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  by Anna Karpovsky  

by Dimitar Zlatev

 

 

 

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Leningrad

by Anna Karpovsky,

February 1999

"Where were you born?
St.Petersburg.
Where did you go to school?
Petrograd.
Where do you live now?

Leningrad.

And where would you like to live?

SSt.Petersburg."

 

 

 

It sounds quite peculiar, but St. Petersburg, Leningrad, and Petrograd are all the names for the same city in west part of Russia. Located on the coast of Gulf of Finland and about "500 miles south of the Arctic Circle", it is the city were I was born and spent my first thirteen years of my life. The city is well known for its amazing architectural constructions as well as Russian’s industrial center and nation’s largest seaport. The name of the city is currently, St. Petersburg. When I was born, in 1979, the city was named Leningrad. So in fact, I never really even lived in St. Petersburg. The city quite frequently changed its name as history took its course. The city, Russia, and Russian people went through a lot of dramatic reforms. The city’s name status underlines the agitated history of Russian nation.

 

St.Petersburg was founded by Peter I the Great in 1703 as a "window on  the West".

Most of the people familiar with the fact that Moscow is and was the capital of Russia,  but not everybody knows that St.Petersburg was also for two centuries, from 1712 - 1918, the capital of the Russian Empire, Tzarist Empire at the time. It was also a capital of the nation throughout  Russian revolution.

 

So, St.Petersburg started as St.Petersburg, Germanic origin name chosen by Peter the Great. Germanic name was appropriate for the city at that time because the city was more European than Russian due to its location and the fact that Peter wanted it to be a "window on the West". In August 31, 1914 it became Petrograd in the honor of its founder. .

Petrograd literally means the city of Peter. The city was the capital of Russia at that time and it had to have a more Russian-sounding name. During February and October revolutions in 1917, Petrograd was the scene of the Bolshevik’s movement. After death of Lenin, in 1924, the city was renamed to Leningrad in honor of its revolutionary leader. It was only in 1991 that the city finally got the name of St. Petersburg as originally named. The residence did not want there city to carry a name of Communist leader

 

The year of 1991 was a very tough year for my family. We were planning to move to US and our plans were definite. The country was in confusion and my family was in stress. In the same year, in month of September, the residence of Leningrad had to choose the name for their city. There were two arguments: to keep it as Leningrad, or to change it to St.Petersburg. My parents split in their opinions. To my dad the name Leningrad was associated with the idea of Communism as Lenin implemented it. The creation of Communistic society brought with itself dictatorship, camps, the terror under which people lived. For many years, people were put in camps for their political views or for just some unknown reasons. People were killed. People suffered. Lenin and his ideas brought harsh times. 

 

 The name Leningrad would always mirror those times and residence of the city wanted a new name. It was time to rename the city. St. Petersburg would replace Lenin’s name in the name of the city, and St. Petersburg would bring the old grace of the city. To my mom, Leningrad was the name of the city of 900 days of Nazi siege. "Leningrad epitomized the Soviet Union’s heroic scarifies in the war against Fascism". There is no family in Leningrad that has not been touched by the siege. A lot of people did die during this siege and during W.W.II in Russia, and some did survive to tell the stories. My mother’s mother lived during siege in the city with her 5 young children; my mother was born after the W.W.II. My grandmother could not evacuate form the city. She survived, but her children died. Leningrad, for many, is the name of the city as it was during W.W.II.

In now days, when people talk about the city during W.W.II, they call it Leningrad, not St. Petersburg. So, the name Leningrad carries a lot of mixed emotions. To residence of the city, 1991 was an emotional year since changing the name of the city was an emotional procedure. My parents knew that they were living the country, so to them the name would mean the memories, and that means a lot. The city was renamed to St. Petersburg.

 

I lived on the street named Gribaleva, in honor of W.W.II heroin, and I lived on the street named Ho-Shi-Min, in honor of Vietnamese Communist leader, and both of those streets were in Leningrad. That is where I lived. St. Petersburg is Leningrad to me. I carry a great pride for the city of my birth. Leningrad is magnificent and diverse. Russia is magnificent and diverse.

 

WORKS CITED

  •  Humphreys, R. and Richardson, D. (1993). St.Petersburg. The Rough Guide. United Kingdom: Cox & Wyman Ltd.

  • Hurlimann, Martin. (1958). Moscow and Leningrad. London: Thames and Hudson.

  • Rice, C. and Rice, M. (1995). Exploring St. Petersburg. New York: Fodor’s Travel Publications, Inc.

 

Saint Petersburg

by  Dimiter  Zlatev

 

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On the eastern bank of the Gulf of Finland, in the distant north of Europe, spreading its Venetian waterways and bridges across forty-two islands of the delta of the Neva River, the city of Saint Petersburg has for centuries been a vibrant cultural, political, and industrial centre of Russia. Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and renamed Petrograd in 1914 and Leningrad in 1924, St. Petersburg has been distinguished as the setting of the February and October revolutions of 1917 and as the Nazi-besieged city of World War II. Its architectural splendor, marked by the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, conveys the cultural and elegant historical presence that have made St. Petersburg one of the most magnificent and cultivated cities of Europe.

 

Russians settled the region of the Gulf of Finland, then known as Ingria, around the 9th century AD, when it came under the authority of Novgorod. After Ingria (together with Novgorod) passed into the possession of the grand princes of Moscow in the 15th century, it was quickly lost to Sweden in 1617. Peter the Great and a newly constructed Russian fleet assaulted the Swedish fortresses (which were built with the purpose to defend Ingria from Russian invasion) along the Neva during the Second Northern War (1700-1721). After the fortresses of Noteburg and Nienshants fell to Peter in 1703, Russia had gained control of the delta. On May 27, 1703, Peter laid the foundation stones for the Peter-Paul Fortress, and St. Petersburg was founded. After the fortress of Kronshtadt was built on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland, as guard from enemy approaches to the delta, and the Admiralty shipyard was established in 1706 with the launching of its first warship, Peter the Great began building the city that would be his "window on Europe." A bit upstream of the Peter-Paul fortress, the very first house, small but graceful, built for Peter himself so that he could oversee his city’s construction, is today preserved as a museum.

 

Initial single-storied wood housings gave way to stone buildings and, by 1714, St. Petersburg’s first palace—for the city’s first governor, Prince Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov—was completed. Planned as a majestic capital, with broad boulevards and large squares, St. Petersburg became the construction project of some of the best Russian and foreign architects, craftsmen, and artisans. After replacing Moscow as Russia’s capital in 1712, the city became home for most of the empire’s nobility and merchant class, who were persuaded by Peter to build houses in the new city. Government buildings and private houses—among which were the Customs House (now Museum of Literature), the marina hospital, the Merchants’s Exchange (now Naval Museum), and the Summer Palace—were erected rapidly, while canals for drainage were cut through the marshy foundations. After the first floating bridge was built over the Neva in 1727, almost 400 other bridges were constructed across St. Petersburg’s numerous river channels and canals. The marshy land and difficult northern climate caused a tremendous sacrifice in human life during the construction; "St. Petersburg, it was later suggested, rested on a swamp of human bones."

 

When the city’s harbor was constructed, it soon became Russia’s major port, handling more than ninety percent of the empire’s foreign trade, since Peter had sizably reduced the traffic through other Russian ports, especially the port of Arkhangelsk on the White Sea. By 1709, the Vyshnevolotsky Canal in the Valdai Hills gave St. Petersburg water access to central Russia and the Volga basin, triggering an accelerated development of the city’s industries. Bbefore the end of the 18th century, a cannon and gunpowder factory and papermaking, printing, food, clothing, and footwear industries were established. By 1800, not yet one hundred years since it was founded, St. Petersburg held a population of more than 200,000.

 

The city’s rapid growth quickly turned into richness and magnificence. The initial elegant style of the cathedral of the Peter-Paul fortress and of the Summer Palace was followed, in the mid-18th century, by the clear-cut, colored, and decorated lines of Russian Baroque architecture of Bartolomeo F. Rastrelli, Savva I. Chevakinsky, and Vasily P. Stasov. The Winter Palace, the Smolny Convent, the Vorontsov and Straganov palaces, and the summer palaces of Peterhof and of Tsarskoye Selo (Tsarist Village) were built in this period. Toward the end of the 18th century, the architects Giacomo Quarenghi, Carlo Rossi, and Andrey Voronikhin brought the pure classical style to St. Petersburg with buildings such as the Kazan and St. Isaac’s cathedrals, the new Admiralty, the Smolny Institute, the Mikhaylovsky Palace (now the State Russian Museum), and the Senate.

 

Cultural life comfortably refined itself and flourished within such a splendid architectural scene. The Institute of Mines was founded in 1773, and the University of St. Petersburg in 1819. Great Russian scientists, writers, and artists were identified with St. Petersburg, among whom were Dmitry Mendeleyev, Mikhail Lomonosov, Ivan Pavlov, Aleksandr Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Leo Tolstoy. In 1738, the first Russian school for ballet—home of such dancers as Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamar Karsavina, and Anna Pavlova—was opened, and, in 1862, the first conservatory of music in Russia was opened, subsequently performing premieres of such composers as Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Over and above all this stood the imperial court, the rich and legendary patron of St. Petersburg’s cultural life.

 

Along with the cultural and imperial magnificence of St. Petersburg grew a strong and intricate industrial proletariat. Fueled by the advancements in communications, the development of a railway system that reached inner Russia and Europe, and the expansion of trade, St. Petersburg became the economic center-point of the Russian Empire, handling more than sixty percent of Russian imports by 1840. The 1861 emancipation of serfs allowed greater labor mobility and inspired migration to the city from rural areas. By 1917, St. Petersburg’s population was more than 2,500,000.

 

The factories of St. Petersburg supplied the base for the Russian revolution. The skilled labor force of the matalworking and engineering industries, with the stimulus of self-interest and economic power, became more and more politically active. Worker’s groups were easily and quickly organized in plants more heavily concentrated with labor than anywhere else in the empire. The first revolutionary outburst occurred in December 1825. Although it was crushed, a revolutionary attitude was ingrained in St. Petersburg’s population.

 

Patriotic sentiments with the onset of World War I accounted for the renaming of the city from the Germanic name St. Petersburg to the Russian version Petrograd. Discontentment returned and deepened with Russia’s military failures during the war and intensified food shortages and transportation inadequacies. A March 11, 1917 strike turned into complete revolt, with authorities losing control. On the next day, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’s and Soldiers’s Deputies was formed, and on March 15 the tsar disavowed. A provisional government under the premiership of Aleksandr Kerensky was established. Its stay in power was ephemeral, as, on November 7, Petrograd sailors and proletariat stormed the Winter Palace, displaced the provisional government, and established Lenin’s Bolsheviks in power.

 

In the two-year civil war that followed, the Bolsheviks were able to defend their new government from Russian and foreign attack. After the capital of the Soviet state was moved back to Moscow in March 1918, the city experienced economic hardship. Starvation caused population to drop to one-third of the pre-Revolutionary size. Recovery slowly came with the end of the war. After Lenin’s death in 1924, the city was renamed Leningrad and became the focal point for the development of Soviet economy, machinery, and power equipment, stimulating population to grow to more than 3,000,000. But this progress was abruptly interrupted.

 

With the onset of World War II, Leningrad was one of the first and main targets of Germany’s 1941 invasion. By September, Germans had cut off communications with the Soviet Union, and Finland, Germany’s ally, had besiege the city from the north. Much of the population and more than seventy percent of the industrial plant were transported eastward into the U.S.S.R. before the German attack, but the rest of the population and military defenders had to face the "900-day siege," an 872-day (September 8, 1941—January 27, 1944) German blockade marked by continual artillery and air assault, and shortage of supplies that led to the death of an estimated 660,000 people and to the suffering of many more. What kept the city alive was the "road of life," the route across icy Lake Ladoga, providing vital supplies. The blockade was broken in 1943, but Germans did not retreat for another year, destroying the Petrodvorets and Pushkin palaces along the way. After the siege, Leningrad was awarded the title of "Hero City," the Order of Lenin, and a special defense metal, but it was not until the 1960s that it regained its prewar population of three million.

 

In the postwar years, the city was reconstructed. An advanced industrial administration was established and the city’s prominent scientific, technical, and cultural systems were restored. The 1980s brought political unrest, as the central government of the Soviet Union presented reforms encouraging democratization. When political parties other than the Communist Party were nationally legalized in 1990, Leningrad citizens elected reformist Communists and reformers from other political parties as a majority in the city council, which in turn encouraged free-market actions and the severing of Communist Party influence on city decisions. In an act symbolic of the city’s movement away from communism, a 1991 referendum restored the city’s name to St. Petersburg.

 

Works Consulted:

Almedingen, E.M., Tomorrow Will Come (1941)

Bater, James H., St. Petersburg: Industrialization and Change (1967)

Berezina, A., Leningrad: A Short Guide (1980)

Gosling, Nigel, Leningrad: History, Art, Architecture (1965)

Kann, Pavel, The Environs of Leningrad (1981)

Mawdsley, Evan and Margaret, Moscow and Leningrad (1980)

Neubert, K. and J., Portrait of Leningrad (1966)

Robinson, Logan, An American in Leningrad (1982)

Salisbury, Harrison E., The 900 Days (1969)

 

 

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