners of the Soviet Union never returned to their home city.
The war damaged the city and killed off many of those old Petersburgers who had not fled after the revolution and did not perish in the mass purges before the war. Nonetheless, Leningrad and many of its suburbs were rebuilt over the following decades to the old drawings. Though changes in the social fabric were more permanent, the city remained an intellectual and arts centre.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union on September 6, 1991, a bare majority (54%) of the population agreed to restore the original name, Saint Petersburg. As well as the city, 39 streets, six bridges, three Saint Petersburg Metro stations and six parks were renamed. Nevertheless, some, especially older people, still use the old names and, for example, use the old addresses on letters. The name releases positive associations particularly in connection with the siege - so that on holidays even authorities call places connected with World War 2 "Hero city Leningrad". Among young people the name Leningrad seems to be a vague protest against the new society. One of the most successful bands in Russia, a Ska punk band from Saint Petersburg, called themselves Leningrad (not to be confused with ' ' Leningrad Cowboys from Finland).
After a popular vote the name of the Oblast (administrative province) of which the city is the capital remained Leningrad Oblast.
According to results of the last census October 9, 2002, St. Petersburg has 4.159.635 inhabitants. That amounts to roughly 3 per cent of the populations of Russia as a whole. The average monthly salary 2003 was 6179 rubles (about 176 euros).
Since it was founded, the city has seen strong social contrasts, the situation of many people hardened after the Perestroika. Beggars and old women selling what they brought from the dacha can be seen very frequently. About 15 per cent of the population lives in kommunalkas .
People can only move to St. Petersburg if they can show they have a room and a job or if they are married to an inhabitant of St. Petersburg. Probably many people don't have this registration and are living thus on an illegal status (and they are not included in the census). The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates there are 16,000 children living on the street (as of 2000).
Officially the city is inhabited to 89.1 per cent by Russians. 2.1 per cent Jews, 1.9 per cent Ukrainians, 1.9 per cent Belorussians follow up, as well as a substantial number of Tartars, Caucasians, Uzbeks, Weps , Finns, and Azerbaijani (with many illegal immigrants).
As for religions, 10 per cent of the inhabitants are atheist, Russian Orthodox.
The following charts show the numbers of inhabitants. Until 1944 they are mostly estimations, from 1959 until 2002 they are censi and 2005 is a calculation.
January 15 1959
January 15 1970
January 17 1979
January 12 1989
October 9 2002
January 1 2005
One of St Petersburg's many canals
The city is a major center of machine building, including power equipment, machinery, shipyards, instrument manufacture, ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy (production of aluminum alloys), chemicals, printing, and one of the major ports of the Baltic Sea.
The Saint Petersburg Mint (Monetny Dvor) is apart from Goznak in Moscow the only place in Russia that mints Russian coins , medals and badges.
Ford Motor Company began producing the Ford Focus automobile here in 2002.
The city is a major transport hub. It is the center of the local road and railway system, and has a seaport (in the Gulf of Finland of Baltic Sea) and river ports (in the delta of Neva). It is the terminus of the Volgo-Baltic waterway which links the Baltic with the Black Sea.
The city is served by Pulkovo Airport, which carries both domestic and international flights. The Saint Petersburg Metro (subway/underground) system began operation in 1955 and now includes four lines.
- Main article: Administrative division of Saint Petersburg
City has numerous islands and many historically important city parts are located on them. Vasilyevsky island is the largest of them and forms the whole Vasileostrovsky Administrative District . Petrogradskaya, Krestovsky , Yelagin , and Kamenny islands form Petrogradsky Administrative District .
St. Petersburg in the movies
(see also Cinema of Russia and Soviet Union)
The end of the cultural predominance of St. Petersburg (and Moscow being chosen as the new capital) coincided with the dawn of film industry in Russia. Only few films achieved international acclaim and other international productions from Western countries couldn't film there. Lenfilm was the Soviet film studio based in St. Petersburg, however films that became known internationally were often based on famous literary works, such as quite a few Anna Karenina (a Russian and a French film, each of 1911; the first Western Anna Karenina has been shot in Petersburg after the end of communism) or several versions of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Idiot (the first one, Russian, in 1910).
Several Films deal with the complex history of the city many of which have propaganda purposes. Outstanding is the film Noi Vivi (Italy, 1942, see noi vivi at imdb), based on the novel We the Living by Ayn Rand, a film that comments on Italian politics by way of showing the October Revolution. Anastasia has been shot several times, famous especially the one from 1956 with Ingrid Bergman and Warner Brothers' musical (USA, 1997). Giuseppe Tornatore plans a film about the Siege of Leningrad in 2005. The Russian Ark, shot in the Winter Palace (now the Russian State Hermitage Museum), let the audience meet various real and fictional personages from 300 years of Russian history, including the present. Der Untergang was also filmed in Petersburg because of similarities of the historical city center and the center of Berlin of 1945.
Leningrad also became the scene of Interdevochka (also Интердевочка or Intergirl) by Pyotr Todorovsky in 1989 featuring impressive shots of the city. The cult comedy Irony of Fate (Cyrillic: Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!, English title: Irony of Fate) even if mostly shot at Cheremushi , Moscow) plays in St. Petersburg (showing some very nice pictures of St. Petersburg) and pokes fun at Soviet city planning.
Fiction movies are e.g. GoldenEye (1995) or the action movie Midnight in St. Petersburg (UK, 1996). Onegin (1999 featuring Liv Tyler) is based on the Pushkin lyrics and shows many tourist attractions.
The International Film Festival in Saint Petersburg is held annually since 1993 during the white nights.
St. Petersburg in the literature
It was said that St Petersburg was the head of the Russian Empire, whereas Moscow was its heart. "The most purposeful city in the world" (as Dostoyevsky referred to it) frequently appeared to Russian writers as menacing and unhuman mechanism. The grotesque and often nightmarish image of the city is featured in Pushkin's last poems, the Petersburg stories of Gogol, the novels of Dostoyevsky, the verse of Alexander Blok and Osip Mandelshtam, and in the symbolist novel Petersburg (by Andrey Bely).
The connection of literature and St. Petersburg has drawn a lot of attention. St. Petersburg is was scene to and was described in many literary works including most notably:
Notes ====One project that researches the connection of St. Petersburg and literature
main article: List of People in St. Petersburg
Numerous Russian and international aristocrats, politicians, artists, and scientists were born and/or have lived in Saint Petersburg. The most famous of these include Vladimir Putin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Alexander Pushkin, The Russian Czars since 1718 were born in St. Petersburg, Leonhard Euler, Alfred Nobel, Mikhail Lomonosov, Sergei Prokofiev, Vladimir Nabokov, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Dmitry Shostakovich, and Ivan Pavlov.
Last updated: 05-07-2005 17:07:15
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04