in Saint-Petersburg


Elizabethan St. Petersburg:

a city of baroque grandeur

During the reign of Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, St. Petersburg developed into a fine European capital to rival those of any in the West.

The Imperial splendor of St. Petersburg was best reflected in its suburban royal residences. Peter the Great's estate Peterhof was remodeled by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the Italian architect of the Winter Palace and Smolny Cathedral. The Grand Palace and Grand Cascade fountain at Peterhof were luxuriously adorned with gold, precious stones and statues and reflected Elizabeth's decadent tastes and her disregard for Imperial funds.

The Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), which originally belonged to Peter the Great's wife Catherine, was turned into a magnificent royal residence with a vast and elaborate Baroque garden.

Elizabeth commissioned the lovely Smolny Convent and the Winter Palace, though she died before both buildings were completed. Ironically, during Elizabeth's reign the area near the palace, which was later named Palace Square, was used as a grazing land for the royal cows.

Elizabeth tried to adopt and adhere to many of her father's public policies. Unlike some of her predecessors, she preferred to appoint Russians and not foreigners to the highest positions in the country and being a patron of the arts and sciences, she established the Russian Academy of Arts. As well as a conscientious leader, Elizabeth was also a very lively and social personality and organised regular balls, receptions, masquerades and firework displays.

Elizabeth's nephew Peter III did not rule the country for long, but shortly after assuming power was overthrown by his wife, a German princess, who reigned the country as the famous Catherine the Great. Under her rule St. Petersburg was turned into a "Grand City".

Next: The "Grand City" of Catherine the Great

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Gay life in Saint-Petersburg

In the Soviet times Russia's gay scene was completely underground. After perestroyka attitudes towards and in 1993 laws about homosexuality was decriminalised. In a lot of ways, Russia remains more conservative than most European countries, which may be why the gay scene in St. Petersburg is smaller and more hidden than you would expect for a city of almost five million.
More about gay-life in St. Petersburg