St Petersburg Remembers

It's a season of anniversaries for St.Petersburg this month, as its 18 years since it was re-christened with its original name and 337 years since the birth of the man who started it all - Peter the Great.

In many ways Russia's ancient capital has transformed beyond recognition since the heady days of June 1991, when its citizens voted - although only just - to rename it 'Saint Petersburg', abandoning the name 'Leningrad' to dusty tomes of atlases and encyclopedia footnotes. Since then the city's streets and squares gradually and sometimes quietly slipped off their solid Soviet name tags and returned to their historical affiliations. In all 39 streets, a dozen bridges and parks and a handful of subway stations re branded themselves.

Coinciding with this have been city celebrations and honours of Russia's most famed Tsar, Peter, credited with dragging the country out of the medieval ages and placing its first tentative foot on the road to modernisation. Peter was born on 9 June 1672 and was the founder of the city that bears his name. He decided the location of the city after stumping his foot on a mossy lump of grass, not far from the Finnish border, and declaring a new city would arise from the muddy patch.

Unheard of before or since, in 1712 the capital moved lock stock and ruble from Moscow to St.Petersburg remaining so until 1918 when Moscow became top dog city again.


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