Russian "Sankt Peterburg", formerly "Petrograd" (1914-24), "Leningrad" (1924-91), northwestern Russia, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. St. Petersburg - the Venice of the North - is a city of haunting magnificence, an imperial capital that seems to have been built as a monument to its own passing.
The second largest city (after Moscow) in Russia. The population is about 5 million people. St.Petersburg has played a vital role in Russian history. Founded as St.Petersburg by Peter the Great in 1703, it was for two centuries the capital of the Russian Empire (1712-1918). It was the scene of the February and October revolutions in 1917 and was a besieged and fiercely defended city during World War II. The modern city is important as a cultural and industrial centre and as one of the nation’s largest seaports.
St. Petersburg is situated on the delta of the Neva River where it flows into the Gulf of Finland, about 160 km from the Finnish border. The city once spread across nearly 100 islands of the delta. The low and originally marshy site has made the city subject to recurrent, often severe flooding. Canals and natural channels assist drainage and make St.Petersburg a city of waterways and bridges.
The climate is of the modified continental type, with marked maritime influences. February temperatures average -8° C, and July’s average +18° C.
Central St.Petersburg is divided by distributaries of the Neva River into four sections: the Admiralty Side, Vasilyevsky Island, the Petrograd Side, and the Vyborg Side. Industrial and residential suburbs spread north and south. The Admiralty Side is particularly rich in museums, monuments, and historical buildings and squares. From the Admiralty, the nucleus of Peter’s original city, the great street known as Nevsky Prospekt goes eastward. The street is lined by palaces, churches, stores, cafes, and theatres.
St.Petersburg displays a remarkable richness of architecture that includes the cathedral of the Peter-Paul Fortress, the Summer Palace, the Winter Palace, the Smolny Convent, the Vorontsov and Strogonov palaces, the Kazan and St.Isaacs Cathedrals, the Smolny Institute, the new Admiralty, and the Senate. Music, ballet, and theatre enjoy a long and continuing tradition in the city.
Hermitage in St.Petersburg, one of the largest museums in the world, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great. The present-day Hermitage has several departments - prehistoric culture, the Antique World, Oriental cultures, history of Russian culture (including the palace interior and the 1812 Gallery), numismatics, West European art, displaying the world-famous works of Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Titian, Giorgione, Velazques, Murillo, Rubens, Van Dyke, Hals, Gainsborough, Poussin, Watteau, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, and many others, and sculptures by Michelangelo, Rodin, etc.