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Archive for June, 2010

The Peter and Paul Fortress

The fortress was founded on 16 May 1703 to the thunder of the enemy’s cannon, on the low island of Enisaari (“Hare Island” in Finnish) near the right-hand bank of the Neva. It was designed to defend the lands of Ingria fought back from Sweden by the young Russian army in the course of the Northern War and to defend the mouth of the Neva. Fortification had a serious scientific background in those years and the plan of the citadel was designed by specialists.

View of the Peter and Paul Fortress Hare Island

Hare Island

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St-Petersburg: 21th Century

In 2003 the revived city celebrated its 300th jubilee. In the past three centuries St Petersburg celebrated triumphs of imperial grandeur and witnessed terrible dramas of wars and revolutions. It was glorified and damned in literature – some authors saw it mystically attractive and some others found it disgustingly cruel. And even today it arouses different emotions, never leaving anybody indifferent. The inhabitants of St Petersburg believe that their city is the best in the world and capable to overcome any trials and tribulations. One cannot help musing upon the glorious and
tragic history of the city near the equestrian statue of its creator, Peter the Great, the first Russian Emperor. This monument, a work by Etienne Maurice Falconet, inspired Alexander Pushkin for the creation of the poem The Bronze Horseman, and under its spell the bronze statue acquired a profound symbolic significance for St Petersburg implementing its spirit of vitality. Seemingly arrested in an eternal jump over the city, its patron is gazing, as it were, into breath-taking St Petersburg vistas and gorgeous ensembles.

Monument to Peter the Great. 1768-82. Sculfpor Etienne Maurice Falconet assisted by Marie Anne Collot

Monument to Peter the Great
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St-Petersburg: 20th Century

Emperor Alexander III, the “Pacifier”, a mighty man of enviable health, died on 20 October 1894 from a kidney disease at the age of 49. The heir, Tsesarvich Nicholas, a man of average abilities, was not ready to take control of the huge country. Infantile, timid and shy at 26, when he had to inherit the throne, Nicholas was completely lost, and moreover, the political situation was rather difficult indeed when he succeeded the crown. On 14 November 1894 he urgently married Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, who took the name of Alexandra Fiodorovna after accepting the Orthodox faith. The luxurious and majestic wedding in the church of the Winter Palace was not accompanied by any especial merry-making and their honeymoon passed against the background of funeral visits. The reign of the last Russian Emperor began in a tragic atmosphere – during the coronation of Nicholas II many people were crushed by the jostling crowd. But except for the Khodynka tragedy, the course of life in Russia was still rather steady and quiet in the first years of his reign.

Ilya Repin. The Marriage of Nicolas II and Grend Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna in the Winter Palase. 1894

The Marriage of Nicolas II and Grend Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna
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St-Petersburg: 19th Century

In the nineteenth century St Petersburg spread along the banks of the Neva “as a marvellous monument to the victory gained by the man of genius over nature.” Turned into the capital of Russia and being its main port now, it was quickly developing and getting rich. St Petersburg could boast a brilliant galaxy of talented architects in any period and never had a shortage of cheap manpower. Therefore nothing could prevent the Russian Emperors from endowing their northern capital with a befitting air of majesty and glitter.

Franz von Kruger. Portrait of Emperor Nocolas I. 1850s

Nicolas I
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St-Petersburg: 18th Century

The Tsars had since long dreamed about getting access to the Baltic Sea and taking back the Russian lands seized by Sweden from Russia.
With this aim in view, Peter began the Northern War in 1700 and led a successful attack on Ingria in 1702. To strengthen the captured position in the estuary of the Neva, he made a decision to construct a fortress on a small island called Enisaari, or Hare Island, by the Finns.
The citadel was founded quickly and without pomp – the Tsar himself and his companions-in-arms could hardly think in those times about a new city and even less about turning it into the capital of Russia.  The fortress-city of St Petersburg was growing fast, although gunfire could be heard roaring nearby. The crucial date for the burgeoning city was the year 1709 when the Russian army won a brilliant victory at Poltava. This victory changed the entire course of the Northern War and now Peter began to dream about a large city and a busy port like Amsterdam. He wanted to build on the banks of the Neva his “paradise”, a symbol of new Russia. (The beautiful new capital was rapidly growing on the banks of the regally powerful Neva.
Jean Marc Nattier. Portrait of Peter the Great. 1717
The Tsar-craftsman preferred common working clothes to such formal garments

Peter the Great
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