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St. Petersburg

  • Russia
  • St. Petersburg
  • 1,439 km²
  • Mediterranean
  • (GMT+3)
  • Russian ruble
  • Russian
  • 5,323,300
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General Information About St. Petersburg

Area: 1,439 km²

Population: 5,323,300

Language: Russian

Currency: Russian ruble (RUR)

Location

St. Petersburg is located on the delta of the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland. The city spreads across 42 islands of the delta and across adjacent parts of the mainland floodplain. The very low and originally marshy site has subjected the city to recurrent flooding, especially in the autumn, when strong cyclonic winds drive gulf waters upstream, and also at the time of the spring thaw. Exceptionally severe inundations occurred in 1777, 1824, and 1924; the last two were the highest on record and flooded most of the city. To control the destructive floodwaters, the city built in the 1980s an 18-mile- (29-km-) long dike across the Gulf of Finland. A number of canals also have been cut to assist drainage.

Greater St. Petersburg-the city itself with its satellite towns - forms a horseshoe shape around the head of the Gulf of Finland and includes the island of Kotlin in the gulf. On the north it stretches westward along the shore for nearly 50 miles (80 km) to include Zelenogorsk. This northern extension is an area of dormitory towns, resorts, sanatoriums, and children’s camps set among extensive coniferous forests and fringed by fine beaches and sand dunes. Some upper-class St. Petersburg residents also have summer cottages, or dachas, in this area. On the southern side of the gulf, the metropolitan limits extend westward to include Peterhof and Lomonosov. Eastward, Greater St. Petersburg stretches up the Neva River to Ivanovskoye.

History

Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, the former capital of Russia was once known as the Venice of the North but was almost destroyed during WWII before being left to decline under Stalin.

Perched on a series of islands, where the River Neva meets the Gulf of Finland, St Petersburg was a planned city, with construction personally supervised by Peter the Great.

But St Petersburg was more than just a vanity project – at the time, western Russia was threatened by Sweden, and a vast naval port was created to allow the Russian Navy to assert its dominance over the Baltic Sea. Nevertheless, the grandiose palaces immediately marked St Petersburg out as one of the great cities of Europe.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Tsars of St Petersburg lived a life of extravagant luxury in magnificent palaces. But the opulent lifestyle of the tsars depended on the abject poverty of serfs and peasants, sowing the seeds of discontent that eventually led to the Russian Revolution in 1905.

The Bolsheviks took power in 1917, the same year that Nicholas II abdicated. After Lenin’s death in 1924, the city was renamed Leningrad. The resulting years saw an explosion of Stalinist architecture, planned boroughs and the nationalisation of housing.

The onset of WWII had a devastating impact on the city. During the three-year Nazi Siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944, more than one million residents starved or froze to death, while the city’s artists and intelligentsia were decimated in Stalin’s purges. The city was renamed Stalingrad in 1945.

Following the collapse of Communism in 1985, St Petersburg was starved of state funding and many of its most glorious palaces and cathedrals fell into disrepair. Since then, the city has fought its way back to greatness, aided by foreign investors and the new Russian oligarchs. Today, its wealth of museums and palaces have made it a top cultural and historical hotspot.

Did you know?

  • St Petersburg is the setting of many great works of literature, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
  • The city was built entirely on swampland.
  • At the start of WWI, the city was briefly renamed Petrograd as St Petersburg’ was deemed to sound too German.

Culture

St. Petersburg evolved as a city of culture, and the number and quality of its cultural institutions remain one of its enduring attractions. It has many large and grand, as well as small but reputable, theatres and auditoriums. The Mariinsky Theatre (called the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet during the Soviet period) has long enjoyed an international reputation, and its resident company is frequently on tour abroad. Other important theatres are the Maly, Tovstonogov, Pushkin, and Musical Comedy theatres. The largest of several concert halls is the October Great Concert Hall, which seats some 4,000 people. The city’s musical tradition has been enhanced by the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. Notable museums include the Hermitage and the State Russian Museum, both of international prominence. The latter museum traces the history of Russian art from the 10th century to the present. St. Petersburg is a significant centre of the country’s motion-picture industry and has been host to the annual Kino Expo International Convention for Russian cinema at its exhibition centre on the waterfront.

There are a large number of libraries in the city, headed by the Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library on Nevsky Prospekt, established in 1795; of all the libraries in Russia, it is second only to Moscow’s Russian State Library (formerly the V.I. Lenin Library). Another important specialized collection is the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House), on Vasilyevsky Island.

St. Petersburg has abundant recreational facilities and green spaces for such a large city. Among the notable stadiums in the area is Kirov Stadium. Other opportunities for outdoor recreation are provided by the Kirov Park of Culture and Rest, the zoo, the botanical gardens, and numerous other smaller parks and gardens.

Getting around St Petersburg

Public transport

St Petersburg is well served by trams, conventional buses, trolley buses, metro trains and marshrutnoye taxis (minivans, also known as marshrutka). Although vehicles may be rather run-down, the system is cheap and effective. Note that St Petersburg sprawls for miles around the centre and there can be long gaps between stops; if time is of the essence, use the metro.

Bus and marshrutka stops are indicated by bus shelters or a blue-and-white sign depicting a bus mounted on the building closest to the stop. It’s usually simpler to look for the crowd of people waiting expectantly by the curb. For conventional buses, you should buy a ticket (talon) from a kiosk or the driver and validate it in the machine when you board. Marshrutka charge a fixed fare which should be handed to the driver when you embark.

Trams and trolley buses run on similar routes to conventional buses. Stops are marked with signs on lampposts, or sometimes with a ‘T’ hanging from the electric lines. The tickets are the same as those used on the buses.

The metro or St Petersburg Metropoliten (tel: +7 812 301 9700; www.metro.spb.ru) is fast and efficient, though stations are widely spaced out. Station ticket booths sell single-journey tokens (zheton) and 10-journey magnetic cards, which should be deposited or swiped at the machines at the top of the escalators. You can also use preloadable smartcards, available at all stations.

All the names in the metro system are in Cyrillic, so a metro map with English translations is essential. Stations are identified by large blue ‘M’ signs, which light up at night. Note that metro interchange stations have a different name on each line.

Taxis

St Petersburg’s ageing fleet of Volga and Lada taxis (marked with the letter ‘T’) can be flagged down in the centre or booked through Petersburg Taxi 068 (tel: 068 or +7 812 380 6777) or Taxi Million (tel: +7 821 600 0000). However, meters are unreliable and fares are generally agreed by negotiation before departure. Predictably, prices are inflated for foreigners – it takes some bargaining to reach a reasonable fare.

Many local car owners supplement their income by acting as informal taxi drivers, but it is almost impossible to negotiate a fare or destination if you are not fluent in Russian. For safety reasons, you should never get into a vehicle that contains anyone other than the driver.

Driving

Potholes, chaotic driving conditions and the dreaded traffic police all serve as a serious deterrent to driving in St Petersburg. Self-drive car hire is rarely available, though it is possible to hire a car with an English-speaking driver.

Street-side parking is generally free, but it is banned along Nevsky prospect. Keep an eye out for signs indicating other restricted areas. Outside upmarket shops, hotels and restaurants, uniformed attendants can watch your vehicle for a small fee. As elsewhere, never leave valuables or luggage on display in your car.

Car hire

Almost all hire cars come with a driver. The main providers include Astoria Service (tel: +7 812 570 5462; www.astoriaservice.ru), Avis (tel: +7 812 600 1213; www.avis-rentacar.ru) and Hertz (tel: +7 812 454 7099; www.hertz.ru).

Bicycle hire

Bicycles are available for hire from Rent Bike (tel: +7 812 981 0155; www.rentbike.org) and other cycle tour companies, but be ready for heavy traffic, poor road surfaces, and a lack of awareness of cyclists amongst drivers. Theft is also a problem.

Things to do in St Petersburg

Tourist offices

City Tourism Information Centre

Address: 191023 Tel: Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 1000-1900, Sat 1200-1800.

Website: www.ispb.info

The St Petersburg Tourist Information Bureau on Sadovaya ulitsa is a good first port of call for local information. They maintain several information kiosks around the city.

Tourist Passes

The St Petersburg Card (www.petersburgcard.com/en) gives free entrance to 50 local museums and attractions and it includes a rechargeable ‘e-purse’, which can be used to pay for tickets on the metro, buses, trolleybuses and trams. Passes last from two to seven days.

Attractions

Faberge Museum

Housed in the beautiful Shuvalovsky Palace, this auspicious museum is dedicated to the work of preeminent jeweller Carl Fabergé, famed for his intricate bejewelled eggs. It has the largest collection of pieces by the designer in the world with more than 4,000 works of decorative Russian art. Tours must be booked at least five days in advance.

Opening Hours: Sat-Thu 1000-2100. Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes UNESCO: No Address: nab reki Fontanki 21, St Petersburg

Website: http://fabergemuseum.ru

Piskariovskoye Memorialnoe Kladbishche (Piskarivskoye Memorial Cemetery)

This is a place of pilgrimage for the dwindling survivors of the 1941-44 siege of Leningrad, one Russia’s darkest hours. Under the gaze of a massive bronze of Mother Russia lie the mass graves of 500,000 St Petersburg citizens who starved to death in the Nazi blockade. The story of the suffering and endurance of the city is powerfully told in the Memorial Halls.

Opening Hours: Daily 0900-1800 (Oct-Apr), 0900-2100 (May-Sep). Admission Fees: No Disabled Access: Yes UNESCO: No Address: Nepokorennykh prospekt 72, St Petersburg

Website: http://pmemorial.ru/eng-memorial

Kreyser Avrora (Cruiser Aurora)

Launched in St Petersburg in 1900, the Cruiser Aurora served as a battleship in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, before firing the shot that signalled the storming of the Winter Palace in 1917 and the beginning of Bolshevik rule. Refitted as a museum, you can see the crew’s quarters and the gun that fired the historic shot. Opening Hours: Tue-Thu, Sat and Sun 1030-1600. Admission Fees: No Disabled Access: Yes UNESCO: No Address: naberezhnaya Petrovskaya, St Petersburg, , 197046

Website:

Muzyei Antropologiy i Etnografii imena Petra Velikovo (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology)

Russia’s oldest state museum is centred on the cabinet of curiosities assembled by Peter the Great during his grand tour of Europe, though it’s the collection of physically abnormal foetuses preserved in alcohol that draws the crowds. It’s fascinating stuff, best reserved for visitors with strong stomachs and a scientific curiosity. Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 1100-1800; closed last Tues of the month. Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: No UNESCO: Yes Address: naberezhnaya Universitetskaya 3, St Petersburg, , 199034

Website: http://www.kunstkamera.ru

Isaakievsky sobor (St Isaac's Cathedral)

This spectacular imperial cathedral, commissioned by Tsar Alexander I, is a engineering masterpiece on marshy ground west of Nevsky prospekt. Crowned by a gilded dome that rivals St Peter’s in the Vatican, the cathedral was completed in 1858 and it still dominates the St Petersburg skyline. The interiors are dazzling and the climb to the colonnade of the dome (accessible on a separate ticket) is rewarded by marvellous panoramic views. Opening Hours: Thu-Tues1030-2230 (May-Sept); Thu-Tue 1030-1800 (Oct-Apr) (Cathedral); Mon-Sun 1030-2230 (May-Oct), Thu-Tue 1030-1800 (Nov-Apr) (Colonnade). Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: No UNESCO: Yes Address: Isaakievskaya ploshchad 1, St Petersburg, , 19000

Website: http://eng.cathedral.ru

Petropavlovskaya krepost (Peter and Paul Fortress)

Built by Peter the Great in 1703 to defend the area from the Swedes, this fortress soon became a political prison. Famous inmates included Dostoevsky, Gorky and Trotsky, plus Peter’s own son, Alexei. The bleak cells are now a museum, along with the Commandant’s House where prisoners were tried. The highlight though is the soaring gold spire of the cathedral. Opening Hours: Thu-Tue 1000-1800. Admission Fees: No (admission fee for the cathedral, bell tower, museum and wall walk) Disabled Access: Yes UNESCO: Yes Address: Petropavlovskaya krepost, St Petersburg, , 197046

Website: http://www.spbmuseum.ru

Muzyei-domik Petra I (Cabin of Peter the Great)

The first house built in St Petersburg was not a grand palace but a humble wooden cabin, from where Peter the Great supervised the construction of his grand imperial city. Now encased in a protective brick enclosure and furnished with period furniture, its spartan simplicity is a strange contrast to the grand cathedrals and palaces all around. Opening Hours: Wed-Mon 1000-1700; closed last Mon of month. Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: No UNESCO: Yes Address: naberezhnaya Petrovskaya 6, St Petersburg, , 197046

Website:

Khram Spas-na-Krovi (Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood)

Modelled on St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, this church was built on the spot where socialist radicals assassinated Emperor Alexander II on 1 March 1881. It’s crowned by a fantasy collection of tiled onion domes and has a stunningly restored interior of gleaming marble and glittering mosaics. The best views of the exterior are from across the canal, on naberezhnaya Kanala Griboedova. Opening Hours: Tue-Mon 1100-1900 (Oct-Apr); Tue-Mon 1100-2000 (May-Sep). Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: No UNESCO: Yes Address: naberezhnaya Kanala Griboedova 2, St Petersburg, , 191186

Website:

Russkiy Muzyei (Russian Museum)

Often overshadowed by the splendour of the Hermitage, these sprawling galleries contain the world’s finest collection of Russian paintings, from 1,000-year-old icons to old masters and modern legends like Malevich, Kandinsky and Chagall. There is an additional charge for the galleries outside the Mikhailovsky Palace and Benois Wing, which open Monday, Wednesday and Friday to Sunday 1000-1800, plus Thursday 1300-2100. Opening Hours: Wed-Sun 1000-1800, Thu 1300-2100, Mon 1000-2000. Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes UNESCO: Yes Address: Inzhenernaya ulitsa 4/2, St Petersburg, , 191186

Website: http://www.rusmuseum.ru/eng

Hermitazh (Hermitage)

Designed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the glorious baroque Winter Palace of Empress Elizabeth is the setting for Russia’s finest collection of art and antiquities. Over three million works are lavishly displayed here and the linked Small Hermitage and Large Hermitage. Highlights include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens. It would take around 10 years to tour the Hermitage, spending just one minute at each exhibit. Opening Hours: Tue-Sat 1030-1800, Sun 1030-1700. Admission Fees: Yes Disabled Access: Yes UNESCO: Yes Address: 2 Dvortsovaya ploschad, St Petersburg, , 190000

Website: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org

St Petersburg tours and excursions

St Petersburg tours

River tours

Many operators run boat tours along the river and canals of St Petersburg, visiting famous sights like the Church on Spilled Blood, but most are in Russian. Other boat tours leave from the Griboedova canal, the Moyka River, the Fontanka River and the channel that runs around Zayachy island.

Walking tours

Daily English-language walking tours of the city, leaving from Diner (27 naberezhnaya Reki Fontanki) at 1030 However, you can see most of the famous sites by strolling along the 5km (3 miles) of Nevsky prospekt, from the Admiralty to Anichkov Bridge, and making small detours along the way.

Excursions from St Petersburg

Kirovsky Islands

Located north of St Petersburg’s city centre, the Kirovsky Islands (Kamenny, Yelagin and Krestovsky) are popular outdoor escapes for city dwellers. Many wealthy St Petersburg residents have fabulous homes here, but ordinary folk come to picnic in the parks, walk along the leafy avenues and boat on the lakes. It’s particularly popular during the White Nights of midsummer. Kamenny is across the bridge from the Chyornaya Rechka metro, while Krestovsky and Yelagin are accessible from Krestovsky Ostrov station.

Petergof (Peterhof)

Situated 32km (20 miles) west of St Petersburg, the Grand Palace of Peterhof was constructed by Peter the Great and extensively remodelled by Bartolomeo Rastrelli. This stunning Versailles-style palace is one of the grandest relics from the time of the Tsars and a splendid example of the Russian baroque style. Other palaces are dotted around the 600-hectare (1500-acre) estate, including Monplaisir, Peter’s original seaside residence at Peterhof. Trains go from Baltisky vokzal to Novy Peterodvets, from where buses 350, 351, 352, 353, 354 and 356 go to the palace. Closed Mondays.

St. Petersburg Culture and History

St. Petersburg Culture and History

The early period

Foundation and early growth

Settlement of the region around the head of the Gulf of Finland by Russians began in the 8th or 9th century ad. Known then as Izhorskaya Zemlya or, more commonly, as Ingermanland or Ingria, the region came under the control of Novgorod, but it long remained thinly populated. In the 15th century the area passed with Novgorod into the possession of the grand princes of Moscow. Sweden annexed Ingria in 1617 and established fortresses along the Neva River. During the Second Northern War (1700–21), Peter I (the Great), seeking a sea outlet to the west, constructed a fleet on the Svir River (which connects Lakes Onega and Ladoga) and, sailing across Lake Ladoga, launched an attack on the fortress of Noteburg (now Petrokrepost), where the Neva flows out of Ladoga. In 1703 Noteburg fell to Peter; afterward he captured the Swedish fortress of Nienshants on the lower Neva, thus gaining control of the delta.

On May 16 (May 27, New Style), 1703, shortly after the fall of Nienshants, Peter himself laid the foundation stones for the Peter-Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island. This date is taken as the founding date of St. Petersburg. In the spring of the following year, Peter established the fortress of Kronshlot (later Kronshtadt), on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland, to protect the approaches to the delta. At the same time, he founded the Admiralty shipyard on the riverbank opposite the Peter-Paul Fortress; in 1706 its first warship was launched. Around the fortress and shipyard Peter began the building of a new city to serve as his “window on Europe.” Just upstream of the Peter-Paul Fortress, the city’s first small house was built for Peter himself during the early days of the St. Petersburg’s construction (it is preserved as a museum).

Although the first dwellings were single-storied and made of wood, it was not long before stone buildings were erected. The first stone palace (still preserved) was completed in 1714 for Prince Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov, first governor of the city. From the start the city was planned as an imposing capital, on a regular street pattern, with spacious squares and broad avenues radiating out from the Admiralty. Architects, craftsmen, and artisans were brought from all over Russia and from many foreign countries to construct and embellish the new town. In 1712 the capital of Russia was transferred there from Moscow, although it was not until 1721 that Sweden, in the Peace of Nystad, formally ceded sovereignty of the area to Russia. Members of the nobility and merchant class were compelled by Peter to move to the new capital and to build houses for themselves. Government buildings and private palaces and houses arose swiftly; among the earliest buildings were the Exchange (now the Naval Museum), the Naval Customs House (now the Pushkin House, or Institute of Russian Literature), and marine hospital, together with the Summer Palace. Canals for drainage were cut through the marshy left bank of the Admiralty Side. The first floating bridge over the Neva was constructed in 1727, and soon more than 370 bridges had been built across the many canals and river channels. Marshy, flood-prone land and an inhospitable climate made construction expensive in terms of human life; St. Petersburg, it was later suggested, rested on a swamp of human bones.

A harbour was constructed, and Peter took measures to curtail traffic through Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, previously Russia’s major port. In consequence, as early as 1726 St. Petersburg was handling 90 percent of Russia’s foreign trade. In 1703 work began on the Vyshnevolotsky Canal in the Valdai Hills, the first link in a chain that by 1709 gave the capital a direct water route to central Russia and all of the Volga River basin. Industry soon began to develop. The original and flourishing Admiralty shipyard was joined by enterprises to supply its needs and those of the growing fleet—a foundry to produce cannons, a gunpowder factory, and a tar works. Merchantmen as well as warships were built, and, before the end of the 18th century, papermaking, printing, and food, clothing, and footwear industries were established; as early as the 1740s a factory was set up to make china. By 1765 the population numbered 150,300, and by the end of the century it reached 220,200, of whom more than a third were in the armed forces or the administration.

The rise to splendour

The growing city displayed a remarkable richness of architecture and harmony of style. Initially the style was one of simple but elegant restraint, represented in the cathedral of the Peter-Paul Fortress and in the Summer Palace. In the mid-18th century an indelible stamp was put on the city’s appearance by the architects Bartolomeo F. Rastrelli, Savva I. Chevakinsky, and Vasily P. Stasov, working in the Russian Baroque style, which combined clear-cut, even austere lines with richness of decoration and use of colour. To this period belong the Winter Palace, the Smolny Convent, and the Vorontsov and Stroganov palaces, among others; outside the city were built the summer palaces of Peterhof and of Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin). After a transitional period dominated by the architecture of Jean-Baptiste M. Vallin de la Mothe and Aleksandr Kokorinov, toward the end of the 18th century a pure Neoclassical style emerged under the architects Giacomo Quarenghi, Carlo Rossi, Andrey Voronikhin, and others. The Kazan and St. Isaac’s cathedrals, the Smolny Institute, the new Admiralty, the Senate, and the Mikhaylovsky Palace (now the State Russian Museum) are representative of the splendid buildings of this period.

Within this grand architectural setting, cultural life developed and flourished. The University of St. Petersburg was founded in 1724. In 1773 the Institute of Mines was established. Many of the most celebrated names in Russia in the spheres of learning, science, and the arts are associated with the city: Mikhail V. Lomonosov, Dmitry I. Mendeleyev, Ivan Pavlov, Aleksandr Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, among others. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment was set in the city, and the buildings described in the novel are a focus of tourism. As early as 1738 the first ballet school in Russia was opened in St. Petersburg; in the 19th century, under Marius Petipa, the Russian ballet rose to worldwide renown and produced such dancers as Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina, and Anna Pavlova. In 1862 the first conservatory of music in Russia opened its doors, and there the premieres of works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergey Rachmaninoff, and other composers were performed. Overall, the imperial court stood as the focus and patron of the city’s cultural life; its ostentatious splendour and wealth were legendary throughout Europe.

Evolution of the modern city

The road to revolution

The imperial magnificence, centred on the tsarist autocracy, was in sharp contrast to the other side of St. Petersburg’s development, the growth of its industrial proletariat. During the 19th century there was much industrial growth in the city, accelerated by improvements in communications and extension of trade. Navigation was opened on the Mariinsky (1810) and Tikhvin (1811) canal systems, which replaced an old and inadequate system. In 1813 the first Russian steamship was built in St. Petersburg, and in 1837 the first Russian railway was constructed from the city to the Summer Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Five years later work started on the railway to Moscow, opened to traffic in 1851. A line to Warsaw was built in 1861–62, followed by still others. In particular, the cotton textile and metalworking industries flourished, the former using imported raw materials. By the 1840s more than three-fifths of Russian imports were entering by way of St. Petersburg. In 1885 a channel was dredged to give larger ships access to the port. City growth and industrialization were stimulated by the emancipation of the Russian serfs in 1861, which allowed far greater mobility of labour. From 539,400 inhabitants in 1864, the population rose to about 1,500,000 in 1900, largely by migration from rural areas (as late as 1910 only one-third of the population had been born in the city). By 1917 the total had risen to about 2,500,000.

The factory environment in St. Petersburg became a breeding ground for revolution. With the development of metalworking and engineering as the primary industries, there arose a skilled labour force, increasingly alert politically. Moreover, the factory workers, who numbered nearly 250,000 in 1914, tended to be concentrated in plants of far larger size than was usual in Russia; the Putilov (later renamed Kirov) armaments works alone employed about 13,000. It was thus easier for revolutionaries to spread their ideas and for workers’ groups to organize than it was elsewhere in Russia. At the same time, the growth of the city was characterized by a belated and slow development of public transport, making it necessary for workers to live close to their place of work, in conditions of appalling overcrowding (more than 180,000 per square mile in the centre), squalor, and lack of sanitation. Throughout the period before 1917 the city administration was lacking in efficiency and often in funds, and the provision of all public services-even a water supply-was inadequate. Outbreaks of serious epidemics were commonplace.

The first serious revolutionary outbreak in St. Petersburg came on December 14 (December 26, New Style), 1825: the Decembrist insurrection, organized largely by liberal aristocrats and army officers seeking a liberal constitution and an end to serfdom. It was ruthlessly suppressed. During the rest of the 19th century, workers’ revolutionary activity and unrest steadily increased, with ever more frequent strikes and outbreaks of violence. These culminated in the general strike of January 1905, when some 150,000 workers took part. On what became known as Bloody Sunday, January 9 (January 22, New Style), a mass march to the Winter Palace, bearing a petition to the tsar, was met by troops who opened fire; more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The situation developed into revolution, spreading throughout Russia. Although it was again crushed, underground revolutionary activity continued.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought an upsurge of patriotic fervour centered on the tsar. The Germanic form of the city’s name was changed to its Russian version, Petrograd. The military disasters of the war and the worsening economic situation, however, revived and intensified discontent. Transport inefficiencies led to severe shortages of food and other supplies. On February 26 (March 11, New Style), 1917, with a general strike in effect, disorder broke out. The authorities were slow to act and lost all control. The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was formed on February 27 (March 12, New Style). On March 2 (March 15, New Style) the tsar abdicated. A provisional government was set up, eventually under the premiership of Aleksandr Kerensky. On April 3 (April 16, New Style) Vladimir Ilich Lenin returned to Petrograd from Switzerland and set about organizing the overthrow of the provisional government. Demonstrations in July were suppressed, but on October 25 (November 7, New Style) Bolshevik-led workers and sailors stormed the Winter Palace, deposing the provisional government and establishing the Bolshevik Party in power.

The Russian Revolution of 1917, which changed the course of history, was spearheaded by the Petrograd proletariat and the sailors from Kronshtadt. In January 1918 a Constituent Assembly met in Petrograd, but the Bolsheviks, who had won only a minority of seats, dispersed it and consolidated their authority.

The Soviet period

Civil war reigned in Russia from 1918 to 1920, during which the Bolsheviks successfully defended their government against various Russian and foreign elements. In March 1918 the capital of the young Soviet state had been moved back to Moscow. The years of the civil war after the Revolution had a disastrous effect on the city’s economy. Industry came very nearly to a standstill. The population fell sharply to 722,000 in 1920, a mere third of the pre-Revolutionary size. Many died of starvation. Recovery began when the war ended. In 1924, following Lenin’s death, the city was renamed Leningrad. When in 1928 the era of five-year plans began, much of the initial burden of developing the national economy fell on the city and its established industrial plant and workforce, especially in the provision of power equipment and machinery. This stimulated further growth; by 1939 the city was responsible for 11 percent of all Soviet industrial output, and its population had exceeded three million.

Then once again the city was struck by a period of loss and destruction. It was one of the initial targets of the German invasion in 1941; by September of that year, German troops were on the outskirts of the city and had cut off communication with the rest of the U.S.S.R., while Finnish troops advanced from the north. Many of the inhabitants and nearly three-fourths of the industrial plant were evacuated eastward ahead of the German advance. The remainder of the population and the garrison then began to endure what has become known as the 900-day siege; the German blockade in fact lasted 872 days, from September 8, 1941, to January 27, 1944. Leningrad put up a desperate and courageous resistance in the face of many assaults, constant artillery and air bombardment, and appalling suffering from shortages of supplies. An estimated 660,000 people died, a very high proportion from scurvy and starvation. In particular, the exceptionally bitter winter of 1941–42, when temperatures fell to −40 °F (−40 °C), was one of extreme hardship and loss of life. The only route for supplies was the “road of life” across the ice of Lake Ladoga; later an oil pipeline and electric cables were laid on the lake bed. The blockade proper was broken in January 1943, but it was another year before the Germans had been driven back from the outskirts. Enormous damage had been caused by the bombardment, and, before retreating, the Germans destroyed the palaces at Peterhof and Pushkin. Not until the 1960s did the city regain its prewar size of three million; by the 1980s the population had passed the four million mark.

The first postwar Soviet five-year plan was devoted in part to reconstruction of the city’s industry and restoration of its architectural heritage. In the late 1950s a program of housing construction in the city’s periphery got under way; renovation of highly sought-after inner-city apartments began in the 1970s. In the face of continuing construction and expansion, maintenance of the old city and modernization of the infrastructure became major problems. In response the city planners pioneered new forms of industrial administration, drawing on the city’s strength as a scientific and technical centre and emphasizing the need to preserve its unique cultural heritage.

Major changes in the city’s political life began to occur in the late 1980s, when the central government of the U.S.S.R. introduced reforms that encouraged greater democratization and openness. The nationwide legalization in March 1990 of political parties other than the Communist Party had an especially sharp impact on Leningrad, as two months later elections for the city council gave a group of reform-minded Communists and reformers outside the Communist Party a substantial majority of the council seats. The council quickly pushed for a variety of free-market measures and initiated a process of stripping the Communist Party of assets and privileges in the city. Reflecting this movement away from the city’s Communist past, voters in a June 1991 citywide referendum chose to restore the city’s name of St. Petersburg.

Culture and social etiquette in St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg evolved as a city of culture, and the number and quality of its cultural institutions remain one of its enduring attractions. It has many large and grand, as well as small but reputable, theatres and auditoriums. The Mariinsky Theatre (called the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet during the Soviet period) has long enjoyed an international reputation, and its resident company is frequently on tour abroad. Other important theatres are the Maly, Tovstonogov, Pushkin, and Musical Comedy theatres. The largest of several concert halls is the October Great Concert Hall, which seats some 4,000 people. The city’s musical tradition has been enhanced by the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. Notable museums include the Hermitage and the State Russian Museum, both of international prominence. The latter museum traces the history of Russian art from the 10th century to the present. St. Petersburg is a significant centre of the country’s motion-picture industry and has been host to the annual Kino Expo International Convention for Russian cinema at its exhibition centre on the waterfront.

There are a large number of libraries in the city, headed by the Saltykov-Shchedrin Public Library on Nevsky Prospekt, established in 1795; of all the libraries in Russia, it is second only to Moscow’s Russian State Library (formerly the V.I. Lenin Library). Another important specialized collection is the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House), on Vasilyevsky Island.

St. Petersburg has abundant recreational facilities and green spaces for such a large city. Among the notable stadiums in the area is Kirov Stadium. Other opportunities for outdoor recreation are provided by the Kirov Park of Culture and Rest, the zoo, the botanical gardens, and numerous other smaller parks and gardens.

People

The population of St. Petersburg is overwhelmingly Russian. Before the Revolution the city had sizable Polish, Baltic, and German communities and smaller Tatar, Jewish, and Chinese communities. A disproportionate number of non-ethnic-Russian residents of St. Petersburg emigrated soon after the Revolution of 1917. Many of those who remained in the city were victims of purges during the rule of Joseph Stalin that sent millions of alleged “enemies” to prison camps in the 1930s. In the interwar period St. Petersburg continued to act as a magnet for Russian peasant labour, and, even in the more homogeneous postwar city, newcomers tended to equal the number of those native to St. Petersburg; however, by the end of the 20th century more than half of the population was native to the city. Over the course of the post-Soviet period, hate crimes became common in St. Petersburg; those usually targeted were immigrants, mostly from Asia, Africa, and the former Soviet republics. Nevertheless, observers have commonly ascribed certain traits to St. Petersburg residents-politeness, sophistication, a slight reserve-that have seemingly passed from generation to generation. The old intelligentsia is no more, but many people in St. Petersburg, living in a city designed as a cultural centre, consider themselves to be the most cultivated of Russians.

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