Saint Petersburg was founded on 16 May 1703. That day the six-bastion fortress was ceremonially laid on the Zayachy Island in the broadest part of the Neva estuary. The laying of the Fortress became a culmination in the succession of events that had lasted several centuries. The Finnish Gulf, the Ladoga Lake, the Onega Lake and the surrounding region became the arena of fight between Novgorod, and later the centralized Russian State and the neighboring states, especially Sweden.
In 1240 Duke Alexander Nevsky who headed the troops of Novgorod defeated the Swede at the place where the Izhora River fell into the Neva River. However, in 1617 during the reign of Michael III when the Times of Troubles had just been over, Russia was forced to conclude a peace treaty with Sweden giving up the Izhora grounds. The vast country was deprived of the natural outlet to the Baltic Sea.
In 1699 Peter the Great started preparation for the war with Sweden. In 1700 the Northern War of Russia with Sweden broke out. It lasted 21 year and resolved finally the controversy of centuries. In the fall of 1702 Russian troops seized Noteburg. Peter the Great called this fortress Schluesselburg (Key Town), which marked that the route to Neva was cleared. In May 1703 Peter and Paul fortress was laid in the Zayachy Island with the church in name of Saints Peter and Paul in the middle. The house of wooden logs known as "the House of Peter the Great" was constructed on the Right Bank of the Neva River not far from the Peter and Paul fortress. 16 May 1703 is deemed to be the date of St.Petersburg foundation. In May 1704 the construction of the first sea fortress, Kronstadt, was completed in the Finnish Gulf. The location of these three fortresses outlined the borders of the future Russian Capital and its suburbs.
In 1710 the Capital of Russia was transferred from Moscow to St.Petersburg, while in 1712 the Tsar Family and households together with the major Governmental Bodies moved to St.Petersburg. On the 27th of July 1714 Russia fleet headed by Peter the Great scored the decisive victory at Gangut cape in the Baltic Sea that made Russia an equal partner among the European states and determined the outcome of the Northern War.
Peter the Great conceived the idea of a regularly planned city with well-defined layout developed to clear designs. Domenico Tresini was the first architect who made the General Layout of the city center. His designs were used for construction of the Summer Palace of Peter the Great, the Building of the Twelve Boards, and the laying of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, that appeared to be of the prime importance for the city development and the ideology. It was Peter the Great's intention to move the Relics of Saint Alexander Nevsky from Vladimir City to this monastery to make a memorial that would always remind of the glory of Russian troops.
Jean Batist Leblon was the architect who developed the General Layout of St.Petersburg. During that period such buildings as the Menshikov Palace, and the Kunstamera were constructed; the outstanding sculptor and architect B.F. Rastrelli worked in the city. The combined efforts of these architects lead to the specific style of St.Petersburg baroque.
The tragic pause in the city development followed the death of Peter the Great (28 January 1725). The opponents of Peter the Great's reforms brought the Capital back to Moscow and the City of Peter began to decay. In 1730 Empress Ann ascended the throne and the status of Russian Capital came back to St.Petersburg again. The Empress tried to be seen as the follower of Peter's ideas. During her reign the city was carefully divided into five part, the center being moved to the Admiralty Island. Three thoroughfares that stemmed from the Admiralty were completed - Nevsky Prospect, Median Prospect (now Gorokhovaya street), and Voznesensky Prospect.
Empress Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1741. She brought Russia back to the Peter's custom of doing things by means of Russian people. The reign of Empress Elizabeth was the period when the society gathered strength for the coming glorious epoch of conquests and transformations. During that period the Russian Baroque style of St.Petersburg was embodied in such creations as the Winter Palace, and Smolny Monastery (B. Rastrelli), and St.Nicolay Church (S. Chevakinsky).
Empress Catherine II (1762 - 1796) was known as the continuer of Peter the Great's affairs for home reforms and significant conquests. After the series of wars Russia acquired Crimea and the Northern shores of the Black Sea, took back Russian regions of Poland, and joined Kurlandia. Brilliant education and philosophy ideals of the Empress seriously influenced Russian legislation, policy and the fine arts of that time. A new style classicism was established. Such buildings as the Academy of Fine Arts (Felten), the Gostinny Dvor (Valen - de la Moth), the Marble Palace (Rinaldi), the Old Hermitage (Felten), the Taurida Palace (Starov), the Yusupov Palace at the Fontanka River, the Smolny Institute, the Narva Triumph Gates (Quarenghi), the Main Admiralty Building (Zakharov), the Stock Exchange House (Toma de Tomon), and the Kazansky Cathedral (Voronikhin) were constructed during that period. Emperor Pavel (1796 - 1801) proceeded with rearrangement of the city center and its suburbs.
In 1797 - 1800 the architects V. Brenna and V. Bazhenov built the Mikhaylovsky Palace. This is a square shaped building with an inner yard surrounded by rivers and moats on all sides like a medieval castle. Emperor Pavel I was always in terror of a plot, therefore to make his life safer he ordered the palace with many passages, levels, and rooms. On November 1 1800 the Palace became the official residence of the Emperor's family, however after his assassination by the plotters the Emperor's family came back to the Winter Palace.
In 1801 Emperor Alexander I ascended the throne (1801 - 1825), and in 1805 the war with Napoleon broke out. Moscow, along with St.Petersburg was under threat of invasion of the French troops. There are oodles of legends about the history of St.Petersburg, and one of them is related to that time when the city decided to erect the monument of Peter the Great. A peasant from Lakhta Village, Semen Vishnyakov, came to the city authorities to say: "There is a big stone in the bog near my village. Its name is the Thunder Stone. Just come and take it. It will be the pedestal for Peter's monument since Peter himself used to climb it to watch the sea". The stone was inspected. It was huge indeed, of ash-gray quartz and feldspar. Its weight was 100 thousand poods (one pood is 16.38 kg). The Baltic sailors headed by Captain Mordvinov lifted it with winches and levers, pushed it through the slope on the platform on copper balls and rolled to St.Petersburg. In took them two years to complete the job. This Thunder Stone is a pedestal for the most wold famous monument of Peter the Great, that is also known and The Copper Horseman. It is located in the city center near the Senate building. In 1812 Napoleon threatened to invade St.Petersburg. There were some individuals who wanted to dismantle this monument, but the people ready to fight against the French troops created a new legend that said: "In the night the clop of hoofs of the Copper Horseman could be heard. It was Peters the Great, the great-great grandfather of Alexander I. He appeared in front of his great-great grandson and said, "Mind that while I am on my rock the city will never be defeated". Than he turned back and the clop of hoofs could be heard again as he came back to his rock".
The victorious parry of Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and the raid of liberation of Russian troops to Europe were reflected in a new rise of the city development in the Capital of mighty Russia. The ensemble of the Mikhaylovsky Palace, the ensemble of the Alexandrinsky Theater, the buildings of the top governmental bodies of Russia (The Senate and The Synod), the building of the Headquarters with the Triumph Arch and the House of Ministries in the Palace Square (Rossi) were constructed during this period. The complex of the Palace Square was completed with the Alexander Column, and the biggest cathedral in Russia, the St.Isaac Cathedral was erected in the Isaac Square (Montferrand).
The death of Alexander I and the accession of Nicholay I to the throne were complicated by dramatic political events. On December 14 1825, the day when Nicolay I was taking the oath, the Guards' regiments headed by plotters refused to swear to Nicolay I. Their intentions were to seize the Winter Palace, and Peter and Paul Fortress, to encircle the Senate and make Senators issue the Manifest to the Russians, where they would declare the autocracy toppled, introduction of democracy, abolition of serfdom and summon of the Constituent Assembly. However the insurrection went bust. It was suppressed in the cruelest way. That was the first armed insurrection against the autocracy and serfdom in Russia, later called the Decembrist Rebellion.
During the reign of Nicolay I Russia waged wars with Persia and Turkey in the East. That time could be characterized by the stormy growth of industry that brought about the extensive development of the Capital. St.Petersburg acquired new features typical of capitalism epoch. The city appearance became more complicated, multifaceted, and contradictory. Private housing development was on the up and up filling empty plots of land in the city center with more buildings. During this time the squares near railroad stations were formed, the revamping of port facilities were completed, and a lot of industrial buildings were erected. It was the time when the architect Stakenschneider worked in St.Petersburg. He was the one to create the Mariinsky Palace in the Isaac Square, the Nicolaevsky Palace, etc. The development of Petrogradskaya Storona (the district in St.Petersburg) can be seen as an example of the architects' concept of the city that was supposed to be a single artistic entity.
These trends in the city development were followed during the reign of Emperor Alexander III (1881-1894), which was a short peaceful reprieve for Russia. The social, economical and political contradictions of Russia development after bourgeois reforms of 1860-1870 opened the way for the growth of capitalism. However Russia could not get entirely rid of feudal/serfdom survivals. Social contradictions that had been accumulating for a long time added to the wars that Russia was waging brought about the Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution of 1905-07 that was accompanies by the series of political strikes. The most severe strikes in Russia took place in St.Petersburg.
During the reign of Nicolay II (1894-1917) Russia waged a number of wars that happened to be extremely hard for the Country. The war with Japan lead to the defeat of Russian fleet at Tsushima Island and to the loss of the Port Arthur (in China). In 1914 the First World War I broke out. Under the influence of anti-German vein St.Petersburg was renamed into Petrograd in 1914. This war (1914-18) appeared to be fatal for the Russia autocracy. The October Coup inspired by the Bolsheviks headed by V. Lenin on November 6-7 1917 lead to the change of the political system in Russia. The Civil War and the mess in economy followed these events. All private properties were nationalized. In twenties of the XX century thousands of workers from industrial outskirts moved to central apartments, breaking the functional structure of the central residential houses. During these years the Bolsheviks sold out to foreign countries a lot of national treasures, sacred objects that belonged to church, that had been created and cherished for many centuries.
In 1917-1923 the Mars Square in St.Petersburg was transformed into a garden laid out to the drawing of I. Fomin. The granite monument to the revolutionaries was erected there to the design of L. Rudnev. V. Lenin died in 1924. The Bolsheviks renamed the city into Leningrad "to immortalize Lenin's name". In thirtieth and fortieth such districts as Avtovo, Moskovsky Avenue, and Malaya Okhta were developed.
The Great Patriotic War with Nazi Germany became the hardest ordeal for the whole country and in particular for St.Petersburg. According to the plan of Hitler, Leningrad was supposed to be totally demolished. The Blockade of Leningrad was the most tragic period for the city during the World War II. It lasted from September 08 1941 till January 27 1944, about 900 days and nights. Fighting for Leningrad the Soviet troops managed to keep the enemy back from the city at quite a short distance setting an example of real heroism. Two million eight hundred and eighty seven civilians left is the blocked city. The Military Council of the Leningrad Front established the production of ammunition died of hunger, while seventeen thousand more were killed by bombs and shell splinters. The memorial ensembles were created in sixtieth at Piskarevskoye and Seraphimovskye cemeteries, were the victim of the Blockade had been buried. The monuments of history and culture and the suburban palace complexes were ruined or devastated. The restoration works started right after the war. These works were most successfully performed in the fifties and sixties.
In sixties - eighties the city was developed along the arch of the Finnish Gulf coast, as well as to the Northwest and South. In 1979 St.Petersburg began to erect the flood protection dam and associated facilities. Throughout its history St.Petersburg always faced the menace of flood. The dam starts from the Gorskaya station on the northern coast of the Finnish Gulf, crosses the Kotlin Island, and reaches the Bronka station on the southern coast. The dam is 25.4 kilometers long and 8 meters high. After commissioning of the dam and associated facilities, the floods will no more threaten the city.
The nineties marked the drastic changes in the governmental structures and economical policy. In 1991 the name of Saint Peter was returned to the city. The high speed St.Petersburg-Moscow railroad project was started in 1991. In 1994 St.Petersburg became the place of the Good Will Games. The projects for revamping of the City Sea Port and the Airport have been initiated. The growth of business, political and cultural activity is quite obvious. Being one of the major European centers the city has the honor to be referred to as the Northern Capital of Russia.
Upon the decision of UNESCO St.Petersburg has been recognized as a Monument of the Works Culture.