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 300
years' anniversary in the year 2003.
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 8–9 centuries was, most probably, the
town of Ladoga at the Volkhov river (now village
Ladoga about 70 miles east of St. Petersburg). Since
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
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
"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
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.
Particularly spoiling the current situation in Russia is the barbaric and
absurd politics at the Caucasus pursued by the Russian Government for years
with stupid stubbornness, and leading to nowhere.
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.
are tolerant, friendly and hospitable people trying to look with hope and faith into
St. Petersburg Vistas
(Click on the pictures to see them full size)
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
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
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,
Live Camera in
A live camera at the Moika Canal downtown, in a window of
The world famous art museum, an official site; includes an
access to digital library of the museum collection highlights.
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.
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.
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.
Satellite images by the Space Research Institute (IKI) at
Podlipki near Moscow, in English and Russian.
An official site of the St. Petersburg Pulkovo
airport with timetables and inquiry service, in English and Russian.
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 (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.
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.
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,
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,
Scalable map of St. Petersburg
Java map by MosMap company,
with address search, navigation, etc.,
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.
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.
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,
"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,
Luxury tourist services in St. Petersburg; car rentals and
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
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.
On-line news from St. Petersburg,
including an English-language headlines.
The Fontanka is one of big canals in central St. Petersburg.
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
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.
Last updated April 2012
Andrei SAMARTSEV email@example.com
St. Petersburg, Russia