St Petersburg
Described by Dostoevsky as' the most artificial city in the world', St Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as the capital of the Russian Empire, which it remained for more than two hundred years until the government moved to Moscow after the revolution of 1917. This is a beautiful city with a rich history, and offers many treats for lovers of art and architecture.
The Neva River, with its many canals and their granite embankments and bridges, sets St Petersburg apart from other Russian cities. Dominated by the Baroque Winter Palace, stretching 200 m (660 ft) along the river front, it is imbued with Russian imperial history. Commissioned by Tsarina Elizabeth, the lavish interior of the palace reflects the opulent Eves of the tsars. Catherine the Great added the Hermitage in 1764 to house her private art collection, now one of the largest in the world.
Tsar Peter built the city after reconquering the Ingrian land from Sweden at the beginning of the Great Northern War, He named it after his patron saint, the apostle Saint Peter, and envisaged it as a great city dedicated to art and culture. He chose a site on what was then a large swamp, the delta of the Neva River, on the edge of the Baltic Sea's Gulf of Finland. Due to the adverse weather and geographical conditions, there was a high mortality rate among workers on his new city, so Peter levied a yearly conscription of 40,000 peasants from all parts of the country. Half of them died or escaped on the long trek there.
The main street in the city is Nevsky Prospekt, along which there are many rewarding sights. These include the Rastrelliesque Stroganov Palače, a monument to Catherine the Great, the Art Nouveau Bookhouse, the Anichkov Bridge with its remarkable horse statues, several eighteenth century churches, an enormous eighteenth-century shopping centre, a nineteenth-century department store and the Russian National Library.
There are dozens of Baroque and Neoclassical palaces in the city, and an amazing array of churches. The astonishing St Isaac's Cathedral has an enormous dome covered with gold, and the Cathedral of Peter and Paul in Palace Square contains the tombs of Peter the Great and his successors. The huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospekt is modeled on St Peter's in Rome and well worth a visit. The Alexander Nevsky Monastery comprises two cathedrals and five churches in various styles, It is also known for its cemetery, with the graves of many well-known figures, such as Dostoyevsky, Krylov, Ilyich, Tchaykovsky and Mussorgsky.

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