Saint Petersburg, the capital of Russia, situated on and around the delta of the Neva, in lat. 59° 56' 30" N., lon. 30° 19' E., 13 m. E. of its port of Cronstadt, and 390 m. N. W. of Moscow; pop. in 1870, 667,026, including 76,831 Protestants and 20,882 Roman Catholics, more than 40,000 Germans, and many other foreigners. The Neva, as it approaches the gulf of Finland, turns first N. and then W., and soon divides into the Great and Little Nevka, and the Great and Little Neva. Beginning at the north, the first two enclose the Velaginski, Kamennoi, and Krestovski islands; between the Great Nevka and the Neva lies the large Aptekarski island; Citadel island is in the Neva; Petrovski island and several islets are between the Little Nevka and the Little Neva; while S. of the Little Neva and between it and the Great Neva are Volni and Vasili islands, the latter the largest of the delta. S. E. of this in the peninsula (converted into islands by canals) formed by the bend of the Neva is the admiralty quarter of the city. All these islands are included within the limits of the city, and the larger are very populous. They are connected with the peninsula and with each other by ten bridges, several of them very fine. Beyond the Neva at the east there is a large and rapidly growing suburb.
The Neva, though broad and clear, is shallow, and a bar at its mouth forbids the passage of vessels drawing more than 9 ft. of water; and though the hulls of large ships are built at the city dockyards, they are floated to Cronstadt for their masts, rigging, and cargoes or armament. The city is not liable to an attack by sea, but it has no adequate defences against an approach by land. - The peninsular part S. of the Neva, with the finest buildings and streets, is called the Bolshaya Storona or Great side; the islands and settlements on the N. bank are collectively known as the Petersburg side. On the latter side, opposite the so-called English quay, are the exchange and most of the important docks and warehouses. The city is elevated but little above the Neva, which has more than once overflowed and caused great destruction of life and property. The peninsula, or Great side, is drained by canals, the principal of which are the Moika, the Catarina, the Fon-tanka, and the Zagorodnoi, connected with each other and with the Neva by cross canals. The banks of the principal canals are protected by walls of hewn granite, and crossed by numerous bridges. The quays along the Neva are of great extent and solidity.
The admiralty building, on the S. side of the Great Neva, is an immense and massive pile with a lofty dome and spire, and is the central point of the S. or Great side. The statue of Peter the Great is on its S. W. side, and the column of Alexander I. on the N. E. From the galleries of this building the whole city can be seen. Radiating from it S. E., S. S. E., and S. are the three finest streets of the city, viz.: the Nevski Prospekt or Neva perspective, the Gorokhovaya Ulitza or Peas street, and the Voskresenski Prospekt or Resurrection perspective. The Neva perspective, 130 ft. broad and about 4 m. long, is one of the finest streets in Europe. It contains the cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, profusely adorned with silver, gold, and gems, but without much architectural merit, and another Greek church, both with their blue domes decorated with stars; a Dutch church, a Protestant German church, a Catholic and an Armenian church, all costly and some of them very beautiful. Here too are the military headquarters, the palace of the archduke Michael, the great bazaar with its 10,000 merchants, the institution of St. Catharine, and a theatre.
At the end of this street and near the city limits are the convent and church of St. Alexander Nevskoi, the latter containing a sarcophagus of pure silver in which the body of the saint is preserved, and the palace of the metropolitan. The church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the citadel, with a tall, slender, richly gilt spire, 208 ft. high, which can be seen from all parts of the city or its suburbs, contains the remains of all the Russian monarchs since Peter the Great. The Isaac church, S. W. of the admiralty, in one of the largest open spaces of the capital, is celebrated for its simple but grand architecture, its noble proportions, and its imposing porches. Like the Greek churches generally, it is in the form of a Greek cross, and has four grand entrances, each approached by three broad flights of steps, each entire flight composed of a single piece of granite. Each entrance has a superb peristyle composed of monolithic columns of polished granite, each 60 ft. high and 7 ft. in diameter, and the whole surmounted by a cupola 120 ft. above the peristyles, covered with copper and richly gilt, and resting on 30 granite pillars.
The foundation of this church, formed of several successive tiers of piles, is said to have cost $4,000,000. The church of the Smolnoi convent, in the N. E. part of the peninsula, is of white marble, and is surmounted by five blue domes spangled with golden stars. The Preobrazhenskaya church belongs to one of the oldest regiments of the guards, and is profusely decorated within and without with military trophies. The English church, W. of the admiralty, is richly ornamented. - St. Petersburg is a city of palaces. The Winter palace is said when the emperor occupies it to have more than 6,000 inhabitants. It was burned in 1837, and rebuilt in 1839 on a more magnificent scale. It is one of the largest palaces in the world, and is in the form of a square, 455 ft. long and 350 ft. broad. Its halls are of wonderful beauty, and filled with the richest statuary, gems, and pictures, and magnificent tables and vases of malachite. The Hermitage, built by Catharine II., is connected with the Winter palace, and contains 40 rooms of paintings, a museum of statuary, arms, and gems, a theatre, and a library with many engravings.
The marble palace, a massive, gloomy-looking building, lies near Troitzkoi or Trinity bridge, considerably E. of the Hermitage. A mile further E., on the banks of the Neva, is the Taurida palace, which has a ball room 320 ft. long and TO ft. wide. The Annitchkoff palace, the favorite residence of the emperor Nicholas, is on the Neva perspective near the Fontanka canal. One of the finest new palaces is that of the grand duke Vladimir, completed in 1871. The government buildings are remarkable for their immense size, and some of them possess great architectural beauty. The principal are the admiralty, half a mile long and with two wings 650 ft. in length, the holy synod, the headquarters of the ecclesiastical direction of the Greek church, the hôtel de l'état major, and the war office; and on the opposite side of the Great Neva, on Vasili island, the exchange and custom house, both imposing edifices; on Citadel island, the citadel and the mint; and further down the river, on Vasili island again, the hôtel des mines, the academy of arts, the academy of sciences with its museum and observatory, and the fine barracks of the cadets. - The imperial library contains 1,100,000 volumes and 35,000 manuscripts, many of them of great value.
The academy of sciences and the Hermitage have 120,000 volumes each. The academy of sciences, founded by Peter the Great under the direction of Leibnitz, has Asiatic, Egyptian, and ethnographic museums, and numismatic, anatomical, mineralogical, and other collections; in 1873 it was attended by 303 students. The academy of arts, recently much improved under the direction of Prince Gagarin, is noted for its galleries of pictures and sculptures. The museum of the mining school has a celebrated collection of minerals, and the Rumiantzeff museum of oriental objects. One Of the most prominent learned bodies is the imperial geographical society. The university was founded in 1819, and in 1872 had 1,413 students. There are several colleges and special schools and institutions of all grades. Female gymnasia and a female normal school were opened in 1873, and new compulsory schools at the end of 1874. St. Petersburg has many extensive charitable institutions, including the famous foundling hospital. (See Foundling Hospital.) The Gostinnoi Dvor, the principal market, is a colossal pile of buildings, with many shops and warehouses, resembling a perpetual fair.
The Great theatre for Italian opera, and the Michael for French and German plays, are most frequented; the Marie and Alexander are for Russian performances. The English club, called so after the original founders, though now not much frequented by Englishmen, is the principal one; the most exclusive is the imperial yacht club. The principal park is the Summer gardens; military reviews are held on an adjoining square. At the entrance of the park is a chapel erected in 1866 to commemorate the escape of the present emperor from assassination. The city is deserted in summer by the nobility. In winter it is one of the most brilliant and also most expensive capitals of Europe. - The mean annual temperature of St. Petersburg is 39° F.; the mean summer temperature is 62°, that of winter 18°. The extremes are 99° and - 51°. The cold is very severe, but, protected by furs, the residents do not feel it so much as in milder climates. But the sanitary condition of the city is unsatisfactory, owing to the cellars of nearly all the houses being inhabited. The number of fever patients in the hospitals in the beginning of 1875 exceeded 10,000, or about 1 in 70 of the population, besides the sick in private houses, few of which were at that period free from typhus fever.
The imperial manufactories of Gobelin tapestry, of glass, porcelain, malachite and other precious stones, military surgical instruments, and embroideries, are on a large scale. There are also extensive founderies of cannon, and manufactories of cotton, silk, muslin, and woollen goods, leather, fringes, paper, tobacco, soap, clocks, jewelry, etc. The commerce has received a new impulse from the opening of the Finland and Baltic roads, and about 3,000 vessels now arrive and depart annually. St. Petersburg is also the centre of the Russian book trade. The docks were in 1875 connected by rail with Moscow and other cities, and a canal to Cronstadt is expected to be completed in 1879. - St. Petersburg was founded May 27, 1703, by Peter the Great. He first erected a fortress on the site of the present citadel, and such were the obstacles with which he met in the treacherous character of the soil, the climate, and the insalubrity of the location, that a man of less resolute will would have abandoned the undertaking. But his perseverance triumphed over all difficulties, and in 1712 he declared it his capital, instead of Moscow. At his death the city had only a few good buildings.
His successors embellished and almost created it, especially Catharine II. In 1824 it was visited with a terrible inundation. The city formed part of the government of St. Petersburg till 1871, when it was made a separate administrative district.
The Isaac Church.