Sankt Peterburg

English Russia ran a pictorial a few days ago with images of Saint Petersburg from the mid to late 1800s, pretty much the golden era for the city when it was the capital of Russia and the tsars were at the height of their power. Originally modeled after Dutch cities that Peter the Great admired, the architecture in the city is unlike anything anywhere else in Russia. Far from the painted tent tops of buildings like Saint Basil’s in Moscow, Saint Petersburg’s buildings had white marble fronts with neo-Classical sensibilities. The whole city was the culmination of Peter the Great’s mission to make Russia part of the Western world.

Peter wasn’t a subtle or timid man, though. Much in the same way he took Russia’s ice-free ports from other countries through force of arms, Peter used the backs of his people to build Saint Peterburg on what was little more than a half-frozen marsh before he got there. An army of conscripted Russian serfs toiled for years in the muck, literally moving the dirt needed to build the city up above the water line by hand. Thousands froze every winter, hundreds died every summer from disease. But, within a few short years, Russia had a new jewel for it’s crown, one fit to be shown to the rest of the Western world.