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St. Petersburg is the 2nd largest Russian city of about 5 million population located at the cost of the Baltic Sea at its easternmost point, occupying scores of islands in the delta of the Neva river. St. Petersburg together with the suburbs and a few nearby towns makes up a separate constituent part of the Russian Federation with its own legislature and government.

St. Petersburg is believed to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world and is a popular tourist destination due to its cityscapes and architecture, art museums, suburban palaces and parks of the former imperial residences, and the rich cultural life. St. Petersburg is particularly attractive during the "White Nights" season: some six weeks around the summer solstice, June 21. Due to the northern city's position, there is no night darkness at all at that time, with just slightly more than 2 hours separating the sunset and sunrise. Traditionally, night festivities are taking place at the Neva embankments in late June and early July, with many cultural events scheduled for the White Nights' period.


St. Petersburg celebrated its 311 years' anniversary in the year 2014.
The city is counting its age from May 27, 1703 (May 16 by the Julian Calendar then in use); on that day, a foundation of the new city and fortress to serve a fortified outpost at the Baltic shores and a naval and merchant harbour was laid by orders of Peter I, the Tsar of Russia.

Although a relatively young city, St. Petersburg continues the cultural, political and economical traditions of the North-Western Russia that was one of the basic nuclei of the formation of Russian nation during the Middle Ages (to be accurate, the collecting proper name Rus, or Russia, did not emerge till 11th century A.D.) The centre of these lands in 89 centuries was, most probably, the town of Ladoga at the Volkhov river (now village Staraya Ladoga about 70 miles east of St. Petersburg). Since 9th century, the capital of North-Western Russia moves to Novgorod (translated into English, the name reads Newcastle), a city by the Ilmen Lake 100 miles south of the today's St. Petersburg. Later on, the northwestern Russian lands are unified with the Southern and Western Russia (which long afterwards would have become Ukraine and Belarus, respectively) under the sceptre of the Grand Ducal dynasty of Ryurik (Old Norse, Hrodrik), the southern Kiev becoming the capital city. It was only much later that the North-Eastern Russia has emerged as a result of Russian colonization, with the successive capitals at Suzdal, Vladimir and Moscow.

During the whole Middle Ages, the North-Western Russia maintained its entity, remaining very different from the other, continental, parts of the country. Its main town Novgorod (The Overlord Great Novgorod, as its subjects used to call it) was one of the biggest European towns of the time, lived mainly on crafts and commerce, and was an associated member of the Hanseatic League, an economical and political union of the towns of Northern Europe. The Novgorodians were brave trailblazers, artful seafarers and talented merchants; they were in close contacts with both all their Baltic neighbours and with scattered population of the then yet non-colonized North-Eastern Europe.
One of the most famous personalities in Russian medieval history, the Grand Duke Alexander Nevsky (Alexander of the Neva), earned his title Nevsky due to a military battle he won at the banks of the Neva river (at Ust-Izhora, now within the administrative limits of St. Petersburg some 12 miles upstream the city center) in 1240. The Neva battle was an episode in the fight between Novgorod and Sweden to divide control over the eastern Baltic region. Alexander, then a young junior prince, was at the helm of a Novgorod host that repealed an offensive by the Swedes headed by Birger; the latter also has become a famous personality in the Swedish history and folklore later on: a jarl, an almighty Sweden's ruler, and the founder of a new dynasty of the Kings of Sweden.
Novgorod enjoyed a republican rule for more than 300 years, until it was crushed by the military force and conquered by Moscow in 15th century. The xenophobic and accustomed to despotic rule political class of Moscow was little interested in the European links and wholeheartedly hated the traditional freedoms of Novgorod. So during the next 250 years, the North-Western Russia was several times savagely devastated by Moscow and then, after Moscow has been weakened by the disorderly rule of Tsar Ivan the Terrible and the following "Tumultuous Time", was simply abandoned to an invasion by neighbouring powers.

Still the values of European civilization were preserved in the Russian national character. The foundation of St. Petersburg in 1703 marked an important turn in the Russian history: a return of the nation into the sphere of European politics, economy and culture. In 1712, while only 9 years old, St. Petersburg becomes the Russian capital and remains that till 1918. The old Kingdom of Moscovia is officially transformed into the Russian Empire in 1721, and Peter I is crowned in St. Petersburg as the first Russian Emperor. During the next 200 years, St. Petersburg was developing as a capital of one of the European superpowers, a centre of manufacture, industry, trade and culture. The first Russian museum of natural history opens in St. Petersburg during the first years of city existence. The Academy of Sciences is instituted in 1724, and in the same year the first Russian University is open. Ever since the foundation, St. Petersburg was a multi-lingual and multi-confessional town: both many outstanding public figures of non-Russian nationality and ordinary craftsmen, workers, traders, people of free professions, have made a great input into the development of St. Petersburg's life and culture. By the beginning of 20th century St. Petersburg had a population of more than 1 million and was, alongside of London, Paris, Vienna and Berlin, one of the most populous and splendid European metropolises.

In 19th century, St. Petersburg becomes the cradle of the world-renown Russian classical music and ballet. The life of the brightest figure of Russian classical literature Alexander Pushkin is closely associated with St. Petersburg. The city scenery appears in many poet's writings, and the Introduction to his poem "The Bronze Horseman", "I love thee, Peter's creation...", sounds like a hymn to St. Petersburg. Perhaps the most "Petersburgian" of the Russian writers were Gogol and Dostoyevsky. The plots of many of their stories and novels are immersed in the life of St. Petersburg of 19th century, and the routes of their characters, whatever fantastic they may appear, can be easily tracked around the city streets and buildings up till now.

The bolshevik coup of 1917 marks the commencement of a new period of Russian isolationism. The capital of the country is again moved to Moscow, and the role of St. Petersburg as a gateway to the Northern Europe is reduced to a minimum. The educated classes are persecuted, the cultural life is put under a strict ideological control, and the formerly diverse economic life is mainly confined to the development of military industrial complex. The city even loses its name, being renamed into Leningrad after the bolshevik leader Lenin upon his death in 1924. Still even under the communist regime, the city population was remaining one of the most educated and liberally-minded in Russia, despite the massive repressions specifically aimed against the city's traditions and its best citizens. Many outstanding personalities of the Russian and world culture and science of 20th century lived and worked in St. Petersburg/Leningrad.
One of the most tragic pages in the history of St. Petersburg was the two and a half years' siege of the city by the troops of nazi Germany during the World War II which has cost the lives of at least 1 million people who died of starvation and winter colds, but the city never fell to the enemy.

The late 1980's and early 1990's saw the downfall of the Soviet communist regime, and the collapse of the Soviet "Evil Empire". St. Petersburg was in the forefront of the democratic political and liberal economic reforms in Russia, delegating many of its intellectual and political elite into the national leadership. In 1991, St. Petersburg reinstated its original name, according to results of referendum. The city has been opening up again to the outside world, and to the Northern Europe in the first place. It tried to create an investment-friendly climate, to develop high technologies, and to attract tourists.

However, the hopes that Russia might quickly overcome devastating aftermaths of the long reign of the Soviet ideological, political and economical system turned out to be illusory: the democratic and liberal reforms commenced in the 1990's have basically failed. Nowadays we see Russia rapidly regress under a marasmatic political regime mainly effected by dull and unscrupulous "apparatchiks" of the Soviet Communist style. Those feeling themselves non-competitive in a modern open society based on the diversity of individual initiative and on personal responsibility managed to restore an authoritarian rule, the state control of economy, and to suppress the sprouts of civil society. We are witnessing growing infringements by the state upon human rights and the freedom of information, curtailing the local self-government and federalism, attacks on the freedom of economic activities, judicial arbitrarines, and the transformation of elections at all levels into a cinical farce or even their complete abolition.
Aggression of the standing Russian government against Ukraine that started in the spring of 2014, forced annexation of Crimea belonging to Ukraine, and an actual unleashing of a war in other regions of Ukraine, has marked the tranfer of Russia to a fascist type authoritarian dictatorship dangerous for the immediate and more remote neighbours.
In the 2nd decade of 21st century, we see Russia in the situation of growing degradation, and probably on the verge of a deep system crisis. The country has dangerously skidded back to the gloomy Soviet past with its suffocating public atmosphere, with the corrupt state structures not controlled by the society, and the with the growing gap between Russia and developed countries in the social, political, economical, technological, intellectual and mental advancement. As that happened many times throughout the Russian history, St. Petersburg, and the North-Western Russia on the whole, as the most advanced and "European" part of the country, suffer most from the establishment of a reactionary central power looking for mass support in the most backward population strata.
Sure, the attempts of the current Moscow Kremlin's masters to resist the global trends are to be futile in the long run, but the role of St. Petersburg as a link between Russia and the rest of Europe may become a key factor in minimizing, both in time and volume, the current Russia's retreat from the way of economic and social progress.

Petersburgians are tolerant, friendly and hospitable people trying to look with hope and faith into the future.


St. Petersburg Vistas
(Click on the pictures to see them full size)
[Angel] [Palace Square] [Stock Exchange] [Catherine II] [St.Peter's-St.Paul's]
[Admiralty] [Winter Palace] [Palace Bridge] [St. Nicholas'] [St. Isaac's]
[Saviour Church] [Gryphons] [The Fontanka Canal] [Kronstadt] [Peter I]
[Sphinx] [Canova Gallery] [The Summer Gardens] [The Hermitage] [Peterhof]

The city scenery in St. Petersburg lacks a medieval architecture: the oldest city's buildings were constructed in the beginning of 18th century in the earlier baroque style. What we now regard as the historical core of St. Petersburg, of about 10 km (7 miles) diameter, was formed by the World War I. It presents a surprisingly harmonic combination of the earlier and late baroque, neo-classical, empire, eclectic and jugendstil styles, remarkable not only by separate outstanding edifices and ensembles, but not to a lesser degree by a diverse rank-and-file architecture. Dominating the city scenery at the Neva banks is the Peter-and-Paul Fortress occupying a separate island, with the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul inside. An angel holding a cross atop the 120 m (400 ft)-high cathedral spire is seen from afar. An immense golden dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral, an elegant Admiralty spire bearing a weathervane in the form of a sailing ship, gigantic beacons of the Rostrum Columns flanking the massive Stock Exchange portico, the richly decorated baroque Winter Palace (formerly, the official Emperors' residence), and many other historical buildings make the vistas of the Neva absolutely unique and unmistakably recognizable. Brightly contrasting the broad Neva expanses are smaller granite-embanked canals twisting and tangling around the city center and crossed by picturesque bridges. The most lively avenue in the city is the Nevsky Prospect stretching from the Palace Square in front of the Winter Palace to the Moscow Station and further to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. The most famous suburb of St. Petersburg is Peterhof with its 18th century palace and seaside park renown for numerous fountains and water cascades. Big attractions also are the imperial palaces and formal parks of Tsarskoye Selo, an immense beautiful landscape park of Pavlovsk with a neo-classical palace, romantic neo-gothic Gatchina, and baroque and rococo Oranienbaum. Unique is the island town of Kronstadt in the middle of the Gulf of Finland with its historical architecture; Kronstadt formerly used to be the main Russian naval base, a military stronghold that defended the sea approaches to St. Petersburg, and a starting point of many famous geographic exploration expeditions of the first half of 19th century.


Map of St. Petersburg with environs
 
   
Some Net resources on St. Petersburg
(only a tiny part of what is available)
St. Petersburg Government
Official portal of the Government of St. Petersburg, with a lot of useful information for city dwellers, guests and tourists, only in Russian
Guide to St. Petersburg
City Guide: useful facts and information for visitors, and current city news, by PetersburgCity.Com, in English.
Welcome to St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg: facts and events for tourists and city visitors, in English.
St. Petersburg's Landmarks
"Your Pilot through St. Petersburg": Information on St. Petersburg for visitors: useful facts, maps, more than 9000 photos, in Russian.
Walks over St. Petersburg
City guide: history, architecture, useful information, in Russian.
Live Camera in St. Petersburg
A live camera at the Moika Canal downtown, in a window of Bonch-Bruyevich University.
The Hermitage
The world famous art museum, an official site; includes an access to digital library of the museum collection highlights.
Kunstkammer
The oldest Russian museum specializing in anthropology and ethnography, founded in 1704.
The Russian Museum
The largest collection of Russian painting, sculpture and decorative art, from old icons to modern art.
St. Petersburg Museums
Museums of St. Petersburg at the "Russian Museums" official site, with addresses, telephones and links to their Web sites.
Mariinsky Theatre
The world-famous musical theatre with Mariinsky Ballet (during the Soviet times, the "Kirov Ballet") and Mariinsky Opera; playbill, a lot of other information, and on-line ticket reservation.
National Library of Russia
The 2nd largest public libary in Russia, founded in 1795 (formerly known as the "State Public Library"); on-line electronic catalogues are available, in English and Russian.
Russia's Weather
Weather forecasts for the whole Russia, by Russian Hydro-Meteo Centre, in English and Russian.
Weather All Around the World
World weather forecasts, by GisMeteo, in English and Russian.
Weather in St. Petersburg
Weather forecasts for St. Petersburg for the next 5 or 10 days, in English and Russian.
Cloudiness Maps
Satellite images by the Space Research Institute (IKI) at Podlipki near Moscow, in English and Russian.
Pulkovo Airport
An official site of the St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport with timetables and inquiry service, in English and Russian.
TransInfo Network
Official intercity train timetables in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and some other neighbouring countries: direct connections between the cities, and complete timetables of the intercity trains passing through a chosen station, in Russian and English.
Timetable of Commuter Trains
Official timetables of commuter trains in St. Petersburg by North-East Commuter Passenger Company, inquries, contact information, downloadable PDF timetables, in Russian.
Bus Station
Bus Station (36 Obvodny Canal) official site: intercity bus timetables, route schemes, and contact information, in Russian.
St. Petersburg Metro
The official cite of St. Petersburg Underground: current information, fares and regulations, Metro history and architecture, in Russian.
"Transportation Administration"
Official site of the municipal enterprise coordinating the operation of ground public transport in St. Petersburg: routes of trams, trollebuses, buses, and minibus "route-taxis"; timetables of the bus routes in city and suburban area, in Russian.
"City Electrotrans"
Official site of the municipal enterprise running the network of electric transport. Tram and trolleybus routes, timetables, temporary changes, and news, in Russian.
City Transport in St. Petersburg
A private permanently updated site describing in detail the routes and maps of public city transport in St. Petersburg: trams, trolleybuses, buses, mini-bus "route taxis", and Metro, in Russian.
St. Petersburg Metro, by UrbanRail.Net
An excellent guide to the St. Petersburg Underground system at a private UrbanRail.Net site: the map, description, history and links, in English.
Scalable map of St. Petersburg and environs
Java map by MosMap company, with address search, navigation, etc., in Russian.
Map of St. Petersburg
Nice and user-friendly scalable map of St. Peterburg in the Flash format (a project by Andrei Latyshev), in Russian.
Map of St. Petersburg Region
Scalable map of St. Petersburg Region in the format similar to the above, in Russian.
Our Peter
A categorized catalogue of Internet resources on St. Petersburg, with a search engine, chats, boards, etc., by NEV.RU Internet Studio, in English and Russian.
"Piter" is a Russian popular short name for St. Petersburg.
SPb-Land Internet Portal
A categorized catalogue of web resources about St. Petersburg, only in Russian.
Yellow Pages of St. Petersburg
An on-line phone directory of St. Petersburg, in Russian.
"Yellow Pages" Phone Directory
"Yellow Pages" by Presscom publishers: an on-line phone directory of St. Petersburg, in Russian.
St. Petersburg Telephones
On-line phone directory and search for people, by InterWeb, in Russian.
Cosmos
Luxury tourist services in St. Petersburg; car rentals and chauffeured cars.
Hotels in St. Petersburg
On-line reservations at many hotels in St. Petersburg, in English and Russian.
"All Seasons" Hostel in St. Petersburg
Cheaper accommodation and visa support.
Vacations St. Petersburg
Vacations and leisure in the neighbourhood of St. Petersburg: holiday resorts, weekend and holiday travel for all tastes for the permanent dwellers and guests of the city; an information server in Russian.
Trading Network of St. Petersburg
Producers, sellers and consumers of goods and services, equipment and technologies, with databases and a search engine for individual customers and professionals, in English and Russian.
Eating out in St. Petersburg
Restaurants, cafes, fast food, etc., with approximate prices and patrons' estimates; an unofficial site, only in Russian.
Billboard St. Petersburg
Interactive billboard of St. Petersburg events: theatres, concerts, museums, art galleries, exhibitions, festivals, public lections, sports events, ticket agencies, in Russian and English.
The St. Petersburg Times
The only really good local newspaper, issued twice a week: news, business pages, weekly stage and exhibition programmes, information on the museums and cultural life, class ads, and a lot of other things, only in English (alas!).
Kommersant St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg regional edition a national daily Kommersant. The only newspaper in the city of rather a decent quality, published six times a week: news, business, culture, sports, TV programme, weather, etc., only in Russian.
Fontanka.Ru
On-line news from St. Petersburg, including an English-language headlines.
The Fontanka is one of big canals in central St. Petersburg.
Karpovka.Net
News on city planning, and on the protection of urban environment and architecture in St. Petersburg, only in Russian.
The Karpovka
is one of big canals in
St. Petersburg.
Pchela (The Bee)
"The Bee" magazine: a review of the activities of non-governmental and non-commercial organizations in St. Petersburg since 1996 a sort of a mirror of the social and cultural life of the city, a lot of historical articles. It is a pity that the regular publication ceased in 2006, but the magazine archives are of great interest up till now. The site is in Russian, English and German.
 

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Last updated May 2014
Andrei SAMARTSEV    samar_spb@post.com    St. Petersburg, Russia
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