All about Saint-Petersburg
Let us introduce His Majesty Saint-Petersburg!
Saint-Petersburg is a special, ‘premeditated’ city, as Dostoevsky put it. It stands alone from other cities of the world because of its history, geographical location and outstanding residents. Here are some features that form its image...
Saint-Petersburg is the youngest of European big cities
Even the land where it is located emerged not so long ago: by that time Confucius had already written his main works, Buddha had already completed his adventure on Earth, the “Ulysses” and the “Iliad” had already been written and Egypt conquered by the Persians.
So you cannot find hoary antiquity in Saint-Petersburg, but the post-Petrine Russia is better represented here than in any other city of the Russian Empire. There is no other place in the world where you find so many pieces of Neoclassical, Eclectic, Modern and Retrospective architecture. The historical center of Saint-Petersburg and the palace and park ensembles of its suburbs have been included in UNESCO’s world heritage lists.
Saint-Petersburg is the northernmost of the world large cities, and the largest northern city in the world: it stands on the 60th parallel that passes through Greenland, Alaska (the town of Anchorage), Magadan and the capital of Norway, Oslo.
The Youngest European City in the World
The territory where it stands appeared not so long ago. By the time the land of the city was formed, Confucius had already written his main works, Buddha had already completed his earth travels, the Ulysses and the Iliad had already been written and the Persians had conquered Egypt. So, you cannot find the real antiquity in Petersburg, but it represents the best examples of Russia in Peter the Great epoch. There is no other place in the world where you find so many works of architecture in Neoclassic, Modern and Retrospective style. The historical center of St.Petersburg and ensembles of palaces and parks in its suburbs have been included in UNESCO’s world heritage lists.
St.Petersburg is the most northern large city, and the largest northern city in the world. It stands on the 60th parallel that passes through Greenland, Alaska(the town of Anchorage), Magadan and the capital of Norway, Oslo.
The City of White Nights
What natural phenomenon makes Petersburg a special attraction?
White nights enchant all the guests of the city and give it a unique charm and attraction.
They start from May 25 or 26 when the sun does not dip below the horizon lower than 9° and the evening and morning twilight basically blend.
The longest days of the year are June 21 and 22, they last 18 hours 53 minutes each. Lasting for more that 50 days, the white nights period is over by July 16 or 17.
No one has ever described the charm of this period of time better than Alexander Pushkin:
.. One dawn’s in haste after the other,
Giving the night but half an hour…
City of the Rivers and Canals
The Neva River is the main water thoroughfare of Saint-Petersburg. Only 74 kilometers in length, it carries more water than the Dnepr or the Don River. In fact, it’s barely a river, but rather a canal running between the Ladoga Lake and the Baltic Sea. For centuries, this region was considered to be wretched: devastating floods, strong winds and mosquitoes. Only ‘the Finnish fishermen, contemptible outcasts of nature’ could inhabit these ‘frail, sickly shores’ (Pushkin). Thus, Peter the Great’s decision to found a new Russian capital here seemed entirely absurd. But genius is capable of overcoming circumstances.
So Saint-Petersburg is indeed a city standing on water!
Powerful submarine waters underlie Saint-Petersburg. They often break surface in the form of springs and feeders, which feed the fountains of Peterhof and Pavlovsk.
However, not only the abundance of rivers and canals makes Saint-Petersburg the city standing on Water: there is a real BOG within the city! The bog of Lakhta lies within Yuntolovsky reserve which was declared nature-sanctuary.
City of Inventions, Knowledge and Sciences
It was exactly in Saint-Petersburg where Russian civic alphabet was created. For centuries before that Russians used a very complicated Orthodox alphabet, and only in 1710 Peter I ordered to prepare a special list ‘with the images of Slavic block and written letters’ from which he blotted out all the inappropriate symbols with his own hand.
The Museum City of Bridges
Saint-Petersburg is the European champion in terms of bridges, and a vice-champion in terms of canal and islands. If you include the suburbs, you find 64 rivers, 48 canals, 170 kilometers of embankments, almost 100 islands and 800 bridges here (Venice has more canals and islands but less bridges).
The number of tour boats, motorboats and motor ships is growing every year, and failing to view the city from the water is an unpardonable thing to do.
Did you know that if you stand on Troitsky Bridge, you can see 7 bridges at once: Liteiny, Palace, Ioannovsky, Prachechny, Verkhne-Lebyazhy, Dvorcovyi and Bridge of Stroiteley.
Streets, Prospects and Squares
Some streets of different parts of the city had the same names and there were a lot of twin-streets on the maps of the last century. There were 15 of Rozhdestvenskaya streets, 11 of Tserkovnaya streets, 14 of Bezimyannaya street and 21 of Alexander’s streets. It’s hard to find a single street in Saint-Petersburg that wouldn’t have changed two or three names, sometimes more. For instance: Nevskaya perspektiva – Nevsky prospect – prospect of the 25th of October – Nevsky prospect – Gryaznaya (Dirty) Street – Nikolaevskaya street – prospect of the 27th of February – Marata street/
Saint-Petersburg is a heroic city. As if two neutron bombs have been detonated over the city for the last 100 years, one during the Civil War and another during the Siege of Leningrad: the population was massively reduced, but the buildings remained almost untouched. But each time, Saint-Petersburg managed to survive and restore its unique spirit and character.
The Revolutionary City
Saint-Petersburg is a dangerous city for the authorities. Before the revolution, the heir to the throne, Prince Alexei Petrovich, three emperors (Peter III, Paul I and Alexander II), two internal affairs ministers and one city administrator were killed (another city administrator was severely injured).
Since its foundation, there have been five palace coups, the Decembrist uprising and three revolutions in Saint-Petersburg. The Bolsheviks executed three grand dukes here.
Among the leaders of the city communist organization, nine were shot and one, Kirov, was murdered under mysterious circumstances; another one, Zhdanov, was allegedly poisoned…
Saint-Petersburg is the largest non-capital city in Europe.
Since the beginning of the XIXth century it has remained the fourth largest city in Europe in terms of population, always behind Paris and London, and often either leading or giving way to Berlin, Vienna, Naples and Moscow.
With a current population of 4.7 million, it still remains the fourth in Europe after Paris (9.5 million), Moscow (9.3 million) and London (7.6 million).
The transfer of the capital to Moscow in 1918 had certain benefits for Saint-Petersburg, allowing the uniquely high proportion of old buildings in the center to be preserved.
During the Soviet era, Leningrad was considered to be a provincial city, and shortages in financing left the masterpieces of socialist architecture out of the city. There wasn’t even enough dynamite to demolish churches, and new housing construction was carried out on the outskirts of the city.
As a result, a vast number of residential stone buildings of the pre-Revolutionary period were preserved: about 8,000 in total.
From Obvodny Canal to the Bolshaya Nevka River, and from the Alexandro-Nevskaya Lavra to the commercial port, the city remains almost as it was in 1917.
The City of Booklovers, Cranks, Savants and Unappreciated Genii
The loss of its status as a capital has given Petersburgers a unique mentality. The pace of life here is less intensive, but in no other city you can find so many experts on local attractions and legends. This is a city of booklovers, cranks, savants and unappreciated genii.
‘Leningrad has a poignant fixation on its status of a spiritual center that has been somewhat deprived of its administrative rights. The combination of inferiority and superiority makes him a very sarcastic gentleman’, - Sergei Dovlatov wrote.
The City of Three Names
During the XXth century, the city had changed its name three times, which is unprecedented: until 1914 it was named Saint-Petersburg; from 1914 till 1924 it was Petrograd; from 1924 till 1991 it was Leningrad, and from 1991 on it regained the name of Saint-Petersburg.
Official symbols of the city
The emblem of Saint-Petersburg was adopted from the city’s first governor, Prince Menshikov, depicting a flaming heart under a crown. It was a symbol that had first appeared on the flags of the Nevsky Regiment during the Northern War in 1712.
In the 1720s, the assistant to the master of arms Count Santi designed a new symbol for the city, reflecting its capital and port status: a golden scepter on the dark-red background of a heraldic coat of arms, with sea and river anchors depicted above the scepter.
In 1857, under Alexander II, this composition was topped with the imperial crown, added with scepters under the dark-red coat of arms and the ribbon of the Andreyevsky Order. After the revolution, Santi’s emblem was replaced where necessary by the Soviet hammer and sickle with spikelet.
The current emblem, restored in 1991, is closer in its conciseness to the emblem of the era of Catherine II – a coat of arms with no framing.
Do you know where you can see over half a thousand images of the emblem of Saint-Petersburg? The bars of Liteiny Bridge that was opened on September 30, 1879 feature 546 coats of arms on both sides of the bridge, which depict the scepters and crossed anchors. Mermaids hold both sides of the emblem of Saint-Petersburg
The flag of Saint-Petersburg represents a red square width in the center of which two upturned crossed white anchors are depicted (one for the sea, the other for rivers), with a gold scepter and two-headed eagle placed over them.
Do you know that on April 13, 1999 the flag of Saint-Petersburg was planted in the North pole?
For years, the main song of Saint-Petersburg was performed without words, as the melody to ‘Hymn to the Great City’ had been adopted from the ballet ‘The Bronze Horseman’, composed in 1949 by Reinhold Glier.
For the city’s 300th anniversary celebrations, however, a decision was taken to improve this situation: in 2002, the Legislative Assembly announced an open competition to find the best lyrics for the song. The competition was won by the poet Oleg Chuprov, and now his lyrics have been officially recognized as the text to the hymn of Saint-Petersburg. Among the general public, however, the song has not won widespread popularity.
Local patriots appear to be keener on ‘Evening Song’, composed by Vasily Solovyov-Sedov to lyrics by Alexander Churkin. As performed by fans of the Zenit football club at the Petrovsky Stadium, it goes: ‘City on the wavy Neva, where they support their own Zenit, hear, Leningrad, I sing you my soulful song’.
The Anthem of Saint-Petersburg
Majestic city hovering over the Neva,
Like a divine temple, you’re open to hearts!
Shine in the centuries in your vibrant beauty,
The Bronze Horseman preserves your breath.
Impregnable – in the hardest years
You could overcome all storms and winds!
With a sea spirit, immortal, like Russia,
Sail on, frigate, under Peter’s sail!
Saint Petersburg, remain eternally young!
You light up the coming day.
Blossom, our beautiful city!
It is an honor to share your fate!
Do you know that there are as many as… 15 cities of Saint-Petersburg in the USA?
The largest Saint-Petersburg of USA is in Florida. The city was founded in 1888 by Peter Demens, or Pyotr Alekseevich Dementyev, once the marshal of nobility in Tver..