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Imperial Era (1703–1917)
Swedish colonists built
Nyenskans, a fortress, at the mouth of the
Neva River in 1611, in a land then called
Ingermanland, that was inhabited by
Finnic tribe of
Ingrians. A small town called "Nyen" grew up around it.
Peter the Great was interested in seafaring and maritime affairs, and he intended to have Russia gain a seaport in order to be able to trade with other maritime nations.
 He needed a better seaport than
Arkhangelsk, which was on the
White Sea to the north and closed to shipping for months during the winter.
On May 12 [
O.S. 1] 1703, during the
Great Northern War,
Peter the Great captured Nyenskans
 and soon replaced the fortress. On May 27 [
O.S. 16] 1703,
 closer to the
estuary 5 km (3 mi) inland from the
Zayachy (Hare) Island, he laid down the
Peter and Paul Fortress, which became the first brick and stone building of the new city.
The city was built by
conscripted peasants from all over Russia; a number of Swedish
prisoners of war were also involved in some years
 under the supervision of
Alexander Menshikov. Tens of thousands of serfs died building the city.
 Later, the city became the centre of the
Saint Petersburg Governorate. Peter moved the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg in 1712, 9 years before the
Treaty of Nystad of 1721 ended the war; he referred to Saint Petersburg as the capital (or seat of government) as early as 1704.
Map of Saint Petersburg, 1744
During its first few years, the city developed around Trinity Square on the right bank of the Neva, near the Peter and Paul Fortress. However, Saint Petersburg soon started to be built out according to a plan. By 1716 the
Domenico Trezzini had elaborated a project whereby the city centre would be located on
Vasilyevsky Island and shaped by a rectangular grid of canals. The project was not completed, but is evident in the layout of the streets. In 1716, Peter the Great appointed Frenchman
Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond as the
chief architect of Saint Petersburg.
The style of
Petrine Baroque, developed by Trezzini and other architects and exemplified by such buildings as the
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.
In 1725, Peter died at the age of fifty-two. His endeavours to modernize Russia had met with opposition from the
Russian nobility—resulting in several attempts on his life and a treason case involving his son.
 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 was again designated as the capital of the
Russian Empire. It remained the seat of the
Romanov dynasty and the Imperial Court of the
Russian Tsars, as well as the seat of the Russian government, for another 186 years until the
communist revolution of 1917.
In 1736–1737 the city suffered from catastrophic fires. To rebuild the damaged boroughs, a committee under
Burkhard Christoph von Münnich commissioned a new plan in 1737. The city was divided into five boroughs, and the city center was moved to the Admiralty borough, situated on the east bank between the Neva and
It developed along three radial streets, which meet at the
Admiralty building and are now one street known as
Nevsky Prospekt (which is considered the main street of the city),
Gorokhovaya Street and
Baroque architecture became dominant in the city during the first sixty years, culminating in the Elizabethan Baroque, represented most notably by Italian
Bartolomeo Rastrelli with such buildings as the
Winter Palace. In the 1760s, Baroque architecture was succeeded by
Established in 1762, the Commission of Stone Buildings of Moscow and Saint Petersburg ruled that no structure in the city can 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
However, it was not until 1850 that the first permanent bridge across the Neva,
Blagoveshchensky Bridge, was allowed to open. Before that, only
pontoon bridges were allowed.
Obvodny Canal (dug in 1769–1833) became the southern limit of the city.
The most prominent neoclassical and
Empire-style architects in Saint Petersburg included:
Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe (
Imperial Academy of Arts,
New Holland Arch,
Catholic Church of St. Catherine)
Antonio Rinaldi (
Yury Felten (
Giacomo Quarenghi (Academy of Sciences,
Andrey Voronikhin (
Andreyan Zakharov (
Jean-François Thomas de Thomon (
Spit of Vasilievsky Island)
Carlo Rossi (
Senate and Synod Buildings,
General staff Building, design of many streets and squares)
Vasily Stasov (
Moscow Triumphal Gate,
Auguste de Montferrand (
Saint Isaac's Cathedral,
Alexander I established the first engineering
Higher learning institution, the
Saint Petersburg Main military engineering School in Saint Petersburg. Many monuments commemorate the Russian victory over
Napoleonic France in the
Patriotic War of 1812, including the
Alexander Column by Montferrand, erected in 1834, and the
Narva Triumphal Gate.
In 1825, the suppressed
Decembrist revolt against
Nicholas I took place on the
Senate Square in the city, a day after Nicholas assumed the throne.
By the 1840s, neoclassical architecture had given way to various romanticist styles, which dominated until the 1890s, represented by such architects as
Andrei Stackenschneider (
New Michael Palace) and
Konstantin Thon (
Moskovsky railway station).
emancipation of the serfs undertaken by
Alexander II in 1861 and an
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; it developed as one of the largest industrial cities in Europe, with a major naval base (in
Kronstadt), river and sea port.
The names of saints
Paul, bestowed upon
original city's citadel and its
cathedral (from 1725—a
burial vault of Russian emperors) coincidentally were the names of the first two assassinated Russian Emperors,
Peter III (1762, supposedly killed in a conspiracy led by his wife,
Catherine the Great) and
Paul I (1801,
Nicholas Zubov and other conspirators who brought to power
Alexander I, the son of their victim). The third emperor's assassination took place in Petersburg in 1881 when
Alexander II fell victim to
narodniki (see the
Church of the Savior on Blood).
Revolution of 1905 began in Saint Petersburg and spread rapidly into the provinces.
On September 1, 1914, after the outbreak of
World War I, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd,
 meaning "Peter's City", to remove the German words
Revolution and Soviet Era (1917–1941)
In March 1917, during the
February Revolution Nicholas II abdicated both for himself and on behalf of his son, ending the Russian monarchy and over three hundred years of
On November 7, 1917 (
OS October 25), the
Bolsheviks, led by
Vladimir Lenin, stormed the
Winter Palace in an event known thereafter as the
October Revolution, which led to the end of the post-Tsarist
provisional government, the transfer of all political power to the
Soviets, and the rise of the
 After that the city acquired a new descriptive name, "the city of three revolutions",
 referring to the three major developments in the political history of Russia of the early 20th-century.
In September and October 1917, German troops
West Estonian archipelago and threatened Petrograd with bombardment and invasion. On March 12, 1918, the Soviets transferred the government to Moscow, to keep it away from the state border. During the ensuing
Civil War, in 1919 general
Yudenich advancing from Estonia repeated the attempt to capture the city, but
Leon Trotsky mobilized the army and forced him to retreat.
On January 26, 1924, five days after Lenin's death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad. Later some streets and other
toponyms were renamed accordingly. The city has over 230 places associated with the life and activities of Lenin. Some of them were turned into museums,
 including the
cruiser Aurora – a symbol of the October Revolution and the oldest ship in the
In the 1920s and 1930s, the poor outskirts were reconstructed into regularly planned boroughs.
Constructivist architecture flourished around that time. Housing became a government-provided
amenity; many "bourgeois" apartments were so large that numerous families were assigned to what were called "communal" apartments (
kommunalkas). By the 1930s, 68% of the population lived in such housing. In 1935 a new general plan was outlined, whereby the city should expand to the south. Constructivism was rejected in favor of a more pompous
Stalinist architecture. Moving the city center further from the border with Finland,
Stalin adopted a plan to build a new city hall with a huge adjacent square at the southern end of
Moskovsky Prospekt, designated as the new main street of Leningrad. After the Second World War, the Soviet-Finnish border moved northwards. Nevsky Prospekt with Palace Square maintained the functions and the role of a city center.
In December 1931, Leningrad was administratively separated from
Leningrad Oblast. At that time it included the Leningrad Suburban District, some parts of which were transferred back to Leningrad Oblast in 1936 and turned into
Krasnoselsky District, Pargolovsky District and Slutsky District (renamed Pavlovsky District in 1944).
On December 1, 1934,
Sergey Kirov, the popular communist leader of Leningrad, was assassinated, which became the pretext for the
World War II (1941–1945)
Citizens of Leningrad during the 872-day
, in which more than one million civilians died.
World War II,
German forces besieged Leningrad following the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.
 The siege lasted 872 days,
 from September 1941 to January 1944.
Siege of Leningrad proved one of the longest, most destructive, and
most lethal sieges of a major city in
modern history. It isolated the city from most supplies except those provided through the
Road of Life across
Lake Ladoga. More than one million civilians were killed, mainly from starvation. Many others were eventually evacuated or escaped, so the city became largely depopulated.
On May 1, 1945
Joseph Stalin, in his Supreme Commander Order No. 20, named Leningrad, alongside
hero cities of the war. A law acknowledging the honorary title of "Hero City" passed on May 8, 1965 (the 20th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War), during the
Brezhnev era. The
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR awarded Leningrad as a Hero City the
Order of Lenin and the
Gold Star medal "for the heroic resistance of the city and tenacity of the survivors of the Siege". The
Hero-City Obelisk bearing the
Gold Star sign was installed in April 1985.
Soviet Era Continued (1945–1991)
In October 1946 some territories along the northern coast of the
Gulf of Finland, which had passed to the USSR from Finland in 1940 under the
peace treaty following the
Winter War, were transferred from Leningrad Oblast to Leningrad and divided into
Sestroretsky District and
Kurortny District. These included the town of
Zelenogorsk in 1948).
 Leningrad and many of its suburbs were rebuilt over the post-war decades, partially according to pre-war plans. The 1948 general plan for Leningrad featured radial
urban development in the north as well as in the south. In 1953
Pavlovsky District in Leningrad Oblast was abolished, and parts of its territory, including Pavlovsk, merged with Leningrad. In 1954 the settlements
Pesochny merged with Leningrad.
Leningrad gave its name to the
Leningrad Affair (1949–1952), a notable event in the postwar political struggle in the
USSR. It was a product of rivalry between Stalin's potential successors where one side was represented by the leaders of the city
Communist Party organization—the second most significant one in the country after Moscow. The entire elite leadership of Leningrad was destroyed, including the former mayor
Kuznetsov, the acting mayor Pyotr Sergeevich Popkov, and all their deputies; overall 23 leaders were sentenced to the death penalty, 181 to prison or exile (exonerated in 1954). About 2,000 ranking officials across the USSR were expelled from the party and the Komsomol and removed from leadership positions. They were accused (almost entirely falsely) of Russian
Leningrad Metro underground
rapid transit system, designed before the war, opened in 1955 with its first eight stations decorated with
bronze. However, after the death of Stalin in 1953, the perceived ornamental excesses of the Stalinist architecture were abandoned. From the 1960s to the 1980s many new residential boroughs were built on the outskirts; while the
functionalist apartment blocks were nearly identical to each other, many families moved there from kommunalkas in the city centre in order to live in separate apartments.
Contemporary Era (1991-present)
View from the Colonnade, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Petersburg
On June 12, 1991, simultaneously with the
first Russian presidential elections, the city authorities arranged for the mayoral elections and a referendum upon the name of the city. The turnout was 65%; 66.13% of the total count of votes went to
Anatoly Sobchak, who became the first directly elected
mayor of the city.
Meanwhile, economic conditions started to deteriorate as the country tried to adapt to major changes. For the first time since the 1940s, food
rationing was introduced, and the city received humanitarian
food aid from abroad.
 This dramatic time was depicted in photographic series of Russian photographer
 Economic conditions began to improve only at the beginning of the 21st century.
 In 1995 a northern section of the
Kirovsko-Vyborgskaya Line of the
Saint Petersburg Metro was cut off by underground flooding, creating a major obstacle to the city development for almost ten years.
Vladimir Yakovlev defeated
Anatoly Sobchak in the elections for the head of the
city administration. The title of the city head was changed from "mayor" to "governor". In 2000 Yakovlev won re-election. His second term expired in 2004; the long-awaited restoration of broken subway connection was expected to finish by that time. But in 2003 Yakovlev suddenly resigned, leaving the governor's office to
Standard "Home-Ship" (1970s–1980s)
The law on election of the City Governor was changed, breaking the tradition of democratic election by a universal suffrage. In 2006 the
city legislature re-approved Matviyenko as governor. Residential building had intensified again;
real-estate prices inflated greatly, which caused many new problems for the preservation of the historical part of the city.
Although the central part of the city has a
UNESCO designation (there are about 8,000 architectural monuments in Petersburg), the preservation of its historical and architectural environment became controversial.
 After 2005, the demolition of older buildings in the historical centre was permitted.
 In 2006
Gazprom announced an ambitious project to erect a
396-meter skyscraper opposite to
Smolny, which could result in the loss of the unique line of Petersburg landscape. Urgent protests by citizens and prominent public figures of Russia against this project were not considered by Governor
Valentina Matviyenko and the city authorities until December 2010, when after the statement of President
Dmitry Medvedev, the city decided to find a more appropriate location for this project. In the same year, the new location for the project was relocated to
Lakhta, a historical area northwest of the center city, and the new project would be named
Lakhta Center. Construction was approved by Gazprom and the city administration and commenced in 2012. The Lakhta Center would be the first
tallest skyscraper in Russia and
Europe that is outside of