Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг, English transliteration: Sankt-Peterburg), formerly known as Leningrad (Ленингра́д, 1924-1991) and Petrograd (Петрогра́д, 1914-1924), is a city located in Northwestern Russia on the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea. Founded by tsar Peter the Great, it served as the capital of the country during the 18th and 19th centuries. With over 4.7 million inhabitants (2002), it is today Russia's second largest city, a major cultural center and an important port.
Landmarks and tourist attractions
Perhaps the most famous of St. Petersburg's landmarks is the Hermitage Museum, one of the world's largest and richest collections of Western European art. The building that houses the Hermitage - the old Winter Palace - is an architectural landmark in its own right. Another, rather different museum is the Kunstkamera , established by Peter the Great and housing primarily ethnographic collections.
The city is graced by a number of cathedrals, including the Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral , and the Church of the Savior on Blood. These operate today primarily as museums.
The Peter and Paul Fortress (see "History", below) occupies a dominant position in the center of the city. It houses the cathedral of the same name, as well as a number of other museums. A boardwalk has been built along a portion of the fortress wall, giving visitors a clear view of the city across the river to the south.
Architectural landmarks of 18th and 19th centuries include the Smolny Institute , Palace Square with the Winter Palace, Nevsky Prospekt, the labour exchange building (Russian: здание биржи труда) on Vasilyevskiy Island , Dekabristov Square with the monument of Peter I (erected 1782), the Mariinsky Theater, Rossi Street and the Ostrovskiy Square, Square of Arts. Between 1950-1980 there were erected new residential areas, administrative and public buildings. The memorial complex at Piskarevsky Cemetery was created in 1960. The historical center of St. Petersburg is included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
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 embankment s and bridges, gives the city a unique and striking ambience. These bodies of water give St. Petersburg the name of 'Venice of the North'.
During the city's original construction, the mouth of the Neva was routed into a series of canals, which still crisscross the central portion of the city, giving it 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.
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 Sankti-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 Peter 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.
Russia's elite built lavishly in the city, leaving many palaces that survive to this day. By far the largest of these structures is the Winter Palace, constructed between 1754 and 1762 on the orders of the Empress Elizabeth of Russia. It is now the home of the vast State Hermitage Museum.
At the same time, though, the city was the nation's cultural center, with composers (such as the "Mighty Handful"), artists, writers, and art collectors.
Intellectual 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 liberal multi-party governance. 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 26, 1924, three days after Lenin's death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor.
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.
The original name, Saint Petersburg, was restored on September 6, 1991, as a result of the collapse of Soviet rule. The name of the Oblast (administrative province) of which the city is the capital remains Leningrad Oblast.
|Year||Number of inhabitants|
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 city is a major transportation 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 city's Metro (subway/underground) system began operation in 1955 and now includes four lines.
Saint Petersburg is divided into 13 administrative districts, called "rayons" (район). They are:
- Admiralteysky District (Адмиралтейский)
- Frunzensky District (Фрунзенский)
- Kalininsky District (Калининский)
- Kirovsky District (Кировский)
- Krasnogvardeysky District (Красногвардейский)
- Krasnoselsky District (Красносельский)
- Moskovsky District (Московский)
- Nevsky District (Невский)
- Petrogradsky District (Петроградский)
- Primorsky District (Приморский)
- Tsentralny District (Центральный)
- Vasileostrovsky District (Василеостровский)
- Vyborgsky District (Выборгский)
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 District. Petrogradskaya, Krestovsky, Yelagin and Kamenny islands form Petrogradsky District.
- Anna Akhmatova, died in Leningrad in 1966
- Elsa Brandstrom, born in St. Petersburg in 1888
- Daniel Bernoulli and Leonhard Euler, worked in St. Petersburg
- Joseph Brodsky, born in Leningrad in 1940
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, lived in St. Petersburg and died there in 1881
- Aleksandr Pushkin, died following a duel in St. Petersburg in 1837
- Vladimir Putin, born in Leningrad in 1952
- Ayn Rand, born in St. Petersburg in 1905
- Alexandr Rodchenko, born in St. Petersburg 1891
- Catherine the Great
- Catherine Palace
- Peter the Great
- Russian Revolution
- Siege of Leningrad
- Winter Palace
- Official web site of St. Petersburg
- St. Petersburg 1900: a photographic travelogue of the capital of Imperialist Russia, by Bob Atchison
- Saint Petersburg in Pictures