Saint Petersburg is located in the North-West of the Russian Federation, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland and in the Neva River estuary. 5 225 690 live in St. Petersburg (official data from 2016). This makes Saint Petersburg the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million people.
Among the cities located entirely in Europe, Saint Petersburg is the third largest by the number of people living in it and is also the largest non capital city in Europe by population.
St. Petersburg is the only capital city in Europe which was never occupied by a foreign power.
Saint Petersburg had 2 other official names throughout its history. Founded as Saint Petersburg in May of 1702 by Peter the Great it was renamed to Petrograd in August of 1914 during the First World War. This was done to make it sound more Russian, ‘grad’ – means ‘city’ or ‘town’ in Russian. In January of 1924 it was renamed to Leningrad – to commemorate the leader of the bolshevik revolution. In September of 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union the historical name was returned to the city.
It also has several unofficial names. Russians quite often call it ‘The Northern Capital’ to remind to the world that from 1712 to 1918 it was the capital of the Russian State. Another name quite often heard from the locals is ‘Peter’. This is probably to not only make it short but also to emphasize the special intimate bond they have with the city.
RIVAL TO MOSCOW
The city hosts many governmental offices which often belong to state capitals – the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, Heraldic Council under the auspices of the President of Russia, the government of the Lenindrad Region (the region is still called by its Soviet name), the Interparliamentary Assembly of CIS countries and also the Main Command of the Navy and the Army Headquarters of the Western Military District of the Russian Army Forces – to name a few.
TRAGIC HISTORY IN THE 20TH CENTURY
Three Russian revolutions had their start in the city – The revolution of 1905, the February democratic revolution of 1917 and the Bolshevik October coup of 1917.
During the Second World War the city was surrounded by the German army and suffered a total blockade for 872 days. It is estimated that 1.5 million people died from hunger during that time.
HISTORIC AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE
Saint-Petersburg is an important economic, scientific and cultural centre of Russia and a major transport hub. Historic centre of Saint Petersburg and related complexes of monuments are included in the list of world heritage sites of UNESCO.
It is one of the most important tourist destinations in the country. Among the most important cultural and tourist sites are the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, the Ethnographic Museum (Kunstkamera), the Mariinsky Theatre, the Russian National Library, the Peter and Paul Fortress, the St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Nevsky Prospect.