Saint Petersburg is relatively young. Since its foundation in the early 1700s, the city was caught up in a stunning tapestry of historic economic, political and social events, which few one-thousand-year-old cities can boast.
Before the city’s foundation, Russian people had inhabited Neva banks and the coast of the Gulf of Finland for many centuries. The strategic importance of the region was evident even then, since it served as a springboard for successful economical and cultural relationships with rapidly evolving European societies. The area was also an attraction for Russia’s eternal rivals – the Swedes and the Germans. In the 16th century, when the country was in decline, the Swedes conquered a vast area lying between Ladozhskoye Lake and Narva and blocked access to the Baltic Sea for Russia for nearly 100 years.
The history of regaining the area goes hand in hand with the history of the city’s erection. Peter the Great took reign over Russia in critical times. The tsar realized that there was no way for the country to rise from the ashes of the Time of Trouble without establishing a long-lasting relationship with the rest of Europe. He also realized that it would take a military action to free the northern lands from the Swedes and win back access to the Baltic Sea and therefore to Europe.
Saint Petersburg was founded in 1703, when the Swedes abandoned the area lying around the Delta of the River Neva. Here the river forms numerous forks and branches dissecting the piece of land into several big islands and scores of smaller ones. There were 101 islands in the delta formed by a network of canals, many of which were filled in as the city grew.
In 1720, one of the representatives of the Polish Embassy gave his own description of the St. Petersburg’s foundation ground. In his story, he mentioned fifteen little hutches owned by Swedish fishermen, which were found exactly where the city was started.