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Things To Do And See in Saint Petersburg Russia

Sep 17, 2008
Saint Petersburg, formerly known as Petrograd from 1913 to 1924 and Leningrad from 1924 to 1991 was founded by Tsar Peter 1 of Russia on May 27 1703. It was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years between 1713 to 1728 and 1732 to 1918, ceasing to be the Capital after the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The famous old Capital of Saint Petersburg is a fascinating place to visit as there are so many interesting historical sights to see and facts to learn. There are even plenty of myths and legends regarding the city leaving people to try figure out what is and what is not true.

If you are lucky enough to see Saint Petersburg for yourself, there are certain points of interest that should not be missed. The Peter and Paul Fortress is an original citadel- or fortress- founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to Domenico Trezzini's designs from 1706-1740. It was originally built in a year using the materials of earth and timber, however, during it's rebuild stone was used instead.

The fortress was built when the Northern War was at full strength, however, it never fulfilled it's martial purpose. From around 1720, the fort served as a base for the city garrison and also as a prison for high ranking or political prisoners. During the February Revolution of 1917, it was attacked by mutinous soldiers of the Pavlovskii regiment and the prisoners were freed. Under the Provisional Government hundreds of Tsarist officials were held in the Fortress, for their protection. So many officials were held that the Fortress was filled and the rest had to be taken to the Michael Manege.

When you visit this great historical sight, it is possible to enter the cells themselves. When you enter the room, the doors can be shut in order for you to grasp the extend of the darkness prisoners would have faced. The small cells are pitch black. It is said that prisoners used to communicate in code by tapping on the piping or knocking on the wall. The thought of the darkness and the tapping is quite eerie.

The fortress also contains the Peter and Paul Cathedral built from 1712 to 1733, which has a 123.2 metre bell tower, making it an extremely impressive sight to see. The Cathedral is also the burial place of all the Russian Tsars.

The churches and cathedrals of Saint Petersburg are magnificent examples of construction and are beautiful to the eye. The Church of the Saviour On Spilled Blood is a stunning building and has an interesting story to accompany the reason for it's existence. The name refers to the blood of the assassinated Alexander the Second of Russia who was mortally wounded on that site March 13 1881. The church was built as a memorial to Alexander the Second by his son Alexander the Third and was completed in Nicholas the Second's reign in 1907.

After the Russian Revolution the church was ransacked and looted, which unfortunately caused considerable damage to it's interior. The Soviets even closed the church in the early 1930s. During the second world war many people were starving in Russia due to the siege of Leningrad by the hostile Nazi military German forces. During this period people needed to store food in whatever way they could and so the church was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes. This use of the church unsurprisingly caused even further damage. Post war the church was also used as an Opera storage warehouse.

The Church of the Saviour On Spilled Blood re-opened in August 1997, having under gone 27 years of restoration. The well needed restoration was made possible thanks to proceeds from Saint Isaac's Cathedral, which was then used as a highly profitable museum.

The Winter Palace is a beautiful building situated on the Neva River whose waters notoriously freeze over during the winter months. It was built between 1754 and 1762 as the winter residence of the Russian Tsars. The building was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli in the Rococo style, which was a type of 18th Century French art and interior design. The green and white palace has 1945 windows and 1786 doors. Catherine the Great, was it's first imperial occupant.

The February Revolution in Russia caused by growing tension with the Tsarist regime including poor living and working conditions, bought about significant changes in history. Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the collapse of Imperial Russia and the end of the Romanov dynasty. Once the February Revolution had taken place the Winter Palace became the headquarters of the Russian Provisional Government. The assault of the Winter Palace by Bolshevik forces was the official milestone of the October Revolution.

The Winter Palace is also the sight of the Hermitage Museum, which has over 3 million pieces of art, although they are not all on display at the same time.

The name Rasputin in famous throughout Russia. He was seen by many as a mad monk with healing powers that could help Tsarevich Alexei's illness of haemophilia. This disease was widespread among European royalty descended from the British Queen Victoria, who was Alexei's great-grandmother. If you are interested in the many legends and myths surrounding Rasputin why not visit the Moika Palace, along the Moika river. The Yusupov's place of residence is where Rasputin was supposedly lured by a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich (one of the few Romanov family members to escape the annihilation of the family during the Red Terror) and murdered. The Red Terror in Soviet Russia was the campaign of mass arrests and executions conducted by the Bolshevik government against counter-revolutionaries.

Saint Petersburg is definitely a place to visit, as there are so many beautiful sights to see. There is also so much history to learn as well as fascinating myths and legends to ponder. Try and see as much as possible during the time you are there. October is a great time to go, as it is just getting cold and there is a chance of snow, but it is not too cold and neither is it too hot.
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