St Petersburg is the second biggest city in Russia with a population of 5 million, and was called Leningrad and even Stalingrad during its communist period. The city of St Petersburg is situated in northwest European Russia and is relatively young if judged by Russian standards.
Founded in 1703, St Petersburg will celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2003. The site of St Petersburg was originally a Swedish fortress commanding the approach to the Neva. In 1703, Peter I captured the area and built the fortress of Peter & Paul and the fortress at Kronshtadt. He ordered the construction of a new city on the site, to be named St Petersburg after his patron saint. Peter wanted the city to be westernised, considering it ‘a window in Europe.’
In 1914, Emperor Nicholas II changed the German-sounding name of St Petersburg to the Russian name Petrograd, after Russia declared war on Germany. In 1918, the capital of Russia was moved from Petrograd back to Moscow.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honour. Following World War I and the loss pf the Russian Baltic provinces, the importance of Leningrad increased, the city being the only Soviet Port near Western Europe. During World War II, Leningrad was the scene of heavy fighting during a siege by German forces from late 1941 to January 1944. About 1.25 million residents died in the fighting and as a result of disease and starvation, and more than 10 000 buildings were totally or partially destroyed.
Rebuilt after the war, the city was renamed St Petersburg after the collapse of communism in 1991. Since the early days, it was always a city of myth and mystery: you can hardly find a young city which is wrapped in legends and stories in such a unique St Petersburg way.
Today St Petersburg contains more than 1700 public libraries the largest being ‘ME. Saltykov-Shchedrin Library’ which was founded in 1795 and houses more than 28.5 million volumes. The city is also a shipbuilding centre and manufactured products include electrical equipment, machinery and tools, agricultural equipment, paper, furniture, textiles and clothing, tobacco, leather good and chemicals.
Destination – Russia