|British Embassy in St Petersburg
191124 St Petersburg
(00 7 812 320 3200)
A powerful combination of both East and West, of things Russian
and things European, St. Petersburg owes its existence to the will
and passion of its founder, Czar Peter the Great. The Tsar
Peter I, not only chose the site in person, but drew the plans and
took charge of the construction of the new city. When it was nine
years old it became the capital of Russia and retained this status
till 1918. Even now it is referred to as the ‘Northern capital’ of
Russia and is the centre of Russian cultural life. Although, St.
Petersburg is a relatively young city, it has always been a city of
myth and mystery.
During the course of the Northern War, between
Russia and Sweden, Peter the Great constructed a fortress to protect
the newly conquered lands. The fortress was named after the
saints Peter & Paul and in May 1703, the fortress began to rise
over the Neva Marshes. Peter took this opportunity to build from
scratch a modern city that would be unlike anything ever seen before
on Russian soil. For its first few years the St. Petersburg of Peter
the Great was a small town around the fortress, but by 1712 it was
big enough to become the new Russian capital. Thus, in 1713, St.
Petersburg was proclaimed the capital of the Russian empire, leaving
Moscow to be the traditional coronation city of the Tsars. The first
structure to be built was the Peter and Paul fortress, which soon
became infamous as Russia's political dungeon. Peter’s own son was
imprisoned and executed here for treason. His remains lie in the
Saints Peter & Paul Cathedral.
The Summer Palace was built for him
in 1714, in the middle of a park laid out in the French fashion,
with fountains, ponds, clipped hedges and sculptures. There were no
bridges across the mighty Neva River and people had to be ferried
across by boat, giving St. Petersburg the name ‘Venice of the
North.’ Peter constructed; canals, 12 colleges, the Senate,
Menshikov palace, the Chamber of Art and Russia's first museum. In
1710, Peter founded the Alexander Nevsky monastery and a major
thoroughfare was built, later known as the Nevski Prospect. With its
new shipyards, industry, schools and hospital, St. Petersburg was
well on the way to becoming a Baltic metropolis. Peter the Great
died in 1725. His death introduced an unsettled period in which the
new capital was the scene of several rapid changes of monarch. The
city was fully revived when Peter's daughter Elizabeth became
Empress in 1741.
The population reached 150,000 becoming a lively
European capital once again. After 20 years of Elizabeth's reign,
St. Petersburg and its suburbs could rival the most beautiful
European cities. She commissioned the lovely Smolny Convent, Winter
Palace and established the Russian Academy of Arts. When Elizabeth
died her nephew Peter III ruled for a short period, but was
overthrown by his wife, a German princess, who soon became the
famous ‘Catherine the Great.’ Under her reign of 34 years St.
Petersburg turned into a Grand City. Catherine the Great started a
royal art collection which later became the world-famous Hermitage.
She also encouraged foreign and Russian architects to introduce a
classical style to building constructions. A monument to Catherine
was built in 1873, just off Nevsky Prospect and thousands of people
come to visit her tomb in St. Peter's and Paul's Cathedral. Over 150
years, sparked by the reign of Catherine the Great, Saint-Petersburg
became the host to Russia’s Golden Age and a Mecca to some of the
world’s greatest composers, dancers, artists, and writers.
catalyst for Russia’s renaissance, the city flowered in the music of
Tchaikovsky, Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakov; in the ballets Russes of
Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova; in the arts and crafts of
Repin, Benuas and Faberge; and in the literature and poetry of
Gogol, Dostoevsky and Pushkin. Its noble spirit was founded on
beauty, innovation and progress. However, the only way to truly
discover Saint Petersburg’s fascinating history, culture and general
way of life is to book a citybreak holiday. Contact the Russia
Travel experts or browse on-line through our Russia city breaks
deals and luxury short break packages. Enjoy our passionate
and professional holiday services.
Contact the Saint Petersburg holiday experts today:
01926 330 223