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Encyclopedia > St Petersburg
For other uses, see Saint Petersburg (disambiguation).

Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг, English transliteration: Sankt-Peterburg), colloquially known as Питер (transliterated "Piter"), formerly known as Leningrad (Ленингра́д, 19241991) and Petrograd (Петрогра́д, 19141924), 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, it served as the capital of the country during the imperial period of its history. With over 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.

Lying at 59.93° North and 30.32° East, 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 that for over 200 years was Russia's political and cultural centre is impressive even today.

The Neva river has been called the main street of St Petersburg

Landmarks and tourist attractions

St Petersburg is known as the city of 300 bridges.

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.

The palaces

St Petersburg has been known as the city of palaces. The earliest of these is 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 (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.

The Hermitage museum complex with the Winter Palace at right

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).

According to the Russian tradition, each regiment of the imperial guards had its own cathedral.

The churches

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. 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 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 Chesma palace church (1780) is a rare example of the Gothic Revival in Russia.

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 Alexandro-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.

Public buildings

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 city is adorned with numerous monuments from the imperial period of Russian history

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 Instutute (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.

Public monuments

The Bronze Horseman turns alive and races the streets of St Petersburg in more than one work of Russian fiction

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 (http://www.konstantinpalace.com/), 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.


Inspired by example of Venice and Amsterdam, Peter the Great envisaged boats and coracles as principal means of transportation in his city of canals. No permanent bridges across the Neva were allowed until 1850.

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.

The small church of Sts Simon and Anne (1734) was dedicated to the patrons saints of Empress Anne.

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.

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).

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 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 24, 1924, three days after Lenin's death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor.

The feverish life of St Petersburg's main avenue was described by Gogol in his stories, notably in The Nevsky Prospect.

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.

The downtown preserves numerous profit houses built in the Art Nouveau style

Population development

Year Number of inhabitants
1800 220,200
1830 435,500
1850 487,300
1881 928,000
1900 1,440,000
1915 2,348,000
1920 763,900
1925 1,379,000
2002 4,700,000


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 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.

Ford Motor Company began producing the Ford Focus automobile here in 2002.

Administrative division

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.

Notable people

See also

External links

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Saint Petersburg

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  Results from FactBites:
Saint Petersburg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (4445 words)
St Petersburg is known as the city of 300 bridges.
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 Prospekt, 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.
St. Petersburg, Florida - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1048 words)
Petersburg was incorporated on February 29, 1892, when it had a population of only some 300 people.
Petersburg has a branch of the state university, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, as well as St.
Petersburg is also home to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the inaugural race was held in April of 2005.
  More results at FactBites »



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