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Palaces and monuments
Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of Saint-Petersburg,
Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to
Domenico Trezzini's designs from 1706-1740.
The fortress was established by Peter the Great on May 16,
1703 on small Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva
River, the last upstream island of the Neva delta. Built at
the height of the Northern War in order to protect the
projected capital from a feared Swedish counterattack, the
fort never fulfilled its martial purpose. The citadel was
completed with six bastions in earth and timber within a
year, and it was rebuilt in stone from 1706-1740.
The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered
around the Peter and Paul Cathedral (1712-1733), which has a
123.2 m (404 ft) bell-tower (the tallest in the downtown)
and a gilded angel-topped cupola.
The newer Grand Ducal Mausoleum (built in the Neo-Baroque
style under Leon Benois's supervision in 1896-1908) is
connected to the cathedral by a corridor. It was constructed
in order to remove the remains of some of the non-reigning
Romanovs from the cathedral where there was scarcely any
room for new burials. The mausoleum was expected to hold up
to sixty tombs, but by the time of the Russian Revolution
there were only thirteen.
Other structures inside the fortress include the still
functioning mint building (constructed to Antonio Porta's
designs under Emperor Paul), the Trubetskoy and Alekseyevsky
bastions with their grim prison cells, and the city museum.
According to a centuries-old tradition, a cannon is fired
each noon from the Naryshkin Bastion. Annual celebrations of
the city day (May 27) are normally centered on the island
where the city was born.
The sandy beaches underneath the fortress walls are among
the most popular in Saint-Petersburg.
In summer, the beach is often overcrowded, especially when a
major sand festival takes place on the shore.
The equestrian statue of Peter the Great is situated in the
Senate Square (formerly the Decembrists Square), in
Saint-Petersburg. Catherine the Great, a German princess who
married into the Romanov line, was anxious to connect
herself to Peter the Great to gain legitimacy in the eyes of
the people. She ordered its construction, and had it
inscribed with the phrase Petro Primo Catharina Secunda
MDCCLXXXII in Latin and Ïåòðó ïåðüâîìó Åêàòåðèíà âòîðàÿ,
ëѣòà 1782 in Russian, both meaning 'Catherine the Second to
Peter the First, 1782', an expression of Catherine's
attitude toward her predecessor and her view of her own
place in the line of great Russian rulers. Catherine, who,
having gained her position through a palace coup, had no
legal claim to the throne, was anxious to appear as Peter's
The statue has Peter the Great sitting heroically on his
horse, his outstretched arm pointing towards the River Neva
in the west. The sculptor wished to capture the exact moment
of his horse rearing at the edge of a dramatic cliff. His
horse can be seen trampling a serpent, variously interpreted
to represent treachery, evil or the enemies of Peter and his
reforms. The statue itself is about 6 m (20 feet) tall,
while the pedestal is another 7m (25ft) tall, for a total of
approximately 13m (45ft).
Aurora is a Russian protected cruiser,
currently preserved as a museum ship in Saint-Petersburg.
She battled the Japanese Navy in the Russo-Japanese War. One
of the first incidents of the Communist Revolution in Russia
happened on the cruiser Aurora.
The cruiser Aurora was one of three Pallada-class cruisers,
built in Saint-Petersburg for service in the Pacific. On 27
and 28 May 1905, Aurora took part in the Battle of Tsushima,
along with the rest of the Russian squadron. In 1906, Aurora
returned to the Baltic and became a cadet training ship.
On 25 October 1917, Aurora refused to carry an order to put
to sea, which sparked the October Revolution. At 9.45 p.m.
on that date, a blank shot from her forecastle gun signalled
the start of the assault on the Winter Palace, which was to
be the last episode of the October Revolution. The cruiser's
crew actually took part in the attack.
Cabin of Peter the Great
The cabin of Peter the Great is a small
wooden house which was the first Saint-Petersburg "palace"
of Tsar Peter the Great.
The log cabin was constructed in three days in May 1703, by
soldiers of the Semyonovskiy Regiment. At that time, the new
Saint-Petersburg was described as "a heap of villages linked
together, like some plantation in the West Indies". The date
of its construction is now considered to mark the foundation
of the city.
The design is a combination of an izba, a traditional
Russian countryside house typical of the 17th century, and
the Tsar's beloved Dutch Baroque, later to evolve into the
Petrine Baroque. Inside, the wooden walls were painted with
red oil to resemble brick, and the rooms came to be known as
the "red chambers". There are no fires or chimneys, as it
was intended to be used only in the warmer summer months. It
was occupied by the Tsar between 1703 and 1708, while Peter
supervised the construction of the new imperial city and the
Peter and Paul Fortress.
Narva Triumphal Gate
The Narva Triumphal Gate was erected in
the vast Narva Square, Saint-Petersburg, in 1814 to
commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon. The wooden
structure was constructed on the Narva highway with the
purpose of greeting the soldiers who were returning from
abroad after their victory over Napoleon. The architect of
the original Narva Gate was Giacomo Quarenghi. The program
was meant to respond to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in
Paris, originally erected to celebrate Napoleon's victory
over the Allies at Austerlitz, but the material used was a
weather-resistant plaster that was never intended to be
Between 1827 and 1834 Vasily Stasov redesigned and rebuilt
the gate in stone. A similar gate, also by Stasov, was
erected on the road leading to Moscow. A sculptor Vasily
Demut-Malinovsky was responsible for the gate's sculptural
decor. As has been conventional since Imperial Roman times,
sculptures of Fame offering laurel wreaths fill the
spandrels of the central arch. The main entablature breaks
boldly forward over paired Composite columns that flank the
opening and support colossal sculptures. Nike, the Goddess
of Victory surmounts the arch, in a triumphal car drawn by
six horses, sculpted by Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg, instead
of the traditional Quadriga.
Admiralty Board was a supreme body for
the administration of the Imperial Russian Navy in the
Russian Empire, established by Peter the Great on December
The responsibilities of the Admiralty Board had been
changing throughout its history. It supervised the
construction of military ships, ports, harbors, and canals
and administered Admiralty Shipyard. The Admiralty Board was
also in charge of naval armaments and equipment, preparation
of naval officers etc. The first president of the Admiralty
Board was Count Fyodor Apraksin. In 1720, the Admiralty
Board published a collection of naval decrees called “A
Naval Charter On Everything That Has To Do With Good
Management Of A Fleet At Sea”, authored by Peter the Great
himself among other people. In 1802, the Admiralty Board
became a part of the Ministry of the Navy. Along with the
Admiralty Board, there was also the Admiralty Department in
1805-1827 with the responsibilities of the Chief Office of
the Ministry. In 1827, the Admiralty Board was turned into
the Admiralty Council, which would exist until the October
Revolution of 1917.
St. Michael's Castle
St. Michael's Castle, also called the
Mikhailovsky Castle or the Engineers Castle, is a former
royal residence in the historic centre of Saint-Petersburg,
Russia. St. Michael's Castle was built as a residence for
Emperor Paul I by architects Vincenzo Brenna and Vasili
Bazhenov in 1797-1801. The castle looks different from each
side, as the architects used the motifs of various
architectural styles such as French Classicism, Italian
Renaissance and Gothic.
St. Michael's Castle was built to the south of the Summer
Garden and replaced a small wooden palace of Empress
Elizabeth Petrovna. Afraid of intrigues and assassination
plots, Emperor Paul I didn't like the Winter Palace where he
never felt safe. Due to his personal interest in Medieval
knights and his constant fear of assassination, the new
royal residence was built like a castle with rounded corners
in which a small octagonal courtyard is located. The castle
was surrounded by the waters of the Moika River, the
Fontanka River and two specially dug canals (the Church
Canal and the Sunday Canal), transforming the castle area
into an artificial island which could only be reached by
Construction began on 26 February, 1797 and the castle was
solemnly consecrated on 8 November 1800.
Ironically, Paul I was assassinated only 40 nights after he
moved into his newly built castle. He was murdered on 12
March 1801, in his own bedroom, by a group of dismissed
officers headed by General Bennigsen. The conspirators
forced him to a table, and tried to compel him to sign his
abdication. Paul offered some resistance, and one of the
assassins struck him with a sword, and he was then strangled
and trampled to death. He was succeeded by his son, the
Emperor Alexander I, who was actually in the palace, and to
whom general Nicholas Zubov, one of the assassins, announced
The Yusupov Palace was
once the primary residence in Saint-Petersburg,
Russia of the House of Yusupov. The building was the site of
Grigori Rasputin's murder in 1916.
The palace was first built around 1770 by the French
architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe. Over the years
numerous well-known architects worked on the palace, and it
is known for the hodgepodge of architectural styles.
From 1830 to 1917, the palace belonged to the House of
Yusupov, an immensely wealthy family of Russian nobles,
known for their philanthropy and art collections. Thus in
the time of Imperial Russia, the palace became known as the
The palace is most famous, however, because of the actions
of its last prince Felix Yusupov. The exact events
surrounding Rasputin's death are much in dispute. The story,
according to Yusupov, is that on the night of December 16,
1916 he, along with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of the House
of Romanov, invited Grigori Rasputin to the Moika Palace.
Supposedly, they served Rasputin cakes and red wine laced
with cyanide—supposedly enough poison to kill five men.
Concerned that Rasputin appeared unaffected, Yusupov
retrieved a gun and shot Rasputin in the back. Taking him
for dead, the party prepared to leave. Yusupov returned a
short while later to find Rasputin still alive. He and his
conspirators shot Rasputin, at close range, three more times,
but Rasputin was still attempting to stand back up and flee.
Desperate they clubbed Rasputin in the head repeatedly with
an iron bar, wrapped him in a blanket, walked outside and
tossed him into the Moika River. His autopsy supposedly
found that neither the poison, nor the multiple gunshot
wounds, nor the clubbing caused his death—instead he died of
hypothermia. Much of the account, from Yusupov, is
The Smolny Institute is a Palladian
edifice in Saint-Petersburg that has played a major part in
the history of Russia.
The building was commissioned from Giacomo Quarenghi by the
Society for Education of Noble Maidens and constructed in
1806-08 to house the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens,
established at the urging of Ivan Betskoy and in accordance
with a decree of Catherine II (the Great) in 1764, borrowing
its name from the nearby Smolny Convent.
In 1917, the building was chosen by Vladimir Lenin as
Bolshevik headquarters during the October Revolution. It was
Lenin's residence for several months, until the national
government was moved to the Moscow Kremlin. After that, the
Smolny became the headquarters of the local Communist Party
apparat, effectively the city hall. In 1927, a monument to
Lenin was erected in front of the building, designed by the
sculptor Vasily Kozlov and the architects Vladimir Shchuko
and Vladimir Gelfreikh.