St. Petersburg Russia: A city of Art
During the course of the Northern War with Sweden the Russian forces gradually
moved from the Lake Ladoga down the Neva River to the Swedish fort of
Nienchanz. After an 8-day siege on May 1, 1703 the Swedish army
surrendered. To protect the newly conquered lands in the Neva delta Peter the
Great needed a fortress, but Nienchanz was small and badly damaged. Looking
for a site for his new fortress Peter the Great chose the island of Enisaari (Hare’s
Island), which was known to the Russians as Zayachii ostrov. On May, 16 1703
(May, 27 by the modern calendar) the St. Petersburg fortress (Peter and Paul
Fortress) was founded and that day became the official birthday of the city.
Several days later a wooden Cabin of Peter the Great was built, becoming the
first living quarters of the new city.
St. Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city, with a population of five million. It’s home to palaces and churches that date to the era of the czars and is the setting for
summer’s White Nights, when the sun barely sets. The city’s change in names reflects Russia’s often turbulent history. It has been Petrograd and Leningrad and only recently, with the demise of Russia’s communist system, has it reclaimed its original title. The story of Russia, from the czars through the totalitarianism of Stalin and to the recent struggles toward democracy and a free-market economy, are embedded in the city. To visit it now is to observefirsthand a crucial period in Russian history.