St. Petersburg, Petrograd, Leningrad: 1703-1953

Richard Hare recounts the history of Russia's Western metropolis.

The celebration this year of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg provides a suitable opportunity for looking back upon the varied intentions that guided the construction of that new capital and comparing them with the results eventually achieved. St. Petersburg became the microcosm of Russia at a time when she was adapting European science and culture to her changing needs. That process, and its spiritual significance, are most enduringly reflected in the unique architecture of the city. Starting as a bare fortress and a modest trading port, it grew rapidly into an administrative, educational and industrial centre, the new Rome of a Europeanized Russian Empire; then, in the later nineteenth century, its importance in this capacity declined, as the centre of gravity in Russian development shifted more and more away from northern Europe towards Siberia and northern Asia. After the October Revolution, the return of the capital to Moscow marked the culmination of a long historical process. Yet, strangely enough, the revolution which made Leningrad, and seemed to kill the old St.

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