in Saint-Petersburg

An introduction to the history of St. Petersburg, Russia

Sculpture represents the taming of the wild horse by naked man. Sculptor Klodt. Anichkov bridgeSt Petersburg, founded in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, is a relatively young city, by both Russian and European standards. Despite its short existence, Petersburg has a rich and exciting history. From the early days of Peter the Great's "Venice of the North" to the modern events of the 1991 coup d'etat, the city has always bustled with life and intrigue, revolution and mystery.

St. Petersburg is a beautiful and fascinating holiday destination and one of the most intriguing and historically significant cities in Europe. Whether you chose to visit the city in the midst of a romantic and snowy Russian winter or during the dazzling White Nights of the summer months when the sky is never truly dark, you will be spellbound by St. Petersburg's culture and beauty. Browse through our Virtual Tour and see the city's most famous attractions for yourself...

The pre-history of St. Petersburg

The lands along the Neva River have belonged to the Ancient Russian state since at least the 9th century AD. However, throughout history these lands have harbored a mixed population of Slavs, Finns and other ethnic groups. From the 9th century onwards this area was part of the Principality of Novgorod. The ancient city of Novgorod was an important center of domestic and international trade and craftsmanship. Novgorod merchants traded with Western and Northern Europe and later with the towns of the Hanseatic League and used the Neva River and Lake Ladoga to transport their goods.

In 1240, whilst most of Southern and Central Russia was fighting the Mongol invasion, a Swedish invasion landed on the banks of the Neva River. The Novgorod troops of Prince Alexander went out to meet the foe and on July 15, 1240 fought the Battle of The Neva (Nevskaya Bitva). The Russians successfully launched a surprise attack on the Swedes and were victorious. This battle became a symbol of Russia's dramatic fight for independence and Prince Alexander was given the name Alexander Nevsky (i.e. Alexander of the Neva) and was later declared a Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church for his efforts to protect Russia and its Christian faith. Later, in the 18th century, he was also proclaimed the patron saint of St. Petersburg - Peter the Great's great European city built on the banks of the Neva.

In the 16th century the power and prosperity of Novgorod was subdued by Moscow and the lands along the Neva River became part of the centralized Russian state - Muscovite Russia. However, at the beginning of the 17th century serious unrest began to brew in Russia, after the last Tsar of the Riurik dynasty - Fiodor Ioanovich (the son of Ivan the Terrible), had died leaving no heirs to the throne. The new ruler, Vasily Shuisky, invited the Swedes to fight on his side. The Swedes realized how weak Russia was, and decided instead to occupy a significant portion of North-Western Russia. Even after the new Romanov dynasty was established in 1613, Russia had to admit some territorial losses. A new border between Russia and Sweden was established by the Stolbovo Treaty of 1617. For the remainder of the century the Neva River area became a part of Sweden, and the Swedes effectively cut off Russia from all Baltic trade routes.

By the end of the 17th century Peter the Great was determined to change the status quo, regain access to the Baltic Sea and establish stronger ties with the West. In the hope of achieving these goals he embarked on the Northern War with Sweden (1700-1721). In 1703 the Russians gained control over the Neva river and on May 16, 1703 (May 27 - by the modern calendar) he founded the city of St. Petersburg on teh banks of the river.

Next: When and how was St. Petersburg founded?

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Tsarskoe Selo (Tsar's village)

The Catherine Palace is a former summer residence of Russian Emperors. In the beginning of the 18th century Peter the Great gave this land to his wife Catherine the 1st. And the 1st Catherine Palace was built for her as her private residence. In the middle of the 18th century her daughter Elizabeth made it her official summer residence, which was named Tsarskoe Selo which means “Czar’s village”.

More about Catherine Palace...


Tsarskoe Selo. Catherine Palace