St. Petersburg Mikhail Nokhov Gymnasium # 1 Khasavyurt
Although just 300 years old, St. Petersburg has a rich and exciting history, full of dramatic events and major historical figures. Founded in 1703 by Emperor Peter the Great as his "window on the West", St. Petersburg enjoys a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere and some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe.
Despite its short life so far, Petersburg has a rich and exciting history. From the early days of Peter the Greats "Venice of the North" to the modern events of the 1991 coup detat, the city has always bustled with life and intrigue, revolution and mystery.
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. The Russians successfully launched a surprise attack on the Swedes and were victorious. This battle became a symbol of Russias dramatic fight for independence and Prince Alexander was given the name Alexander Nevsky. Later, in the 18th century, he also proclaimed the patron saint of St. Petersburg - Peter the Greats 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 the banks of the river.
On May 16 1703 (May, 27 by the modern calendar) St. Petersburgs fortress (the Peter and Paul Fortress) was founded and that day became the official birthday of the city. Several days later a wooden Cabin of Peter the Great was built, and became the first residential building in the new city.
During the first few years of St. Petersburgs history, the banks of the Neva saw an amazing transition from a swampy, scarcely populated area to a fine European capital.
The heart of the city was originally intended to be the area between the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Cabin of Peter the Great, which later became known as Trinity Square. The focal point of this area was the citys first church - the Trinity Church, and around it houses for the local nobility, a Gostiny Dvor (a market for local and visiting merchants) and several inns and bars were built.
Most of the citys prestigious social events (receptions, balls, etc.) took place either in the Summer Gardens or in the residence of the Governor General of St. Petersburg - the luxurious Menshikov Palace.
When Peter the Great died in 1725, his wife Catherine assumed power and the city experienced a short decline while various rulers fought over the throne. For a short period, in the late 1720s, the royal court was moved back to Moscow. Many of the nobility and merchants, forced by Peter the Great to move to St. Petersburg, now chose to leave the city.
St. Petersburg was onlyfully revived when Petersdaughter Elizabethbecame Empress in 1741.Elizabethan St. Petersburgbecame a lively Europeancapital and its populationreached 150,000 people.
During the reign of Elizabeth, daughter of Peter theGreat, St. Petersburg developed into a fine Europeancapital to rival those of any in the West.
The Imperial splendor of St. Petersburg was best reflected in its suburban royal residences. Peter the Greats estate Peterhof was remodeled by Bartolommeo 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 Elizabeths decadent tastes and her disregard for Imperial funds.
The Yekaterininsky (Catherines) Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), which originally belonged to Peter the Greats wife Catherine, was turned into a magnificent royal residence with a vast and elaborate Baroque garden.
Elizabeth tried to adopt and adhere to many of her fathers 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 organized regular balls, receptions, masquerades and firework displays in Anichkov Palace.
Elizabeths 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".
Catherine the Great assumed power in 1762 after a coup d etat, which she engineered together with the officers of the Royal Guard. Unlike her husband, she was well loved by the countrys elite and received a very good press in Europe thanks to her contacts with various figures of the French Enlightenment. Catherine enjoyed an extremely luxurious and decadent court life and was the first monarch to move into the newly built Winter Palace.
Catherine started a royal art collection which later developed into the world-famous Hermitage which required the construction of several additional buildings (the Small Hermitage and the Old Hermitage) along the Neva embankment to house the growing number of exhibits. Catherine commissioned the building of the Hermitage Theater and ensured the area surrounding the palace was adorned with the finest houses and the only the most elegant architecture. The embankments of the River Neva were reworked in elegant red granite and the Summer Gardens were adorned with an intricate wrought iron fence, designed by the craftsman Yuri Felten and created between 1773 and 1786.
When Catherine the Great died in 1796 a whole new period in Russian history started. Catherines son Paul I introduced some ultra- conservative policies, curtailed the power of the St. Petersburg local administration and made several major steps towards turning Russia into a bureaucratic state. The worst fear in Pauls life was the fear of being assassinated.
In an attempt to protect himself from the threat of assassination, he built a fortified palace for himself - the Mikhailovsky Castle. However, his paranoia was little help in the end and Paul was assassinated on March 12 1801 in his private bedroom in the newly built castle members of the Royal Guard. Ironically, the coup was primarily engineered by his son Alexander, who had sworn to continue the policies of his grandmother - Catherine the Great.
On his assumption of power, Alexander I introduced a series of political reforms, which entirely restructured the government and included the creation in 1802 of a system of ministries with ministers reporting directly to the monarch and the founding in 1810 of a State Council. For better or for worse, bureaucracy began to flourish in Russia. St. Petersburg rapidly became an ordered and bureaucratic city, something that was only echoed in the orderly layout of its street plan and the heavy policing of its avenues.
During the reign of Alexander I the Russian army successfully stopped Napoleons invasion of Russia and drove the French army back to Paris (1812-14). The captured French banners were put in the newly built Kazan Cathedral, where the Russian army commander, Field-Marshal Kutuzov, was buried in 1813.
In the Russian Imperial capital it was deemed necessary that everything look orderly and measured. It was the heyday of architectural ensembles and perfectionist "classical" designs. The Admiralty, the naval headquarters of Russia, was remodeled between 1806 and 1823.
The Stock Exchange and Rostral column ensemble was built at the Southern edge (Strelka) of Vasilievsky Island, Arts Square and the Mikhailovsky Palace (1819-25) were designed and built by the Italian architect Carlo Rossi and in 1818 construction work began on the magnificent St. Isaacs Cathedral.
When Alexander I suddenly died in the town of Taganrog (some say, he ran away to Siberia to escape the heavy burden of power) in December 1825, a political crisis erupted. A group of liberal young army officers (later called the "Decembrists") started a revolt, hoping that Nicholas I, Alexanders younger brother, would have to sign and endorse a National Constitution. They brought their soldiers to Senate square by the Bronze Horseman, but remained inactive. The uprising was cruelly crushed, the five organizers executed and the rest exiled to Siberia.
In response to the Decembrist Uprising the new Emperor, Nicholas I, chose to adopt a much more conservative series of policies and Russia once again degenerated into an economically backward bureaucratic state. In the Imperial capital, St. Petersburg, the desire for military-like orderliness reached ridiculous heights and military order was established throughout the city in all manner of institutions.
The city of St. Petersburg gradually became more and more majestic. The Palace Square ensemble was completed with the construction of the General Staff building in 1829, the Alexander Column in 1834 and the Royal Guards Staff building in 1843.
Between 1839 and 1844 the Mariinsky Palace (today home to City Hall) was built for Nicholas beloved daughter Maria and St. Isaacs Cathedral, the main church of the Russian Empire, was finally completed in 1858, after the death of Nicholas I and after his son Alexander II had acceded to the throne.
When Alexander II was crowned Russian Emperor, the country was still reeling with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Anglo- Franco-Turkish coalition in the Crimean War. Something had to be done to boost the national economy and ensure political stability. With this in mind, the Emperor 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.
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.
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 Prospekt and the citys 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 countrys 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.
When WWI broke out in August 1914 it was decided to change the name of the Russian capital from the Germanic St. Petersburg to the more Russian equivalent, Petrograd. Germany was now Russias enemy and all of the forces within the countrys power had to be employed to defeat her. Most of the citys industry began to work to support the war effort and many of Petrograds buildings, including a large portion of the Winter Palace, were turned into hospitals. Most construction work in the city stopped.
The political and economic crisis continued throughout 1917 and in the fall the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, grasped political power. On October 25 (November 7) 1917 blank shot fired by the cruiser "Aurora" gave the signal to the waiting workers and soldiers to storm the Winter Palace, the current residence of the democratic, but largely inefficient Provisional Government. Most of the ministers were arrested and thus began 73 long years of Communist rule.
At the beginning of 1918 Civil War (1918-1921) broke out and the revolutionary soldiers and workers of Petrograd became the core of the Red Guard, which later turned into the Red Army. While the men were leaving the city for the fronts of the Civil War, a significant portion of the population migrated to the countryside, where families inevitably found it easier to provide to feed themselves. The population dropped from 2.3 million in 1917 to 722 thousand by the end of 1920. By the beginning of 1918 German troops were so close to Petrograd that the Bolshevik government under Vladimir Lenin decided to move the capital to Moscow, which was still a long way from the German front. Petrograd was abandoned by the government and many of the citys street names were altered according to the revolutionary fashion of the day
Shortly after the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin died, the city was renamed Leningrad (supposedly by public demand). During the years of the Revolution the population of the city had dropped dramatically and the city was slow to recover from the rigors and tragedies of the war.
This was undoubtedly the most tragic period in the history of the city, a period full of suffering and heroism. Less than two and a half months after the Soviet Union was attacked by Nazi Germany, German troops were already approaching Leningrad. The Red Army was outflanked and on September 8 1941 the Germans had fully encircled Leningrad and the siege began. The siege lasted for a total of 900 days, from September 8 1941 until January 27 1944. The citys almost 3 million civilians (including about 400,000 children) refused to surrender and endured rapidly increasing hardships in the encircled city.
Food and fuel stocks were limited to a mere 1-2 month supply, public transport was not operational and by the winter of 1941-42 there was no heating, no water supply, almost no electricity and very little food. In January 1942 in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the citys food rations reached an all time low of only 125 grams (about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per person per day. In just two months, January and February of 1942, 200,000 people died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. Despite these tragic losses and the inhuman conditions the citys war industries still continued to work and the city did not surrender.
In January 1943 the Siege was broken and a year later, on January 27 1944 it was fully lifted. At least 641,000 people had died in Leningrad during the Siege (some estimates put this figure closer to 800,000). Most of them were buried in mass graves in different cemeteries, with the majority in the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, resting place to over 500,000 people and a timeless reminder of the heroic deeds of the city.
Nowadays St. Petersburg is still in a transition period, both economically and socially. While the citys industries are still in recession, services and retail sales are gradually improving and more and more foreign businesses are being attracted to the citys new business climate. Although, still far behind Moscow in economic terms, St. Petersburg had become a modern, rapidly growing commercial city. On the social side, St. Petersburgs younger generations are coping admirably with the economic changes, but unemployment remains high and families and pensioners struggle desperately to make ends meet.
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