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Russian History: Saint-Petersburg

Saint Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. Every schoolchild in Russia knows that Peter dreamed of “opening a window to Europe” for Russia, which meant not only a port and fleet on the Baltic sea, but also a whole city that would look European and live according to European standards. The area around Saint Petersburg was previously known as Ingria or Ingermanland and was mostly inhabited by Finns.

Despite the fact that there was no official decree to move the capital to the North, by 1713 all the main state structures had already settled in St. Petersburg, and Peter himself began to spend all his working and free time here. Perhaps, the construction of the new capital turned out to be the most expensive of all Peter the Great's initiatives. Tens of thousands of people worked on the construction of the city, many of them died there. While Peter called St. Petersburg “paradise”, for many it became a cemetery. People from all regions were sent to build the city, many of whom were immediately counted as future residents. By 1725, the city's population reached 40 thousand people, which made Saint Petersburg the second largest city in the country.

During the reign of Catherine “The Great”, the population of Saint Petersburg grew to 160,000 people. More palaces were built in the city and its suburbs, and the Empress created an art collection that later became the Hermitage.

Saint Petersburg played a major role in the Russian revolutions. There were unsuccessful revolutions of “Dekabrists” in 1825, the February and October revolutions in 1917, as a result of which power was transferred to the bolsheviks.

Saint-Petersburg has had the status of the capital for just over 200 years. In 1918, Vladimir Lenin moved the capital back to Moscow. After his death in 1924, the city was renamed Leningrad. 

During World War II, Leningrad withstood a 900-day nazi blockade that severely reduced the city's population and catastrophically damaged the city's buildings and infrastructure. Despite this, Leningrad was able to recover quickly and soon became known as the “northern capital” and “cultural capital" of the country.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city was again renamed Saint Petersburg. The current President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, was born there and pays special attention to his hometown, even though his residence is in Moscow.

In 2003, for the 300th anniversary of the city, a complete cosmetic renovation was carried out, and many of its mansions and palaces are constantly being restored. Saint Petersburg today covers 44 islands and it is connected by more than 300 bridges. With a population of more than 6 million people, it’s still the second largest city in Russia.