Tag Archives: st. petersburg

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Catherine

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.