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    St. Petersburg

Within its comparatively short but vehement history the city has had three names: St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad, and again St. Petersburg. The new capital built on swamps and bones by Peter I the Great was destined to become the window to Europe for the renovated Russia. Not once this dramatic city influenced the life of this country.

The city started from the Neva River: it made an ideal place for the fortress Peter the Great needed during the Northern War. The fortress built on Zayachy Ostrov was named Saint Petersburg, in honor of Apostle Peter, the tsars patron. Later it was named Peter and Paul Fortress, and its initial name was given to the city that sprang under its shelter.

16 May 1703 is considered the day of St. Petersburgs foundation.

During the first ten years the city was built as a fortress, a trading seaport and the berthing for the Baltic fleet. However, the sea trading turned it the centre of economic activities, industry and crafts. Peter the Great shifted the religious centre of Russia to St. Petersburg as well by building Alexander Nevsky Lavra. In 1710 St. Petersburg was made the capital of Russia; the tsars family and the court, along with the major governmental institutions moved here.

Peter I wanted to create a regular city, with clear-cut and accurate planning, something like Amsterdam or Venice. By the emperors order architects Leblon and Domenico Tresini worked out the general lay-out of the city. The Summer Palace of Peter the First, the building of the Twelve Collegia, the Kunstkammer and the Menshikov Palace were built.

Everything in St. Petersburg was Europe-oriented; the spirit of Venice was enveloping St. Petersburg. In the 18th century Venetian gondolas floated along the rivers and channels of St. Petersburg; Venetian composers, musicians and theatre designers staged splendid performances in the capital theatres. However, there was something in the character of the place itself that laid a special tint of originality to the creations of foreign artists and architects.

During the short reigning of Peter II (17271730) the court moved back to Moscow and the building of St. Petersburg stopped for a while. Three years later, when Anna Ioannovna came to the throne (17301740) St. Petersburg again became the capital of the Russian Empire.

During the reign of Catherine II (17621796) the city acquired much of its famous splendor: the Winter Palace and the Admiralty, Nevsky Prospect and the granite embankments of Neva, Moika, Fontanka, Catherines Channel, and, certainly, the Bronze Horseman.

Pavel I went on with the construction and transformation of the city centre during his reign (17961801). Mikhailovsky Palace was built, one of the most mystic Petersburg buildings still fraught with legends.

The victory of Russia over the Napoleon troops in 1812 was celebrated with the new wave of town development, with the construction of Alexandrinsky Theatre ensemble, the buildings of Senat and Sinod, the highest governmental institutions of Russia, and buildings of ministries in Dvortsovaya (Palace) Square. The granite Alexandrinskaya Column completed the ensemble of Dvortsovaya Square. The building of St. Isaacs Cathedral started.

The city was growing and developing going through fire and water. In 1825 the city suffered the severest flood in its history that greatly deformed its appearance; many people froze to death.

During the reign of Nikolai I (18251855) St. Petersburg became the centre of Russian industrial capitalism. By the early 20th century St. Petersburg became a European city in the true sense of the word. Its industry produced everything that such a big state as Russian Empire needed: from ships and state-of-the-art weapons to any articles of light industry.

At the same time the city was becoming more and more convenient for living. Dozens of bridges connected the islands St. Petersburg was spreading on. Several railway lines linked the capital with other regions of Russia and European countries.

1907 saw the appearance of trams in St. Petersburg; tram at once became the favorite means of transportation for Petersburg dwellers and solved lots of problems of the city with rapidly growing population. The population upsurge in St. Petersburg of the early 20th century was far above that of Paris, London, and even New York.

At the dawn of the 20th century St. Petersburg enjoyed the Venetian carnival of culture: the blossoming Russian culture was seen as a natural following of old European traditions. The Northern Venice as Petersburg was also called inspired many poets, artists and musicians of the time.

Unfortunately World War I cut this carnival short. The anti-German spirit made Nikolai the Second rename the city into Petrograd, which had a more Russian-like sounding as compared to Petersburg.

Petrograd became the pesthole of the dramatic events of 1917. The city of three revolutions has definite symbolic monuments of those events: Smolny Palace, cruiser Aurora, and Marsovo Pole (field). In 1918 the capital was moved to Moscow. In 1924 after V. I. Lenins death the Communists renamed the city into Leningrad.

The Great Patriotic War (1941 1945) became the most terrible ordeal for Leningrad. During the 900 days of the blockade (19411944) about 1 million people died of cold, starvation, shooting and bombing in the city. The city was never occupied or conquered. By 19501960 Leningrad was completely restored.

In 1991 the city got its historic name back. The city was largely restored before the celebrations of its 300th anniversary in 2003. Today St. Petersburg is a multifunctional centre of the country.

UNESCO acknowledged St. Petersburg a city monument of the world culture.




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