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The names of saints Peter and Paul, bestowed upon original city's citadel and its cathedral (from 1725—a burial vault of Russian emperors) coincidentally were the names of the first two assassinated Russian Emperors, Peter III (1762, supposedly killed in a conspiracy led by his wife, Catherine the Great) and Paul I (1801, Nicholas Zubov and other conspirators who brought to power Alexander I, the son of their victim).

By 1716 the Swiss Italian Domenico Trezzini had elaborated a project whereby the city centre would be located on Vasilyevsky Island and shaped by a rectangular grid of canals.

The project was not completed, but is evident in the layout of the streets.

In 1724 the Academy of Sciences, University and Academic Gymnasium were established in Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great. His endeavours to modernize Russia had met with opposition from the Russian nobility—resulting in several attempts on his life and a treason case involving his son.

In 1728, Peter II of Russia moved his seat back to Moscow.

Swedish colonists built Nyenskans, a fortress, at the mouth of the Neva River in 1611, in a land then called Ingermanland, that was inhabited by Finnic tribe of Ingrians. Peter the Great was interested in seafaring and maritime affairs, and he intended to have Russia gain a seaport in order to be able to trade with other maritime nations. 1] 1703, during the Great Northern War, Peter the Great captured Nyenskans, Later, the city became the centre of the Saint Petersburg Governorate.

He needed a better seaport than Arkhangelsk, which was on the White Sea to the north and closed to shipping for months during the winter. Peter moved the capital from Moscow to Saint Petersburg in 1712, 9 years before the Treaty of Nystad of 1721 ended the war; he referred to Saint Petersburg as the capital (or seat of government) as early as 1704.

Many monuments commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812, including the Alexander Column by Montferrand, erected in 1834, and the Narva Triumphal Gate.

In 1825, the suppressed Decembrist revolt against Nicholas I took place on the Senate Square in the city, a day after Nicholas assumed the throne.

In 1716, Peter the Great appointed French Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond as the chief architect of Saint Petersburg.

The style of Petrine Baroque, developed by Trezzini and other architects and exemplified by such buildings as the Menshikov Palace, Kunstkamera, Peter and Paul Cathedral, Twelve Collegia, became prominent in the city architecture of the early 18th century.

But four years later, in 1732, under Empress Anna of Russia, Saint Petersburg was again designated as the capital of the Russian Empire.