Saint-Petersburg History


Saint-Petersburg was founded in 1703 by the Russian tsar Peter the Great and at that time was Russia’s only outlet to high seas. It lies on the site of the former marshes, quite far in the North for such a big city. It was founded on the former Swedish lands. Peter named it after his patron saint, the apostle Saint Peter. The original name of Sankt Piterburh was actually an imitation of the pronunciation of Dutch Saint Petersburg; Peter had lived and studied as a carpenter in the Netherlands for quite some time.


Since construction began during a time of war with Sweden for this lands, the new city's first building was built – the fortress. It is known today as the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was laid down on Zaiachiy (Hare's) Island, just off the right bank of theNeva river. The marshland was drained and the city spread outward from the fortress. Peter forbade the construction of stone buildings in all Russia instead of Saint-Petersburg. And everybody who came to the city had to bring 3 stones with him. So every building in Saint-Petersburg had to be from stone.

Peter the Great intended the city to be the new capital of Russia. It was the only city in Russia to be built according to a strict plan. Our famous writer Dostoevsky called it "The most artificial city in the world".

Peter I himself was very interesting person. He was tall - 213 sm. He woked from early morning till late night. So, he waked up at 4 a.m. and went to sleep at midnigth. He didn’t like beautiful palaces and lived just in small stone houses. He even went to the Netherlands as a workman to study trade of a carpenter. Then he taught Russian people how to build a fleet. We call him the father of Russian fleet.

So, Russian nobility began to move to Saint-Petersburg from Moscow. Without any wish but due to the will of Peter. And in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, Russia's elite built lavishly in the city, leaving many palaces that survived to our days.

But the city suffered a lot from regular flooding. The worst such flood occurred in November 7, 1824, when the water level rose 4.21 meters above normal. The playwright Alexander Griboyedov wrote, "The embankments of the various canals had disappeared and all the canals had united into one. Hundred-year-old trees in the Summer Garden were ripped from the ground and lying in rows, roots upward." When the waters receded 569 dead bodies were found, with thousands more injured or made ill, and more than 300 buildings had been washed away. The 1824 inundation is the setting for Alexander Pushkin's famous poem, The Bronze Horseman (1834). Other disastrous floods took place in 1777 and 1924. In that timesSaint-Petersburg was wet, dirty and dark. The detailed description of the city you can find at Dostoevsky’s novels. Of course the tzar’s family and nobility lived the rich and beatiful life. But poor people and peasants lived in terrible conditions.

Our tzar Alexander II emancipated the serfs in 1861. Due to it a lot of poor people moved to th city to work here. And by the end of the century, St. Petersburg had grown up into one of the largest industrial hubs in Europe.

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 ,1914.

In 1917 the Russian Revolution began. The first step (the February Revolution) was the removal of the Tsarist government and the establishment of two centers of political power, the Provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet. The Provisional 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 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. But the city is considered the cultural capital of Russia.

One more awful period of Saint-Petersburg history was the Siege of Leningrad. During World War II, Leningrad was surrounded and besieged by the Nazis from September 8, 1941, until January 27, 1944 a total of twenty-nine months. Peoplde were deprived of any food. Some 800,000 of the city's 3,000,000 inhabitants died of starvation and frost ( up to 40C minus). A "Road of Life" was established over Lake Ladoga (frozen for a large part of the year), but it was open to air strikes; only one out of three supply trucks that embarked on the journey reached its destination.

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.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a bare majority (54%) of the population agreed to restore "the original name, Saint-Petersburg," on September 6, 1991 As well as the city, about 50 streets, six bridges, three Saint-Petersburg Metro stations and six parks were renamed in the old manner.