Customised search for historical information

27 May 2009

On this day in history: Foundation of Saint Petersburg, 1703

For the first twenty years of the eighteenth century Russia and Sweden fought a war for supremacy over the Baltic Sea. On 1st May 1703, the forces of the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, captured Nyenskans, a Swedish fortress that protected the mouth of the Neva river on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. To further protect this strategically important location, Peter decided to build a fortress city further down the river at Zayachii ostrov (Hare Island).

Work on the Peter and Paul Fortress started a few weeks later, on 27th May 1703. Initially comprising six bastions constructed of earth and timber it was later replaced by a stone building. This citadel never saw military action, but rather became the centre of the city of St. Petersburg - named after the apostle Peter.

The Tsar conscripted serfs from across Russia to work on the city, which quickly grew around Trinity Square on the right bank of the Neva. The city was the centrepiece of Peter's modernisation programme and as such he made it his capital in 1712, an honour the city enjoyed for over two hundred years, except for one four-year period (1728-32) when Peter II made Moscow his capital.

To learn more about the city see the English translation of 'The History of St. Petersburg' pages on the Official Portal of the City Government of St. Petersburg.

Related posts
Ivan the Terrible crowned Tsar, 16th January 1547
Battle of Berestechko begins, 28th June 1651