Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg

Jan 31, 2009, 3:11 AM |

Saint Petersburg

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Saint Petersburg (English)
Санкт-Петербург Sankt-Peterbúrg (Russian)

The English Embankment with Saint Isaac's Cathedral

Location of Saint Petersburg in Europe
59°56′N 30°20′E / 59.933°N 30.333°E / 59.933; 30.333Coordinates: 59°56′N 30°20′E / 59.933°N 30.333°E / 59.933; 30.333
Coat of Arms Flag
City Day: May 27
Political status
Federal district
Economic region
Federal city
Code 78
Area 606 km² (234 sq mi)
Population (as of the 2002 Census)
- Rank
- Density
4,662,547 inhabitants
7,694/km² (19,927.4/sq mi)
Head Valentina Matviyenko (UR)
Legislative body Legislative Assembly
Charter Charter of Saint Petersburg
Founded 27 May, 1703
Became the capital of Russia 8 May, 1713
Renamed Petrograd 31 August, 1914
Capital moved back to Moscow 1918
Renamed Leningrad 26 January, 1924
Renamed St. Petersburg 1 November, 1991
Other information
Postal code 190000–199406
Dialing code +7 812
Official website

Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербу́рг, tr.: Sankt-Peterburg, Russian pronunciation: [sankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk]) is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (Петрогра́д, 1914–1924) and Leningrad (Ленингра́д, 1924–1991). It is often called just Petersburg (Петербу́рг).

Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (1713–1728, 1732–1918). Saint Petersburg ceased being the capital in 1918 after the Russian Revolution of 1917.[1] It is Russia's second largest and Europe's third largest city after Moscow and London.[2] The city has 4.6 million inhabitants, and over 6 million people live in its vicinity. Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea.

Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Western city of Russia.[3] Among cities of the world with over one million people, Saint Petersburg is the northernmost. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Russia's political and cultural center for 200 years, the city is sometimes referred to in Russia as the northern capital. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and other businesses are located in Saint Petersburg.



[edit] History

On 1 May, 1703, during the Great Northern War, Peter the Great captured the Swedish fortress of Nyenskans on the Neva river in Ingria. A few weeks later, on 27 May, 1703 (May 16, Old Style), lower on the river, on Zayachy (Hare) Island, three miles (5 km) inland from the gulf, he laid down the Peter and Paul Fortress, which became the first brick and stone building of the new city. He named the city after his patron saint, Saint Peter, the apostle. The original name was meant to sound like Dutch due to Peter's obsession with the Dutch culture.[4] The city was built by conscripted serfs from all over Russia and also by Swedish prisoners of war[5] under the supervision of Alexander Menshikov and later became the center of Saint Petersburg Governorate. Peter moved the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg in 1712, before the Treaty of Nystad of 1721 ended the war and annexed the territory to Russia.

The Bronze Horseman, monument to Peter the Great.
Lenin statue outside the Finland station. Between 1924 and 1991 the city was named Leningrad.
Map of Saint Petersburg, 1903.
The Peter and Paul Fortress.
Church of the Savior on Blood.
Civilians struggled to survive during the Siege of Leningrad.

During the first few years of its existence the city grew spontaneously around Trinity Square on the right bank of the Neva, near the Peter and Paul Fortress. However, Saint Petersburg soon started to develop according to a plan. By 1716 Domenico Trezzini had elaborated a project whereby the city center would be located on Vasilievsky Island and shaped by a rectangular grid of canals. The project was not completed, but is still evident in the layout of the streets. In 1716 Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond was appointed chief architect of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great. 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.

However, in 1725 Peter died. His near-lifelong autocratic push for modernization of Russia had met with considerable opposition from the old-fashioned Russian nobility --resulting in several attempts on his life and a treason case involving his own son.[6] Thus, 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 again became the capital of the Russian Empire and remained the seat of the government for 186 years.

In 1736-1737 the city suffered from catastrophic fires. In order to rebuild the damaged boroughs, in 1737 a new plan was commissioned by a committee under Burkhard Christoph von Munnich. The city was divided into five boroughs, and the city center was moved to the Admiralty borough, situated on the left bank between the Neva and Fontanka. It developed along three radial streets, which meet at the Admiralty and are now known as Nevsky Prospekt (which is now perceived as the main street of the city), Gorokhovaya Street and Voznesensky Prospekt. The style of Baroque dominated the city architecture 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 the Baroque architecture was succeeded by the neoclassical architecture.

The Commission of Stone Buildings of Moscow and Saint Petersburg established in 1762 ruled that no structure in the city 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 wasn't until 1850 that it was allowed to open the first permanent bridge across the Neva, Blagoveshchensky Bridge. Before that, only pontoon bridges were allowed. Obvodny Canal (dug in 1769-1833) became the southern limit of the city. Some of the most important neoclassical architects in Saint Petersburg (including those working within the Empire style) were 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 Isaac's Cathedral, Alexander Column). The victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812 was commemorated with many monuments, including Alexander Column by Montferrand, erected in 1834, and Narva Triumphal Gate.

In 1825 the suppressed Decembrist revolt against Nicholas I of Russia took place on the Senate Square in the city, a day after he assumed the throne.

By the 1840s the neoclassical architecture had given place to various romanticist styles, which were dominant until the 1890s, represented by such architects as Andrei Stackenschneider (Mariinsky Palace, Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Nicholas Palace, New Michael Palace) and Konstantin Thon (Moskovsky Rail Terminal). The Church of the Savior on Blood designed in the Russian revival style commemorated the place where Alexander II of Russia was assassinated in 1881.

With the emancipation of the serfs undertaken by Alexander II in 1861 and the 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 and grew into one of the largest industrial hubs and cities in Europe.

The Revolution of 1905 began in Saint Petersburg and spread rapidly into the provinces. With the start of World War I, the name Saint Petersburg was perceived to be too German, so in 1914 the city was renamed Petrograd.[7] In 1917 the February Revolution, which put an end to the Russian monarchy, and the October Revolution, which ultimately brought Vladimir Lenin to power, broke out in Petrograd.[8] The city's proximity to the border and anti-Soviet armies forced the Bolsheviks under Lenin to transfer the capital to Moscow on March 5, 1918. In 1919 during the ensuing Russian Civil War Nikolay Yudenich advancing from Estonia was about to capture the city from the Bolsheviks, but Leon Trotsky ultimately managed to mobilize the population and make him retreat. Many people fled the city in 1917-1920 or were repressed in the Red Terror,[9] so its population decreased dramatically. On January 24, 1924, three days after Lenin's death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad. For decades Leningrad was glorified by the Soviet propaganda as "the cradle of the revolution" and "the city of three revolutions", many spots related to Lenin and the revolutions, such as the cruiser Aurora, were carefully preserved. Many streets and other toponyms were renamed accordingly.

In the 1920s-1930s the poor outskirts were reconstructed into regularly planned boroughs. The constructivist architecture flourished around that time. The Soviets nationalized housing and forced many residents to share communal apartments (kommunalkas). With 68% living in shared apartments in the 1930s, Leningrad was the city with the largest number of kommunalkas. In 1935 a new general plan was outlined, whereby the city should expand to the south and its center should move there. The constructivism was rejected in favor of the pompous Stalinist architecture. Stalin ordered the construction of the new city hall on Moskovsky Prospect thus making it the new main street of Leningrad during the Soviet rule.

Since December 1931 Leningrad has been administratively separate from Leningrad Oblast. At that time it included Leningrad Suburban District, some parts of which were transferred back to Leningrad Oblast in 1936 and turned into Vsevolozhsky District, Krasnoselsky District, Pargolovsky District and Slutsky District (renamed Pavlovsky District in 1944).[10]

On December 1, 1934, Sergey Kirov, popular communist leader of Leningrad, was assassinated, which was used to start the Great Purge.[11] The sizeable minorities of Germans, Poles, Finns, Estonians and Latvians were almost completely expelled from Leningrad by the Soviet government during the 1930s.[12]

During World War II, Leningrad was besieged by Nazi Germany and co-belligerent Finland.[13] The siege lasted 872 days[13] from September 1941 to January 1944.[14] The Siege of Leningrad was one of the longest, most destructive, and most lethal sieges of major cities in modern history. It isolated the city from most supplies except those provided through the Road of Life across Lake Ladoga, and more than a million civilians died, mainly from starvation. Many others were eventually evacuated or escaped by themselves, so the city became largely depopulated. For the heroic resistance of the city and tenacity of the survivors of the Siege, in 1945 Leningrad became the first city in the Soviet Union awarded the title Hero City. In October 1946 some former Finnish territories along the northern coast of the Gulf of Finland captured in the Winter War and Continuation War were transferred from Leningrad Oblast to Leningrad and divided into Sestroretsky District and Kurortny District, including the town of Terijoki (renamed Zelenogorsk in 1948).[10]

Leningrad and many of its suburbs were rebuilt over the post-war decades, partially according to the pre-war plans. The 1948 general plan of Leningrad featured radial urban development in the north as well as in the south. The Leningrad Metro, underground rapid transit system which was designed before the war in the 1930s, was opened in 1955 with its first seven stations decorated with marble and bronze. Meanwhile, in 1949-1951 a large number of prominent Leningrad members of the Communist Party and their families were charged with treason and intention to create an anti-Soviet organization out of their local party cell. Many were imprisoned or executed in the Leningrad Affair fabricated by the central Soviet leadership.[15][16]

In 1953 Pavlovsky District of Leningrad Oblast was abolished, and parts of its territory including Pavlovsk merged with Leningrad. In 1954 the settlements Levashovo, Pargolovo and Pesochny merged with Leningrad.[10]

After the death of Stalin the perceived ornamental excesses of the Stalinist architecture were abandoned. In the 1960s-1980s, as many new residential boroughs were built on the outskirts with few series of functionalist apartment blocks identical to each other, lots of families moved there from kommunalkas in the city center in order to live in separate apartments.

Uritsk was re-named Ligovo and merged with Leningrad in 1963, Lomonosov merged in 1978.[10]

On June 12, 1991, in a referendum held on the same day as the first Russian presidential election, 54% of voters chose to restore the name "Saint Petersburg" (the change officially took effect on September 6, 1991). Many other Soviet-era toponyms in the city were also renamed soon afterwards. In the same election Anatoly Sobchak became the first democratically elected mayor of the city.[17]

By the end of 1991 the deteriorating planned economy of the collapsing Soviet Union had put the city on the verge of starvation. For the first time since World War II food rationing was introduced, and the city received humanitarian food aid from abroad. The city somewhat recovered with the market reforms in Russia. In 1995-2004 a northern section of the Metro's Kirovsko-Vyborgskaya Line was cut off by underground flooding, which was a major obstacle to the city development.

In 1996, Vladimir Yakovlev was elected as head of the Saint Petersburg City Administration. The title of the city head was changed in advance from "mayor" to "governor". In 2003, Yakovlev resigned a year before his second term expired. Valentina Matviyenko was elected governor. In 2006 she was reapproved as governor by the city legislature.

The residential building had intensified again and had become more architecturally diverse by the 2000s, though real estate prices inflated greatly.

[edit] Geography

Territory of the federal subject of Saint Petersburg.

The area of Saint Petersburg city proper is 605.8 km2 (233.9 sq mi). The area of the federal subject is 1,439 km2 (556 sq mi), which contains the Saint Petersburg proper (consisting of 81 okrugs), nine suburban towns (Kolpino, Krasnoye Selo, Kronstadt, Lomonosov, Pavlovsk, Peterhof, Pushkin, Sestroretsk and Zelenogorsk) and 21 municipal settlements.

Saint 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 m (577 ft) at the Orekhovaya Hill in the Duderhof Heights in the south. Part of the city's territory west of Liteyny Prospekt is no higher than 4 m (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 most disastrous floods occurred in 1824 (421 cm/13.8 ft above sea-level[18]), 1924 380 cm/12.5 ft, 1777 321 cm/10.5 ft, 1955 293 cm/9.6 ft and 1975 281 cm/9.2 ft. To prevent floods, the Saint Petersburg Dam has been under construction since 1979.[19]

Since the 18th century the terrain in the city has been raised artificially, at some places by more than 4 m (13 ft), making mergers of several islands, and changing the hydrology of the city. Besides the Neva and its distributaries, 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.

Saint Petersburg's position on the latitude of ca. 60° N causes variation in day length across seasons, ranging from 5:53 to 18:50. Twilight may last all night in early summer, from mid-May to mid-July, the celebrated phenomenon known as the white nights.

[edit] Climate

Snow, falling at the morning of May 14, 2008 at Srednyaya Rogatka (district in the south of St. Petersburg)

Saint Petersburg experiences a humid continental climate of the cool summer subtype (Köppen: Dfb), due to the distinct moderating influence of the Baltic Sea cyclons. With cool, humid and short summers and long, cold winters, the city is just short of having a subarctic climate ((Köppen: Dfc). The average daily temperature in July is 22 °C (72 °F)