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Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. The city's other names were Petrograd (19141924) and Leningrad (19241991). It is often called just Petersburg. Founded by Tsar Peter I of Russia on 27 May, 1703, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years (17131728, 17321918). Saint Petersburg ceased being the capital in 1918 after the Russian Revolution of 1917. It is Russia's second largest and Europe's third largest city after Moscow and London. The city has 4.6 million inhabitants, and over 6 million people live in its vicinity. Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea. Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Western city of Russia. Among cities of the world with over one million people, Saint Petersburg is the northernmost. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Russia's political and cultural center for 200 years, the city is sometimes referred to in Russia as the northern capital. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and other businesses are located in Saint Petersburg. As of now, Saint Petersburg has no skyscrapers and a relatively low skyline. Current regulations forbid construction of high buildings in the city center. The 310 m tall Saint Petersburg TV Tower is the tallest structure in the city, while the 122.5 m Peter and Paul Cathedral is by far the highest building. However, there is a controversial project endorsed by the city authorities and known as the Okhta Center to build a 396 m supertall skyscraper. In 2008 the World Monuments Fund included the Saint Petersburg historic skyline within the watch list of 100 most endangered sites due to the expected construction, which threatens to alter it drastically.[50] Unlike in Moscow, in Saint Petersburg the historic architecture of the city center, mostly consisting of Baroque and neoclassical buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries, has been largely preserved, although a number of buildings were demolished after the Bolsheviks' seizure of power, during the Siege of Leningrad and in recent years. The oldest of the remaining building is a wooden house built for Peter I in 1703 on the shore of the Neva near Trinity Square. Since 1991 the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments in Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast have been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The ensemble of Peter and Paul Fortress with the Peter and Paul Cathedral takes dominant position on Zayachy Island along the right bank of the Neva river. Each noon a cannon fires a blank shot from the fortress. The Saint Petersburg Mosque, the largest mosque in Europe when opened in 1913, is situated on the right bank nearby. The spit of Vasilievsky Island, which splits the river into two largest armlets, the Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva, is connected to the northern bank (Petrogradsky Island) via the Exchange Bridge and occupied by the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns. The southern coast of Vasilievsky Island along the Bolshaya Neva features some of the city's oldest buildings, dating from the 18th century, including the Kunstkamera, Twelve Collegia, Menshikov Palace and Imperial Academy of Arts. It hosts one of two campuses of Saint Petersburg State University. On the southern, left bank of the Neva, connected to the spit of Vasilievsky Island via the Palace Bridge, lie the Admiralty Building, the vast Hermitage Museum complex stretching along the Palace Embankment, which includes the baroque Winter Palace, former official residence of Russian emperors, as well as the neoclassical Marble Palace. The Winter Palace faces Palace Square, the city's main square with the Alexander Column. Nevsky Prospekt, also situated on the left bank of the Neva, is the main avenue of the city. It starts at the Admiralty and runs eastwards next to Palace Square. Nevsky Prospekt crosses the Moika (Green Bridge), Griboyedov Canal (Kazansky Bridge), Garden Street, the Fontanka (Anichkov Bridge), meets Liteyny Prospekt and proceeds to Uprising Square near the Moskovsky Rail Terminal, where it meets Ligovsky Prospekt and turns to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. The Passage, Catholic Church of St. Catherine, Book House (former Singer Manufacturing Company Building in the Art Nouveau style), Grand Hotel Europe, Gostiny Dvor, Russian National Library, Alexandrine Theatre behind Mikeshin's statue of Catherine the Great, Kazan Cathedral, Anichkov Palace and Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace are all situated along that avenue. The Alexander Nevsky Lavra, intended to house the relics of St. Alexander Nevsky, is an important center of Christian education in Russia. It also contains the Tikhvin Cemetery with graves of many notable Petersburgers. On the territory between the Neva and Nevsky Prospekt the Church of the Savior on Blood, Mikhailovsky Palace housing the Russian Museum, Field of Mars, St. Michael's Castle, Summer Garden, Tauride Palace, Smolny Institute and Smolny Convent are located. Many notable landmarks are situated to the west and south of the Admiralty Building, including the Trinity Cathedral, Mariinsky Palace, Hotel Astoria, famous Mariinsky Theatre, New Holland Island, Saint Isaac's Cathedral, the largest in the city, and Decembrists Square with the Bronze Horseman, 18th century equestrian monument to Peter the Great, which is considered among the city's most recognizable symbols. Other symbols of Saint Petersburg include the weather vane in the shape of a small ship on top of the Admiralty's golden spire and the golden angel on top of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. The Palace Bridge drawn at night is yet another symbol of the city. Every night during the navigation period from April to November, 22 bridges across the Neva and main canals are drawn to let ships pass in and out of the Baltic Sea according to a schedule.[51] It wasn't until 2004 that the first high bridge across the Neva, which doesn't need to be drawn, Big Obukhovsky Bridge, was opened. There are hundreds of smaller bridges in Saint Petersburg spanning across numerous canals and distributaries of the Neva, some of the most important of which are the Moika, Fontanka, Griboyedov Canal, Obvodny Canal, Karpovka and Smolenka. Due to the intricate web of canals, Saint Petersburg is often called Venice of the North. The rivers and canals in the city center are lined with granite embankments. The embankments and bridges are separated from rivers and canals by granite or cast iron parapets. Southern suburbs of the city feature former imperial residences, including Peterhof, with majestic fountain cascades and parks, Tsarskoe Selo, with the baroque Catherine Palace and the neoclassical Alexander Palace, and Pavlovsk, which contains a domed palace of Emperor Paul and one of the largest English-style parks in Europe. Some other residences situated nearby and making part of the world heritage site, including a castle and park in Gatchina, actually belong to Leningrad Oblast rather than Saint Petersburg. Another notable suburb is Kronstadt with its 19th century fortifications and naval monuments, occupying the Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland.

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