Saint Petersburg

On May 1, 1703, Peter the Great took the Swedish fortress of Nyenskans and the city Nyen, on the Neva River. Tsar Peter the Great founded the city on May 27, 1703 (May 16, Julian calendar) after re-conquering the Ingrian land from Sweden in the Great Northern War. He named the city after his patron saint, the apostle Saint Peter. The original name Sankt Pieterburg (Санкт-Питер-Бурх, which transcribed into English is Sankt Piter-Burkh) was borrowed from Dutch (Modern Dutch Sint Petersburg), because Peter had lived and studied in the Netherlands; he also spent three months in Britain, and was also influenced by his experience in the rest of Europe. “Saint Petersburg” is actually used as an English equivalent to three different forms of the name which the city has born over the course of time: the original Санкт-Питер-Бурх (Sankt Piter-Burkh), later Санкт-Петерсбурх (Sankt Petersburkh), and the current form Санкт-Петербург (Sankt Peterburg). None of these names literally transcribes as “St Petersburg”. In addition the city has born the names Ленинград (Leningrad) and (very briefly) Петроград (Petrograd).

The city was built under adverse weather and geographical conditions. High mortality rate required a constant supply of workers. Peter ordered a yearly conscription of 40,000 serfs, one conscript for every nine to sixteen households. Conscripts had to provide their own tools and food for the journey of hundreds of kilometers, on foot, in gangs, often escorted by military guards and shackled to prevent desertion, yet many escaped, others died from disease and exposure under the harsh conditions.[3]

The new city’s first building was the Peter and Paul Fortress; it originally also bore the name of Sankt Pieterburg. It was laid down on Zayachy (Hare’s) Island), just off the right bank of the Neva, three miles inland from the Gulf. The marshland was drained and the city spread outward from the fortress under the supervision of German and Dutch engineers whom Peter had invited to Russia. Peter restricted the construction of stone buildings in all of Russia outside of St Petersburg, so that all stonemasons would come to help build the new city…

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