Russia Geography St Petersburg

St Petersburg

On 16 May 1703, Peter the Great laid the foundations of a fort on Zayachy (Hare) Island, not far from the mouth of the River Neva. The construction was based on the tsar’s own design and became known as the Peter and Paul Fortress. On the surrounding marshlands, Peter planned to build a new town and port. The city was originally named Piterburkh or the “town of St Peter.” St Petersburg was the capital of Russia from 1712 to 1918; to this day, it is still known as the “northern capital.”

St Petersburg is also commonly referred to as Russia’s “cultural capital.” The town has inspired important philosophical thoughts and been the setting for famous works of literature. Many new artistic movements were born and cultivated on the banks of the River Neva. All the leading Russian writers, from Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky, lived in the city.

The Mariinsky Theatre and the Hermitage Museum are synonymous with some of the finest achievements in world art. The Hermitage has over three million exhibits and four hundred exhibition rooms. The Russian Museum owns the world’s largest collection of Russian art, covering all the main movements and schools from the tenth to the twenty-first century. St Petersburg is home to almost two hundred museums.

Known as the Venice of the North, St Petersburg has the highest number of bridges in Europe and the second-highest number of canals and islands. The buildings were designed by such talented European architects as Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, Carlo Rossi, Giacomo Quarenghi and Auguste de Montferrand. Today, St Petersburg is one of the world’s most beautiful cities – an eclectic mixture of white nights in summer, cold nights in winter, and a long and rich history.

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