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Foundation of Saint-Petersburg

fortress on Zayachy Island 1

By the time of the foundation of St. Petersburg, the Northern War had been raging for three years, and Russia had regained a large part of the land lost a century before, including the delta of the River Neva. However, with the threat persisting and more areas needing to be freed from the Swedish occupation, it was absolutely imperative that Russia strengthened its presence in the north-west by building a stronghold. Under these circumstances, Peter the Great released an order to erect a fortress on Zayachy Island – one of the many islands found in the delta.

fortress on Zayachy Island 4

The fortress appeared to be the city’s first erection. The first stone was laid in its foundation on May 27 N. S., 1703. The fortress and, later, the city were named after St. Peter, the tzar’s patron saint. Nowadays, May 27 is officially celebrated as St. Petersburg’s foundation day. On May 27, 2003, the city celebrated its 300th anniversary, in preparation for which it had undergone a massive renovation.


By the spring of 1704, the hexangular fortress was there, its front bastions projecting forward. Peter designed it as Russia’s main foothold in the war against Sweden

fortress on Zayachy Island

In an effort to secure the conquered positions, Peter launched the construction of a military base with a ship haven, ammunition storage buildings, warehouses, barracks, and officers houses close to the Peter and Paul Fortress. The new city was designed as a military and trading port. It was supposed to concentrate industries serving military needs, including the casting bed, leather factory, powder mill, etc. The main shipping route was redirected from Arkhangelsk to St. Petersburg. In 1703, St. Petersburg gave a pompous reception to the first foreign trading ship arriving in it.

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It took a tremendous amount of manpower to build such a large city on such a boggy piece of land. Thousands of peasants were forced to move to the area, where they had to live an extremely tough life. Many of them perished from strain and diseases. In 1712, St. Petersburg gained the status of the capital of the Russian Empire.

Elizabeth’s Reign


By the end of Peter’s reign, St. Petersburg had become one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It took centuries for most European capitals to become the cities they were at that time, and it took less than three decades for St. Petersburg to achieve equal footing with them. Peter attracted architects from inside the Russian Empire and from abroad, and it was a matter of pride for them to have a chance to implement their ideas in following the highly elaborate town-planning strategy.


St. Petersburg continued to grow and develop after Peter’s death.  Peter’s daughter – Elizabeth – gave a new impulse to the formation of the city’s architecture and skyline. Unlike her father, who had placed a greater emphasis on the city’s role as a military port and the empire’s main stronghold in the west of the country, Elizabeth’s main concern was the city’s aesthetics.


Elizabeth reigned from 1741 to 1461. Her natural beauty and infinite love of baroque style laid a strong imprint on the city’s life and appearance. She strove to embellish the city with grandiloquent temples and palaces for the city to live up to its capital status. It was the time when Bartolommeo Rastrelli – a renowned Italian genius of architecture – had his major take on St. Petersburg. The most famous Rastrelli’s creations include the Peterhof ensemble with a lavishly decorated fountain cascade, Tsarskoye Selo, Vorontsov’s and Stroganov’s houses,  Smolny Convent, and the Winter Palace. Nevsky Prospect had already become the city’s main road. Funded by local merchant communities, the construction of the Gostinniy Dvor was launched in 1755.


Being a patron of the arts and sciences, Elizabeth contributed to national education, as she established the Russian Academy of Arts.  During Elizabeth’s reign, nobilities lived a pompous and glamorous life full of receptions, masquerades and balls.

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Catherine’s St. Petersburg

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Catherine the Great took power in 1762, and hers was one of the longest reigns in the Russian history, lasting 34 years. She enjoyed respect among the Russian nobility, who helped her overthrow her husband’s reign.

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Catherine the Great continued her predecessor’s city development course, and to her St. Petersburg owes many of the improvement that took place in it over the late 1700s. She launched a massive campaign against shabby wooden structures and ordered that all houses along the banks of the Neva and Fontanka rivers and along the main city roads be aligned and made of stone.

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Catherine strove to bring St. Petersburg at par with other European capitals. She cared so much about the city’s good looks and economy that she spent her entire reign in the city, and she would only briefly leave for Tsarskoye Selo on summer days. During Catherine’s reign, the city’s population grew from 60,000 people to 200,000 people.

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Unlike Elisabeth – an ardent baroque style adherer, Catherine the Great chose to follow the classic trend in architecture characterized by a stricter and more refined form. Jacomo Quarengi – a renowned classicist – designed more than 30 buildings in and around St. Petersburg, including the Old Hermitage, Saltikov’s House and many other creations of architecture.

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Works by Antonio Renaldi – another gifted architect – reflected a transition from baroque style to classic style. The Marble Palace is one of his most renowned buildings, which Catherine presented to Grigory Orlov in gratitude for helping her gain power.

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The embankments of the river Neva and the canals underwent a massive reconstruction and were clad with red granite slabs, under the direction of Yuri Felten, who crafted the famous iron wrought fencing for the Summer Garden.

Catherine the Great created an ample ground for arts to flourish. It was under her patronage that the first Public Library, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Russian Academy of Science were built.

Saint-Petersburg in 1800-1855

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After Catherine’s death in 1796, her son Paul I assumed power and began to steer the Russian Empire down the bureaucratic road. In an effort to blindly follow the Prussian policy model, Paul I aggressively exercised ultra-conservative policies. His assassination phobia forced him to build what is known today as the Mikhailovsky Castle, which proved to be of little help in the end. He was assassinated in his own bedroom on March 12, 1801, not without his son’s – Alexander’s I – assistance, who had sworn to continue Catherine’s line of policy.

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After the coronation, Alexander began to reform the governmental system. He introduced ministries and the State Counsil and thus laid the foundation for bureaucracy and tough police order to flourish for decades. It was the time when St. Petersburg underwent significant tailoring to meet strict perfectionist requirements. Several major pieces of architecture, such as the Admitralty and the Naval Headquarters, were restructured. The Rostral Column and the Stock Exchange appeared on the southern edge of Vasilievsky Island. A lot of work was done by Carlo Rossi, an outstanding Italian architect, who designed the Mikhailovsky Palace and Arts Square. Auguste Montferrand, a French architect, designed the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which was intended to be the Empire’s main church.

Paul I

Right after Alexander’s death in December 1825, thelong- glowing political crisis exploded in a revolutionist action sketched by a group of liberal army officers – the Decembrists – who expected Nicholas I to officially introduce constitutional monarchy. They lined up on Senate Square, not taking any radical steps. Most probably, it was the shot by Kachovsky, killing General-Governor Miloradocitch, that triggered the violence. The revolt was crushed and five of the activists were sent to the gallows.


This event drove Nicholas I to tighten the current conservative regime and militarize nearly all spheres of political and social life in St. Petersburg and the rest of the country.


Despite the tough regime, the Russian culture flourished. It was during Nicholas’s reign that Alexander Pushkin, Fiodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Glinka created their most outstanding masterpieces. It was the time when the first railroad appeared in the country, which connected St. Petersburg with Tsarskoye Selo. It was the time when the first permanent bridge was built in St. Petersburg.


The State Russian Museum


The State Russian Museum – is the first national museum of fine arts, built in 1895 in St.Petersburg by the order of the emperor Nikolay 2. The best exposition of the museum is showed in the Mikhaylovsky Palace and in the Benua. Here you can find many works of Russian famous painters, such as Rublev, Bruni, Kiprienskiy, Repin, Vrubel, Shishkin and many others. It is also the largest place in the world where all the best Russian exhibits are gathered. Works of art with different tendencies, started from 10th to 20th centuries are represented in the museum. It is a treasury of unique artistic values. The main expositions are located in the Mikhaylovsky Palace and in the Benya building. Artistic values are also located in Marble and Stroganov Palaces, in Summer Garden of Peter the Great. Over 50 exhibitions can take place at these territories at one moment. Sometimes these exhibitions take place in different Russian cities and abroad as well.


It was the Emperor Nikolay 2, who has written an order to build a museum in honour of his dad Alexander 2. Its opening took place on the 7 March in 1899. It was the first national museum of Russian fine arts. The basement of the collection was the first 80 paintings from the Hermitage, 120 paintings from the Artistic Academy and 200 from country Palaces. They were situated in the Mihalovskiy Palace; this unique collection was created with exhibits, bought at auctions and by means of private property.


The Mihalovskiy Palace was built in 1819 – 1825 by the architect Rossi for the Emperor Pavel’s son named Mikhail Pavlovich. Building of the Mikhaylovsky Palace started when Mihail was 21. Rossi was a talented architect; he added a complex that depicted the look of St.Petersburg city. Rossi has also built Mikhaylovsky Street and connected Mikhaylovsky Square with Nevsky Avenue. Later the Palace was bought out and given to the “Russian Museum of the Emperor Alexander 3”.


In 1914 the area of the Mihalovskiy Palace was not enough to hold exhibits and in 1917 by the project of architect Benua, a new building was built on the Griboedov sea front. Nowadays on the first floor of the Benua building you can find works of Soviet art, on the second – works of art from the second half of 19th – to the beginning of 20th century. In 1917 lots of national cultural values were added to this collection.



While the Great Patriotic War the Mikhaylovsky Palace and the Benua building suffered a lot from shooting attacks. But after the renovation in May of 1946 the State Russian Museum was opened for visitors. Nowadays the State Russian Museum participates in different exhibitions and international auctions, having the main purpose to get the best and most valuable works of art. The collection changes and enriches day by day. Ancient Russian graphic arts, visual arts of 18th-20th centuries, sculptures, paintings, prints, numismatics, water-color paintings, subjects of national usage, modern oil paintings can be found in the museum nowadays.


To the most precious artifacts of the museum include monuments of Ancient Russia, counting more than 18.000 of exhibits. This is a collection of family copies of middle-aged frescoes and collection of ancient sewing, icons. The same unique is the collection of oil paintings by Levizky, Rokotov, Brullov, Aivazovsky and many others.


In Soviet years the collection of the State Russian Museum was enriched by many modern works of art. In the section of modern art you can find  the works of Moiseenko, Oreshnikova, Muhinoi, Anikushina, Favorskogo, Kibrika and many others. A walk in the State Russian Museum – is a classical trip through the russian history. The best icons, such as Rubleva, Repina, Vasnecova, Vrubela, Surikova, Levitana, Serova and many others, are represented also. Every year over 30 modern exhibitions take place in the museum.


So the Russian Museum is a truly unique museum. It is considered to be unique because it was the first museum of fine arts, it has a unique collection, unique buildings and architecture, the place where it is situated. The Russian Museum is a real pride of Russian Culture.


The State Russian Museum will be an interesting and unique place to visit either for foreigners or for people from other Russian cities. You have unforgettable impressions about this trip, moreover you will learn more about Russian history, culture and art.

The State Hermitage Museum

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The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia) has the best collection in the world. There can be counted near 3 million of artworks and monuments in the world culture. It includes – paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, archeological finds and many other interesting materials. The main residence of the Hermitage is situated in the very centre of Russia. It contains also the Winter Palace, which was the residence of Russian emperors, buildings of Small, Old and New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theater and the Reserve House. The Palace of Menshikov and the eastern part of the Main headquarter building are added in the museum complex, the restoration centre called “The Old Village”, and the museum of the Emperor ceramic plant. Collections of the Hermitage are precious, the represent such a rare uniqueness, that is interesting for many people of different countries, ages and nationalities.


Nowadays collections are gathered into 5 different buildings. For example, the Winter Palace is a beautiful place that differs from the other buildings by its luxury and refinement. It has been an Emperor residence for over 150 years. The Small Hermitage is situated near the Winter Palace; it was built especially for placing artistic collections. The New Hermitage is the first museum building in Russia, which was built by a special project. Its entrance is decorated with 10 sculptures, which were created in centuries but still keep one design and look of St. Petersburg. The Hermitage was built in 1764; the first collection of foreign painters has appeared there, later there were added sculptures, ceramic works, coins, beautiful fretwork stones, tapestries, carpets, furniture, jewelleries, medals, paintings and many others. What is the most interesting is that only originals are kept here. The section of monuments includes paintings, sculptures, and graphic. In more than 100 halls works from Italy, Germany, France, Holland, England, Spain and the others are gathered. Here are also represented works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Rubens, Raphael and many others. In section of history, culture and art you can lead the transformation of people and their life since the ancient Lithic Age to Bronze Age.

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There are also showed ancient armaments, clothes, carpets, things made of gold. It contains the rarest things you can ever find since ancient times. Here are more than 140.000 monuments – ancient examples of writing, paintings, frescoes of Ancient Egypt, monuments of Pharaohs. The main value also represents paintings that were found while archeological excavations of ancient Russian cities and villages, they brought us the knowledge of culture and life of Ancient Russia. The most beautiful section is supposed to be the floor that is made of frescoes and mosaic in Mihaloisko-Zlatoverhi Abbey, here are added also examples of stone fretwork, jewelleries and collection of icons. Exposition showes us also the history of Moscow in 15-17th centuries, documents, books, medical instruments, navigation and artillery can tell us about reforms that took place in Russia in Petrovsky age. Art works, paintings, sculptures, graphic works, prints and frescoes can tell us about development at those times, that reflect the main events of the North War, that lasted for 21 years, and the building of St. Patersburg. The main impression you can get by entering halls of Winter Palace, Petrovskiy hall is devoted to the memory of Petr the First, picturesque panels depict him and his fightings. Here are also depicted arms gathered all over Russia. Here is also a gallery of 1812 year where more than 300 portraits of generals and participants of the Great Patriotic War are shown.

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A Large throne room is the most beautiful attraction you can meet, it is decorated with white marble and gilded bronze, the floor has the similar look as the ceiling, the main territory of the hall is 800 sq. meters, and all the halls were designed with malachite. The Hermitage is the world famous museum. More than 3.5 million of people visit it every year. It is the best gallery of Russia, it represents the world art and is supposed to be one of the best artistic museums in the world. The Hermitage is the best attraction of St. Petersburg. It was built when Catherine the Great bought 255 paitings from Berlin, nowadays there are more than 2 million of paitings that gathered there and depict art of different countries and nationalities. It is said that if you will spend by a minute at one of all the paitings in the Hermitage, it can take you 11 years to look all. So if once you decided to visit the State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg, Russia do not have doubts about it. You can get unforgettable impressions and get many interesting knowledges, learn and discover many unusual and unknown facts for you, you can discover things you have never known about. Moreover, you can learn about art, history, culture and life of different countries and in differnet times.

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Monument to Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg

The Monument to Catherine

The Monument to Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg, Russia was officially opened in 1873. The idea to put the monument in St. Petersburg came to the relatives and close people of Catherine the Great. Though she was against it, the monument was built a century ago by the order of Alexander 2. There is even a note on the basement of the monument that tells it was devoted to Catherine the Great from Alexander 2.

Actually it was strange that there were no a monument devoted to Catherine the Great for such a long time. So only in 19th century it was decided to build such a monument and the place where it should be located was Tsarskoye Selo. So it was right to put the monument in Tsarskoye Selo because there was also situated Catherine’s Palace.

Catherine 2

But in reality there are many questions that we still dont know the answers on and only can find them in the history of Russia, so why the monument had its project on the paper for a century and why there even existed a possibility to deliver it abroad?

For ordinary people Catherine was the Great Queen that was praised by her kind actions but for her relatives she supposed to be a cruel german woman that became a wife of Romanov and then killed him to get the throne. If this is true we will never know.

30.05.2010 St. Petersburg. Katharine die große am Nevskij Prospekt

So the history tells that in 1859 a painter Ladin asked Alexander 2 for permission to build the monument devoted to Catherine the Great on the anniversary of the Academy of Arts in 1864. So Alexander agreed but he didn’t allow putting the monument on the territory of the Academy of Arts, his oreder was to put the monument on the territory of Tsarskoye Selo.

In July 1859 it was ordered the best sculptors like Klodt, Pimenov and many others to organize a contest for the best projects of the monument to Catherine the Great and its installation in Tsarskoselskiy Garden.


So in the middle of summer in 1860 the projects created by Zaleman, Tokarev and Wanse were represented in Academy of Arts and considered unsatisfied by Alexander 2. But later tuen of the second and the third contest came but noone even appeared there.

In 1861 the project of Mikeshin became interesting for Alexander 2, though Mikeshin was not a sculptor, at first his projest was denied but later it was accepted by Alexander 2. So the 25 year-old Mikeshin suggested to depict Catherine in a great pose on the pedestal with her famous supporters: Potemkin, Rumianceva, Suvorov, Orlova, and Derzhavin.


After this the Academy of Arts approved that the pedestal had not a right size, that the statue of Catherine is not so impressed and that Lyre is not suitable in her left hand.In august of 1861 the Emperor accepted the project of Mikeshin though he said it seemed to him that the head of Catherine’s rather small. So at first Mikeshin made the model of the monument in a small size, and then this model was casted of bronze on the Shopen plant in St.Petersburg, the monument was made in rococo style the same as the Palace where it was planned to locate the monument.

The Monument to Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg

After this the monument was send in London’s exposition where the monument even got an honoured medal. After return in St.Petersburg the Emperor found the place to locate the monument in the Palace.So the statue looks forward to people, Catherine the Great holds lyre in her left hand and scepter in her right hand, she has a long coat that makes a long mantle, at her feet there is a long wreath of oak and laurel leaves and roses.


The statue look gourgeous, its height is 1 m and 11 cm; the pedestal is 1 m 18 cm. The whole height of the monument is 2 m 29cm.

“Catherine the Great, is a Queen that rules the lives of her nation, she is a brave and decent, disposable and proud, she is the creator of punishments, the author of comedies, she is the founder of educational buildings – it was a task at her right hand talent. It was necessary to creat the same light, smiling and full of mind look of Catherine the Great”, – said Mikeshin about her.


With the installation of the monument devoted to Catherine 2, St. Petersburg go the best monument. So nowadays it is hard to imagine this square without the monument devoted to Catherine the Great. Citizens of St. Petersburg always come to this park in the very center of the city and with pleasure enjoy the surroundings.