| May 27, 1703|
Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia, politically incorporated as a federal subject (a federal city). It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. In 1914 the name of the city was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd , in 1924 to Leningrad , and in 1991, back to Saint Petersburg.
In Russian literature, informal documents, and discourse, the word "Saint" (Russian: ) is usually omitted, leaving "Petersburg" . In casual conversation Russians may drop the "burg" (Russian: ) as well, referring to it as "Piter".
Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27 [O.S. 16] 1703. Between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow. It is Russias 2nd largest city after Moscow with 5 million inhabitants (2012) and the fourth most populated federal subject. Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and also an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea.
Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Westernized city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. It is the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is also home to The Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks, and other businesses are located in Saint Petersburg.
Swedish colonists built Nyenskans, a fortress, at the mouth of the Neva River in 1611, in a land then called Ingermanland, that was inhabited by Finnic tribe of Ingrians. A small town called "Nyen" grew up around it.
Peter the Great was interested in seafaring and maritime affairs, and he intended to have Russia gain a seaport, so it could trade with maritime nations. He needed a better seaport than Arkhangelsk, which was on the White Sea to the north and closed to shipping for months during the winter.
On May 12 [O.S. 1] 1703, during the Great Northern War, Peter the Great captured Nyenskans, and soon replaced the fortress. On May 27 [O.S. 16] 1703, closer to the estuary 5 km (3 mi) inland from the gulf), on Zayachy (Hare) Island, he laid down the Peter and Paul Fortress, which became the first brick and stone building of the new city.
The city was built by conscripted peasants from all over Russia; a number of Swedish prisoners of war were also involved in some years under the supervision of Alexander Menshikov. Tens of thousands of serfs died building the city. Later, the city became the centre of the Saint Petersburg Governorate. Peter moved the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg in 1712, 9 years before the Treaty of Nystad of 1721 ended the war; he referred to Saint Petersburg as the capital (or seat of government) as early as 1704.
During its first few years, the city developed around Trinity Square on the right bank of the Neva, near the Peter and Paul Fortress. However, Saint Petersburg soon started to be built out according to a plan. By 1716 Domenico Trezzini had elaborated a project whereby the city centre would be located on Vasilyevsky Island and shaped by a rectangular grid of canals. The project was not completed, and is evident in the layout of the streets. In 1716, Peter the Great appointed Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond as the chief architect of Saint Petersburg.
The style of Petrine Baroque, developed by Trezzini and other architects and exemplified by such buildings as the Menshikov Palace, Kunstkamera, Peter and Paul Cathedral, Twelve Collegia, became prominent in the city architecture of the early 18th century. In 1724 the Academy of Sciences, University and Academic Gymnasium were established in Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great.
In 1725, Peter died at the age of fifty-two. His endeavours to modernise Russia had met with opposition from the Russian nobility—resulting in several attempts on his life and a treason case involving his son. In 1728, Peter II of Russia moved his seat back to Moscow. But four years later, in 1732, under Empress Anna of Russia, Saint Petersburg was again designated as the capital of the Russian Empire. It remained the seat of the Romanov dynasty and the Imperial Court of the Russian Tsars, as well as the seat of the Russian government, for another 186 years until the communist revolution of 1917.
In 1736–1737 the city suffered from catastrophic fires. To rebuild the damaged boroughs, a committee under Burkhard Christoph von Münnich commissioned a new plan in 1737. The city was divided into five boroughs, and the city center was moved to the Admiralty borough, situated on the east bank between the Neva and Fontanka.
It developed along three radial streets, which meet at the Admiralty building and are now one street known as Nevsky Prospekt (which is considered the main street of the city), Gorokhovaya Street and Voznesensky Prospekt. Baroque architecture became dominant in the city during the first sixty years, culminating in the Elizabethan Baroque, represented most notably by Bartolomeo Rastrelli with such buildings as the Winter Palace. In the 1760s, Baroque architecture was succeeded by neoclassical architecture.
Established in 1762, the Commission of Stone Buildings of Moscow and Saint Petersburg ruled that no structure in the city can be higher than the Winter Palace and prohibited spacing between buildings. During the reign of Catherine the Great in the 1760s–1780s, the banks of the Neva were lined with granite embankments.
However, it was not until 1850 that the first permanent bridge across the Neva, Blagoveshchensky Bridge, was allowed to open. Before that, only pontoon bridges were allowed. Obvodny Canal (dug in 1769–1833) became the southern limit of the city.
The most prominent neoclassical and Empire-style architects in Saint Petersburg included:Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe (Imperial Academy of Arts, Small Hermitage, Gostiny Dvor, New Holland Arch, Catholic Church of St. Catherine)
Antonio Rinaldi (Marble Palace)
Yury Felten (Old Hermitage, Chesme Church)
Giacomo Quarenghi (Academy of Sciences, Hermitage Theatre, Yusupov Palace)
Andrey Voronikhin (Mining Institute, Kazan Cathedral)
Andreyan Zakharov (Admiralty building)
Jean-François Thomas de Thomon (Spit of Vasilievsky Island)
Carlo Rossi (Yelagin Palace, Mikhailovsky Palace, Alexandrine Theatre, Senate and Synod Buildings, General Staff Building, design of many streets and squares)
Vasily Stasov (Moscow Triumphal Gate, Trinity Cathedral)
Auguste de Montferrand (Saint Isaacs Cathedral, Alexander Column)
In 1810, Alexander I established the first engineering Higher learning institution, the Saint Petersburg Main military engineering School in Saint Petersburg. Many monuments commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812, including the Alexander Column by Montferrand, erected in 1834, and the Narva Triumphal Gate.
In 1825, the suppressed Decembrist revolt against Nicholas I took place on the Senate Square in the city, a day after Nicholas assumed the throne.
By the 1840s, neoclassical architecture had given way to various romanticist styles, which dominated until the 1890s, represented by such architects as Andrei Stackenschneider (Mariinsky Palace, Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Nicholas Palace, New Michael Palace) and Konstantin Thon (Moskovsky railway station).
With the emancipation of the peasants undertaken by Alexander II in 1861 and an industrial revolution, the influx of former peasants into the capital increased greatly. Poor boroughs spontaneously emerged on the outskirts of the city. Saint Petersburg surpassed Moscow in population and industrial growth; it developed as one of the largest industrial cities in Europe, with a major naval base (in Kronstadt), river and sea port.
The names of saints Peter and Paul, bestowed upon original citys citadel and its cathedral (from 1725—a burial vault of Russian emperors) coincidentally were the names of the first two assassinated Russian Emperors, Peter III (1762, supposedly killed in a conspiracy led by his wife, Catherine the Great) and Paul I (1801, Nicholas Zubov and other conspirators who brought to power Alexander I, the son of their victim). The third emperors assassination took place in Petersburg in 1881 when Alexander II fell victim to narodniki (see the Church of the Savior on Blood).
The area of Saint Petersburg city proper is 605.8 square kilometers (233.9 sq mi). The area of the federal subject is 1,439 square kilometers (556 sq mi), which contains Saint Petersburg proper (consisting of eighty-one municipal okrugs), nine municipal towns – (Kolpino, Krasnoye Selo, Kronstadt, Lomonosov, Pavlovsk, Petergof, Pushkin, Sestroretsk, Zelenogorsk) – and twenty-one municipal settlements.
Petersburg is situated on the middle taiga lowlands along the shores of the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland, and islands of the river delta. The largest are Vasilyevsky Island (besides the artificial island between Obvodny canal and Fontanka, and Kotlin in the Neva Bay), Petrogradsky, Dekabristov and Krestovsky. The latter together with Yelagin and Kamenny island are covered mostly by parks. The Karelian Isthmus, North of the city, is a popular resort area. In the south Saint Petersburg crosses the Baltic-Ladoga Klint and meets the Izhora Plateau.
The elevation of Saint Petersburg ranges from the sea level to its highest point of 175.9 meters (577 ft) at the Orekhovaya Hill in the Duderhof Heights in the south. Part of the citys territory west of Liteyny Prospekt is no higher than 4 meters (13 ft) above sea level, and has suffered from numerous floods. Floods in Saint Petersburg are triggered by a long wave in the Baltic Sea, caused by meteorological conditions, winds and shallowness of the Neva Bay. The four most disastrous floods occurred in 1824 (421 centimeters or 166 inches above sea level, during which over three hundred buildings were destroyed), 1924 380 centimeters or 150 inches, 1777 321 centimeters or 126 inches, 1955 293 centimeters or 115 inches, and 1975 281 centimeters or 111 inches. To prevent floods, the Saint Petersburg Dam has been constructed.
Since the 18th century the terrain in the city has been raised artificially, at some places by more than 4 meters (13 ft), making mergers of several islands, and changing the hydrology of the city. Besides the Neva and its tributaries, other important rivers of the federal subject of Saint Petersburg are Sestra, Okhta and Izhora. The largest lake is Sestroretsky Razliv in the north, followed by Lakhtinsky Razliv, Suzdal Lakes and other smaller lakes.
Due to location at ca. 60° N latitude the day length in Petersburg varies across seasons, ranging from 5:53 to 18:50. A period from mid-May to mid-July when twilight may last all night is called the white nights.