May 27th 1703. A place of many names...
The great city of St Petersburg in Russia is founded, by Czar Peter the Great.
It was originally part of Swedish territory, comprising a small town called “Nyen” which grew up around a fortress built by Finnish, Swedish and German settlers. Nyen was actually the Swedish name for the river, Swedish for bastion is “Skans”, so the fortress became known as “Nyenskans”. It occupied an important strategic link from the Gulf of Finland out into the Baltic and beyond.
Czar Peter the Great of Russia had ruled jointly with his sickly and ineffective half brother Ivan from 1682. When Ivan died in 1696 Peter became sole sovereign of Russia, implementing reforms that would modernise and strengthen his country, the army and especially their seafaring capabilities. ( He also introduced a beard tax!)
In 1698 Peter travelled to England and viewed the Navy at Deptford as well as visiting Manchester, which heavily influenced his views on urban building schemes, later to be implemented in St Petersburg. It also strengthened his ambitions of naval technology and supremacy.
The visit was cut short by the Streltsey uprising, a rebellion in Moscow. Peter returned to Russia where it was swiftly quashed and 1100 of the accused rebels were executed.
By 1703 Czar Peter had conquered the former Swedish area known as Ingermanland, of which the fortress of Nyenskans was central. He replaced Nyenskans with the first brick built fortress and named it “Peter and Pauls Fortress”, and renamed the town St Petersburg. The town was rebuilt by thousands of conscripts, eventually becoming the capital of Russia in 1712.
In 1914 the Imperial government renamed the city “Petrograd” in order to remove the German words “sankt” and “burg”.
Only 3 years later the Romanov dynasty had fallen and events led to Petrograd being referred to as the “City of three revolutions” The Bolsheviks had taken power under their leader Vladimir Lenin. Five days after his death on Jan 21st 1924 it was renamed Leningrad.
In 1991 the Mayoral elections were timed to coincide with a referendum on the name of the city and St Petersburg gained its first elected Mayor ( Anatoly Sobchat) and returned to its original 1703 name, which it still holds today.
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