The city of Saint Petersburg first came under Russia’s control in May 1703 when the Swedish fortress on the Neva River was captured by Tsar Peter I (the Great) during the Great Northern War (1700 – 1721). In order to protect the area he constructed the Peter and Paul Fortress (See article below) which was one of the first buildings of the city. It is within the St Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is within the fortress, where most of the Tsars of the Romanov Dynasty are buried.
In 1713 Peter moved his capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg (named after the patron saint of the city, St Peter and not after himself). With the exception of 4 years from 1728 – 1732 when Peter II moved the capital back to Moscow until Empress Anna moved it back again: It was to remain the capital of the Russian Empire and the seat of the Romanov Dynasty and Imperial Court until the communist revolution of 1917. In 1918 the capital of Russia returned to Moscow from St Petersburg although at that time it was known as Petrograd, a name it had between the years of 1914 to 1924. The other name it has had was between the years of 1924 to 1991 when it was called Leningrad, which it was renamed after Lenin's death.
The city has over 230 places associated with Lenin. Some of them were turned into museums, such as the cruiser Aurora – which became a symbol of the October Revolution – it was the Aurora that fired the salvo which signalled the storming of the Winter Palace - and is the oldest ship in the Russian Navy. During World War II Leningrad was besieged by German forces from September 1941 to January 1944, a total of 872 days. Isolated by the German forces, the only way of supplying the inhabitants was by the “Road of Life” across Lake Ladoga during the winter when it was frozen; this resulted in more than a million civilian deaths, mainly from starvation. In 1990 the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 1991 it reverted to the name of Saint Petersburg.
Russia's second largest city after Moscow; Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural centre and an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea. Known as the 'Venice of the North', due to its numerous canals, it has more than 400 bridges, although it was not until 1850 that the first permanent bridge across the Neva was constructed, before this only pontoon bridge were allowed.
St Petersburg is rich in history and contains many beautiful and historic buildings. Apart from the Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral there is the Church of the Saviour on Blood, built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated by terrorists in 1881; St Isaacs and Kazan Cathedrals; The Hermitage - which is one of the great museums of the world. The Hermitage consists of six buildings, one being the Winter Palace, the storming of which led to the start of the October Revolution by Bolshevik forces, heralding the beginning of the Soviet Union. (See article below) Situated in the Square outside the Hermitage is the largest free standing column in the world, the Alexander column. Named after Tsar Alexander I, who was tsar during the French invasion of Russia under Napoleon, the column was built to commemorate the victory over the French.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.