in Saint-Petersburg

St. Petersburg on the way to capitalism

(1840s to 1890s)

When Alexander II was crowned Russian Emperor, the country was still reeling with a humiliating defeat at the hands of Napoleon in the Crimean War. Something had to be done to boost the national economy and ensure political stability. With this in mind, the Emporer undertook a series of reforms, which included the emancipation of the serfs 1861, although the peasants were still forced to pay for the land they worked. Alexander continued with military and legal reforms, involving the introduction of trial by jury, and a reform of the city administration of St. Petersburg, allowing a much higher degree of self-government.

1840-90. Moika river. New Admiralty

Despite the scale of these reforms some revolutionaries still considered Alexander to be too conservative in outlook. After a series of assassination attempts, on March 1 1881 Alexander II was fatally wounded and died the same day and the magnificent Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood (1883-1907) was built in his memory on the exact spot of his assassination. Many of his reforms, including a constitution that was ready to be signed, were repealed or curtailed by his enraged son Alexander III and a period of repression and conservatism followed.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg was becoming a capitalist city. The number of factories (both Russian and foreign) grew rapidly and Nevsky Prospect and the city's other major streets began to fill with banks and company offices. By the 1890s construction was booming and new multi-storey apartment buildings were springing up all over the city. During this period the famous Mariinsky theater (formerly the Kirov Theater) was built along with a number of palaces for the country's Grand Dukes, Liteiny bridge was constructed (where the first street lights in the city were installed ) and monuments to Catherine the Great, Nicholas I and the poet Alexander Pushkin were erected.

Next: The "Silver Age" city (turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg)

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Palace Square

Palace Square is the central Square of St Petersburg was the focal point of Russian revolutions 1905 and 1917 and is now the site of concerts (e.g. Elton John in 2007) and special national and civic celebrations. In the middle of the Square id the massive Alexander Column.
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Palace Square. In the front of the Arch of Military staff headquarters