History of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg was founded on the 16th of May 1703, when at the behest of Tsar Peter I the construction of the Peter and Paul fortress had started at the Hare Island.

Already on the 29th of June the future capital of Russia had got its proud name in honour of St. Peter the Apostle - St. Peter-Burj. In the 1720s the imitation of Dutch pronunciation was replaced by the German pronunciation - St. Petersburg.

Peter the Great

According to the Peter’s plans, the city had to become the new Rome, not only political but also the cultural capital of the state. Embodying the power of Russian and foreign developments, Saint Petersburg, is a favourite child of Peter the Great. Its rich and sometimes tragic history more than ever had lived up to its expectations.

The eruption of the new capital had by no accident started with the construction of the fortress. The Northern War had been there. The small size of the Hare Island left its mark on the plan of military facilities - they are very compact. The height of the bastions reaches 10-12 meters. From one of them, since 1803, a cannon fires every day at 12 am, marking the exact time.

St. Paul Cathedral is majestically rising upward surrounded by the fortified walls. The cathedral’s steeple is crowned by an angel figure, overshadowing the town with a cross. Visible from afar, the cathedral represents Russia on the Baltic Sea. Due to its proximity St. Petersburg soon became the most important link in trade with the countries of Western Europe, as well as accommodated the whole Tsar's navy.

The harsh, windy region came to the liking of Peter I. Already in 1712, not waiting for the end of construction, he brings all the court to St. Petersburg from Moscow. In 1721 a city on the Neva was proclaimed a new Russian capital.

As a symbol of everything new, it is in St. Petersburg, the new higher and central government: the Senate, the Synod, the collegiums began their work. The first public museum Curiosities was opened. The Academy of Sciences and the Academic University were established.

Under the leadership of foreign architects active building of streets continued. To accelerate the building process, stone construction became forbidden in the whole of Russia. Moreover every visitor to St. Petersburg had to make a "stone tax" - to bring a certain amount of stones or to pay a special fee. Land in the city at that time was distributed free of charge. Not surprisingly, St. Petersburg expanded at a fast pace, and 1725, it numbered over 40 thousand inhabitants.

After Peter's death several rulers had changed the office, each of which had left its mark in the city. However, there were few emperors, to whom St. Petersburg is obliged in particular.


First of all, to the daughter of Peter Elizabeth, who ruled the country from 1741 to 1761. Her most important political achievement was the victory over Prussia in the Seven Years' War. During her reign the science and culture also discovered the new names of scientist and poet Lomonosov and architect Rastrelli. In St. Petersburg, whose population had increased to 74 thousand, Page Corps, the Academy of Arts and the first Russian professional theatre troupe had been founded. The construction of the Winter Palace has started. The Sheremetev Palace and Smolny Cathedral were built. A favourite summer residence of Elizabeth became Peterhof.

Catherine II

Under Catherine II, who ascended the throne by murdering her husband in 1762 and has successfully remained on it until 1796, a summer resort changed to Tsarskoye Selo.

In St. Petersburg, the Public Library and the Hermitage Museum were opened. The River Neva got "dressed" in the granite embankment of the Moika and Fontanka. The Tauride and Marble palaces were built. The Gostiny Dvor come to existence and the Bronze Horseman had been erected. At that time, while changing the appearance of the capital, the Russian army smashes the Turks; Crimea, Lithuania, Belarus and the western part of Ukraine depart to Russia. The population of St. Petersburg is growing rapidly - by the end of the XVIII century, it reached 230 thousand inhabitants.

Alexander I

The next period of prosperity awaits the capital under Alexander I, which reign (1801-1825) was called the "golden age" of St. Petersburg. We hear the names of Pushkin, Baratynsky, Batiushkov and Rossi. The Smolny Institute, the Kazan Cathedral and the Burse were erected, while the number of residents reaches 400 thousand. In the same period, in 1824, St. Petersburg has experienced the most devastating flood in its history, which killed more than 500 people, many stocks in the cellars had vanished and many houses were destroyed...

Nicholas I

After Alexander's death Nicholas I takes the throne, which is marked by suppression of Decembrists uprising. Nicholas I had been in power for thirty years. Under his reign the first Russian railway was opened in 1837. St. Petersburg had finally formed the ensemble of central squares and Nevsky Prospekt. The Alexandrinsky Theatre and Mikhailovsky Palace as well as the Main Headquarters were built. The end of the reign of Nicholas I was sudden. Unable to bear the bitterness of defeat in the Crimean War, which plunged Russia into an unprecedented crisis, he dies.

Alexander II

In his place the great reformer Alexander II took over the reign. The abolition of serfdom, the beginning of local government and the jury and establishment of the first elected Duma are just few major reforms of Alexander II. The Warsaw, Baltic and Finnish railway stations starts its operation. The main water pipe system had been established.

The residential construction had been developing - the capital totals 861,000 people. The cultural life was boiling as well: the famous Mariinsky Theatre opened, the works of Dostoyevsky, Leskov and Goncharov were published, Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and other composers "Great Five"created their great works, as well as the search for new directions in painting appeared ...

However, the ongoing liberal reforms have weakened the power, brewing discontent in the country. On the 1st of March 1881 Alexander II was killed by terrorists at the Mikhailovsky Garden. Later on the site of the tragedy his son Alexander III had grounded the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood.

Alexander III

The next Emperor is  Alexander III, whose the reign (1881-1894 years) accounted for the suppression of terrorism, the tightening of censorship, as well as an extraordinary economic boom. The population of the capital and its suburbs reaches the million mark. As such, the empire passes to his last autocrat - a rather hesitant and deeply conservative Nicholas II.

Nicholas II

Despite the resurgent political unrest, the city on the Neva River continues its development: constructions on Vasilevsky Island and the Petrograd side came to end. The tram lines were put in operation. The cars appeared on lit by electricity streets.  The film industry broke in the cultural life and the number of residents of the capital increased to almost two million.

In 1914, St. Petersburg changed its German name to Petrograd as participation in World War stirred patriotic sentiments. However, the protracted nature of the war is gradually exhausting Russia, transforming in the increasingly widespread idea of ​​the overthrow of the monarchy ...

During the soviet epoche

In 1917, the Bolsheviks government led by Vladimir Lenin came to power, and six months later Petrograd ceases to be the capital. This title is now attributed to Moscow. By that time the population of Petrograd had fallen to half a million as a result of the World War I and the Civil War, pushing many to flee to the countryside and emigration.

In 1924, after Lenin's death, the city has once again changed its name - to Leningrad. It is with the same name it will be linked to the city’s most tragic pages – a 900 days blockade during the Second World War. As a result of hunger, cold, disease and bombings nearly 800 thousand inhabitants of Leningrad were killed then.

For courage and heroism of the population of the city and its defenders Leningrad became the first Soviet city-hero ...

Survivor in spite of everything, Leningrad - is again a concentration of culture of its country, now the Soviet. The monuments, destroyed during the war, had been restored. The Moskovsky Prospect was opened. In 1955 the metro lines had started and the city suburbs were actively built with the five-storey panel "Khrushchev" houses ...

After the collapse of the Soviet Union St. Petersburg is regaining its historical name, but does not avoid the common fate of the country - in the former Soviet space reigns gloom and desolation, which was only overcome in the early twenty-first century.

The times have changed as well as its rules and the appearance of St. Petersburg, but for all times one thing never changes - the Great Spirit of the Great City.

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