1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/St Petersburg

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ST PETERSBURG, the capital of the Russian empire, situated at the head of the Gulf of Finland, at the mouth of the Neva, in 59° 56′ N., and 30° 20′ E., 400 m from Moscow, 696 m. from Warsaw, 1400 m. from Odessa (via Moscow), and 1390 m. from Astrakhan (also via Moscow). The Neva, before entering the Gulf of Finland, forms a peninsula, on which the main part of St Petersburg stands, and itself subdivides into several branches. The islands so formed are only 10 or 11 ft. above the average level of the water. Their areas are rapidly increasing, while the banks which continue them seaward are gradually disappearing. The mainland is not much higher than the islands. As the river level rises several feet during westerly gales, extensive portions of the islands and of the mainland are flooded every winter. In 1777, when the Neva rose 10.7 ft., and in 1824, when it rose 13.8 ft., nearly the whole of the city was inundated, and the lower parts were again under water in 1890, 1897 and 1898, when the floods rose 8 ft. A ship canal, completed in 1875–1888 at a cost of £1,057,000, has made the capital a seaport. Beginning at Kronstadt, it terminates at Gutuyev Island in a harbour capable of accommodating fifty sea-going ships. It is 23 ft. deep and 17½ m. long. The Neva is crossed by three permanent bridges—the Nicholas, the Troitsky or Trinity (1897–1903), and the Alexander or Liteinyi; all three fine specimens of architecture. One other bridge—the Palace—across the Great Neva. connects the left bank of the mainland with Vasiiyevskiy or Basil Island; but, being built on boats, it is removed during the autumn and spring. Several wooden or floating bridges connect the islands, while a number of stone bridges span the smaller channels. In winter, when the Neva is covered with ice 2 to 3 ft. thick, temporary roadways for carriages and pedestrians are made across the ice and artificially lighted. In winter, too, thousands of peasants come in from the villages with their small Finnish horses and sledges to ply for hire.

The Neva continues frozen for an average of 147 days in the year (25th November to 21st April). It is unnavigable, however, for some time longer on account of the ice from Lake Ladoga, which is sometimes driven by easterly winds into the river at the end of April and beginning of May. The climate of St Petersburg is changeable and unhealthy. Frosts are made much more trying by the wind which accompanies them; and westerly gales in Winter bring oceanic moisture and warmth, and melt the snow before and after hard frosts. The summer is hot, but short, lasting barely more than five or six weeks; a hot day, however, is often followed by cold weather: changes of temperature amounting to 35° Fahr. within twenty-four hours are not uncommon. In autumn a chilly dampness lasts for several weeks, and in spring cold and wet weather alternates with a few warm days.

January. July. The Year.
Mean temperature, Fahr. 15°.0 64°.0 38°.6
Rainfall, inches 0.9 2.6 18.8
Prevailing winds S.W. W. W.
Average daily range of temperature, Fahr. 2°.2 10°.2 7°.7

Topography.—The greater part of St Petersburg is situated on the mainland, on the left bank of the Neva, including the best streets, the largest shops, the bazaars and markets, the palaces, cathedrals and theatres, as well as all the railway stations, except that of the Finland railway. From the Liteinyi bridge to that of Nicholas a granite embankment, bordered by palaces and large private houses, lines the left bank of the Neva. About midway, behind a range of fine houses, stands the Admiralty, the very centre of the capital. Formerly a wharf, on which Peter the Great caused his first Baltic ship to be built in 1706, it is now the seat of the ministry of the navy and of the hydrographical department, the new Admiralty building standing farther down the Neva on the same bank. A broad square, partly laid out as a garden (Alexander Garden), surrounds the Admiralty on the west, south and east. To the west, opposite the senate, stands the fine memorial to Peter the Great, erected in 1782, and now backed by the cathedral of St Isaac. A bronze statue, a masterpiece by the French sculptor Falconet, represents the founder of the city on horseback, at full gallop, ascending a rock and pointing to the Neva. South of the Admiralty is the ministry of war and to the east the imperial winter palace, the work of Rastrelli (1764), a fine building of mixed style; but its admirable proportions mask its huge dimensions. It communicates by a gallery with the Hermitage Fine Arts Gallery. A broad semicircular square, adorned by the Alexander I. column (1834), separates the palace from the buildings of the general staff and the foreign ministry. The range of palaces and private houses facing the embankment above the Admiralty is interrupted by the macadamized “Field of Mars,” formerly a marsh, but transformed at incredible expense into a parade-ground, and the Lyetniy Sad (summer-garden) of Peter the Great. The Neva embankment is continued to a little below the Nicholas bridge under the name of “English embankment,” and farther down by the new Admiralty buildings.

The topography of St Petersburg is very simple. Three long streets, the main arteries of the capital, radiate from the Admiralty —the Prospekt Nevskiy (Neva Prospect), the Gorokhovaya, and the Prospekt Voznesenskiy (Ascension Prospect). Three girdles of canals, roughly speaking concentric, intersect these three streets—the Moika, the Catherine and the Fontanka; to these a number of streets run parallel. The Prospekt Nevskiy is a very broad street, running straight east-south-east for 3200 yds. from the Admiralty to the Moscow railway station, and thence 1650 yds. farther, bending a little to the south, until it again reaches the Neva at Kalashnikov Harbour, near the vast complex of the Alexander Nevski monastery (1713), the seat of the metropolitan of St Petersburg. The part of the street first mentioned owes its picturesque aspect to its width, its attractive shops, and still more its animation. But the buildings which border it are architecturally poor. Neither the cathedral of the Virgin of Kazan (an ugly imitation on a small scale of St Peter's in Rome), nor the still uglier Gostiniy Dvor (a two-storied quadrilateral building divided into second-rate shops), nor the Anichkov Palace (which resembles immense barracks), nor even the Roman Catholic and Dutch churches do anything to embellish it. About midway between the public library and the Anichkov Palace an elegant square hides the old-fashioned Alexandra theatre; nor does a profusely adorned memorial (1873) to Catherine II. beautify it much. The Gorokhovaya is narrow and badly paved, and is shut in between gloomy houses occupied mostly by artizans. The Voznesenskiy Prospekt, on the contrary, though as narrow as the last, has better houses. On the north, it passes into a series of large squares connected with that in which the monument of Peter the Great stands. One of them is occupied by the cathedral of St Isaac (of Dalmatia), and another by the memorial (1859) to Nicholas I., the gorgeousness and bad taste of which contrast strangely with the simplicity and significance of that of Peter the Great. The general aspect of the cathedral is imposing both without and within; but on the whole this architectural monument, built between 1819 and 1858 according to a plan of Montferrant, under the personal direction of Nicholas I., does not correspond either with its costliness (£2,431,300) or with the efforts put forth for its decoration by the best Russian artists.

The eastern extremity of Vasilyevskiy Island is the centre of commercial activity; the stock exchange is situated there as well as the quays and storehouses. The remainder of the island is occupied chiefly by scientific and educational institutions—the academy of science, with a small observatory, the university, the philological institute, the academy of the first corps of cadets, the academy of arts, the marine academy, the mining institute and the central physical observatory, all facing the Neva. Petersburg Island contains the fortress of St Peter and St Paul (1703–1740), opposite the Winter Palace; but the fortress is now a state prison. A cathedral which stands within its walls is the burial-place of the emperors and the imperial family. The mint and an artillery museum are also situated within the fortress. The remainder of the island is meanly built, and is the refuge of the poorer officials (chinovniks) and of the intellectual proletariat. Its northern part, separated from the main island by a narrow channel, bears the name of Apothecaries' Island, and is occupied by a botanical garden of great scientific value and several fine private gardens and parks. Krestovskiy, Elagin and Kamennyi Islands, as also the opposite (right) bank of the Great Nevka (one of the branches of the Neva) are occupied by public gardens, parks and summer residences. The mainland on the right bank of the Neva above its delta is known as the Viborg Side, and is connected with the main city by the Liteinyi, bridge, closely adjoining which are the buildings of the military academy of medicine and spacious hospitals. The small streets (many of them unpaved), with numerous wooden houses, are inhabited by students and workmen; farther north are great textile and iron factories. Vast orchards and the yards of the artillery laboratory stretch north-eastwards, while the railway and the high road to Finland, running north, lead to the park of the Forestry Institute. The two villages of Okhta, on the right bank, are suburbs; higher up, on the left bank, are several factories (Alexandrovsk) which formerly belonged to the crown. The true boundary of St Petersburg on the south is the Obvodnyi Canal, running parallel to the three canals already mentioned and forming a sort of base to the Neva peninsula; but numerous orchards, cemeteries and factories, and even unoccupied spaces, are included within the city boundaries in that direction, though they are being rapidly covered with buildings. Except in a few principal streets, which are paved with wood or asphalt, the pavement is usually of granite setts. There are two government dockyards, the most important of which is the new admiralty yard in the centre of the city. At this yard there are three building slips and a large experimental basin, some 400 ft. in length, for trials with models of vessels. The Galerny Island yard is a little lower down the river, and is devoted entirely to construction. There are two building slips for large vessels, besides numerous workshops, storehouses and so forth. The Baltic Yard is near the mouth of the Neva, and was taken over by the ministry of marine in 1894. Since that time the establishment has been enlarged, and a new stone building slip, 520 ft. in length, completely housed in, has been finished.

Population.—The population of St Petersburg proper at the censuses specified was as follows:—

Year. Total. Men. Women. Proportion of Men
to every 100 Women

A further increase was revealed by the municipal census of 1900, when the population of the city was 1,248,739, having thus increased 30.9% in ten years. In 1905 the total population was estimated to number 1,429,000. The population of the suburbs was 134,710 in 1897, and 190,635 in 1900. Including its suburbs, St Petersburg is the fifth city of Europe in point of size, coming after London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna. The large proportion of men in its population is due to the fact that great numbers come from other parts of Russia to work during the winter in the textile factories, and during the summer at unloading the boats. Russians numbered 828,354 in 1897, or 73.1% of the population; Germans 43,798, or 3.9%; Poles 22,307, or 1.9%; Finns, 16,731, or 1.5%; and Jews 10,353, or 0.9%. The various religions are represented by 84.9% Orthodox Greeks, 9.9 Protestants and 3.3 Roman Catholics. The proportion of illegitimate children is ten times higher than in the rest of Russia, namely 250 to 286 per thousand births. It is thus nearly the same as in Paris, but lower than in Moscow (292 per thousand) and Vienna (349 per thousand). The mortality varies very much in different parts of the city—from 12 per thousand in the best situated, the admiralty quarter, to 16 in other central parts, and 25 and 27 in the outlying quarters. The mortality has, however, notably decreased, as it averaged 36 per thousand in the years 1870 to 1874, and only 27 from 1886 to 1895, and 24 in 1897. Infectious diseases, i.e. tuberculosis, diphtheria, inflammation of the lungs, typhoid, scarlet fever and measles, are the cause of 37 to 38% of all deaths. The high mortality in certain quarters is largely due to overcrowding and bad water.

An interesting feature of the Russian capital is the very high proportion of people living on their own earnings or income (“independent”) as compared with those who live on the earnings or income of someone else (“dependent”). Only a few industrial establishments employ more than twenty workmen, the average being less than ten and the figure seldom falling below five. The large factories are beyond the limits of St Petersburg. Although 36% of the population above six years old are unable to read, the workmen are amongst the most intelligent classes in Russia.

Education, Science and Art.—Notwithstanding the hardships and prosecutions to which it is periodically subjected, the university (nearly 4000 students) exercises a pronounced influence on the life of St Petersburg. The medical faculty forms a separate academy, under military jurisdiction, with about 1500 students. There are, moreover, a philological institute, a technological institute, a forestry academy, an engineering academy, two theological academies (Orthodox Greek and Roman Catholic), an academy of arts, five military academies and a high school of law. Higher instruction for women is provided by a medical academy, a free university, four other institutions for higher education, and a school of agriculture. The scientific institutions include an academy of sciences, opened in 1726, which has rendered immense service in the exploration of Russia. The oft-repeated reproach that it keeps its doors shut to Russian savants, while opening them too widely to German ones, is not without foundation. The Pulkovo astronomical observatory, the chief physical (meteorological) observatory (with branches throughout Russia and Siberia), the astronomical observatory at Vilna, the astronomical and magnetical observatory at Peking, and the botanical garden, are all attached to the academy of sciences. The Society of Naturalists and the Physical and Chemical Society have issued most valuable publications. The geological committee is ably pushing forward the geological survey of the country; the Mineralogical Society was founded in 1817. The Geographical Society, with branch societies for West and East Siberia, Caucasus, Orenburg, the north-western and south-western provinces of European Russia, is well known for its valuable work, as is also the Entomological Society. There are four medical societies, and an archaeological society (since 1846), an historical society, an economical society, gardening, forestry, technical and navigation societies. The conservatory of music, with a new building (1891–1896), gives superior musical instruction. The Musical Society is worthy of notice. Art, on the other hand, has not freed itself from the old scholastic methods at the academy. Several independent artistic societies seek to remedy this drawback, and are the true cradle of the Russian genre painters.

The imperial public library contains valuable collections of books (1,000,000) and MSS. The library of the academy of sciences contains more than 500,000 volumes, 13,000 MSS., rich collections of works on oriental languages, and valuable collections of periodical publications from scientific societies throughout the world. The museums of the Russian capital occupy a prominent place among those of Europe. That of the Academy of Sciences, of the Navy, of Industrial Art (1896), of the Mineralogical Society, of the Academy of Arts, the Asiatic museum, the Suvorov museum (1901), with pictures by Vereshchagin, the Zoological museum and several others are of great scientific value. The Hermitage Art Gallery contains a first-rate collection of the Flemish school, some pictures of the Russian school, good specimens of the Italian, Spanish and old French schools, invaluable treasures of Greek and Scythian antiquities, and a good collection of 200,000 engravings. Old Christian and old Russian arts are well represented in the museums of the Academy of Arts. The New Michael Palace was in 1895–1898 converted into a museum of Russian art—the Russian museum; it is one of the handsomest buildings in the city.

In the development of the Russian drama St Petersburg has played a far less important part than Moscow, and the stage there has never reached the same standard of excellence as that of the older capital. On the other hand, St Petersburg is the cradle of Russian opera and Russian music. There are in the city only four theatres of importance—all imperial—two for the opera and ballet, one for the native drama, and one for the French and German drama.

Industries and Trade.—St Petersburg is much less of a manufacturing city than Moscow or Berlin. The period 1880 to 1890 was very critical in the history of the northern capital. With the development of the railway system the southern and south-western provinces of Russia began to prosper more rapidly than the upper Volga provinces; St Petersburg began to lose its relative importance in favour of the Baltic ports of Riga and Libau, and its rapid growth since the Crimean War seemed in danger of being arrested. The danger, however, passed away, and in the last decade of the 19th century the city continued its advance with renewed vigour. A great influx of functionaries of all sorts, consequent upon the state taking into its hands the administration of the railways, spirits, &c., resulted in the rapid growth of the population, while the introduction of a cheap railway tariff, and the subsidizing and encouraging in other ways of the great industries, attracted to St Petersburg a considerable number of workers, and favoured the growth of its larger industrial establishments. St Petersburg is now one of the foremost industrial provinces in Russia, its yearly returns placing it immediately after Moscow and before Piotrków, in Poland. The chief factories are cottons and other textiles, metal and machinery works, tobacco, paper, soap and candle factories, breweries, distilleries, sugar refineries, ship-building yards, printing works, potteries, carriage works, pastry and confectionery and chemicals. The export trade of St Petersburg is chiefly in grain (especially rye and oats), flour and bran, oil seeds, oil cakes, naphtha, eggs, flax and timber. It shows very great fluctuations, varying in accordance with the crops, the range being from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000. The exports are almost entirely to western Europe by sea (from £5,500,000 to £6,500,000), and to Finland (£1,500,000 to £3,000,000). The imports consist chiefly of coal, metals, building materials, herrings, coffee and tea, better-class timber, raw cotton, wood pulp and cellulose, and manufactured goods, and amount to about £14,000,000 annually.

Six railways meet at St Petersburg. Two run westwards along both shores of the Gulf of Finland to Hangöudd and to Port Baltic respectively; two short lines connect Oranienbaum, opposite Kronstadt and Tsarskoye Selo (with Pavlovsk) with the capital; and three great trunk lines run—south-west to Warsaw (with branches to Riga and Smolensk), south-east to Moscow (with branches to Novgorod and Rybinsk), and east to Vologda, Vyatka and Perm. The Neva is the principal channel for the trade of St Petersburg with the rest of Russia, by means of the Volga and its tributaries.

Administration.—The municipal affairs of the city are in the hands of a municipality, elected by three categories of electors, and is practically a department of the chief of the police. The city is under a separate governor-general, whose authority, like that of the chief of police, is unlimited.

Environs.—St Petersburg is surrounded by several fine residences, mostly imperial palaces with large and beautiful parks. Tsarskoye Selo, 15 m. to the south-east, and Peterhof, on the Gulf of Finland, are summer residences of the emperor. Pavlovsk, 17 m. S. of the city, has a fine palace and parks, where summer concerts attract thousands of people. There is another imperial palace at Gatchina, 29 m. S. Oranienbaum, 25 m. W. on the south shore of the Gulf of Finland, is a rather neglected place. Pulkovo, on a hill 9 m. S. from St Petersburg, is well known for its observatory; while several villages north of the capital, such as Pargolovo and Murino, are visited in summer by the less wealthy inhabitants.

History.—The region between Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland was inhabited in the 9th century by Finns and some Slavs. Novgorod and Pskov made efforts to secure and maintain dominion over this region, so important for their trade, and in the 13th and 14th centuries they built the forts of Koporya (in the present district of Peterhof), Yam (now Yamburg), and Oryeshek (now Schlüsselburg) at the point where the Neva issues from Lake Ladoga. They found, however, powerful opponents in the Swedes, who erected the fort of Landskrona at the junction of the Okhta and the Neva, and in the Livonians, who had their fortress at Narva. Novgorod and Moscow successively were able by continuous fighting to maintain their supremacy over the region south of the Neva throughout the 16th century; but early in the 17th century Moscow was compelled to cede it to Sweden, which erected a fortress on the Neva at the mouth of the Okhta. In 1700 Peter the Great began his wars with Sweden. Oryeshek was taken in 1702, and in the following year the Swedish fortress on the Neva. Two months later (29th June 1703) Peter laid the foundations of a cathedral to St Peter and St Paul, and of a fort which received his own name (in its Dutch transcription, “Piterburgh”). Next year the fort of Kronslott was erected on the island of Kotlin, as also the Admiralty on the Neva, opposite the fortress. The emperor took most severe and almost barbarous measures for increasing his newly founded city, which was built on marshy ground, the buildings resting on piles. Thousands of people from all parts of Russia were removed thither and died in erecting the fortress and building the houses. Under Elizabeth fresh compulsory measures raised the population to 150,000, and this figure was nearly doubled during the reign of Catherine II. (1762–1796). The chief embellishments of St Petersburg were effected during the reigns of Alexander I. (1801–1825) and Nicholas I. (1825–1855). From the earliest years of Russian history trade had taken this northern direction. Novgorod owed its wealth to this fact; and as far back as the 12th century the Russians had their forts on Lake Ladoga and the Neva. In the 14th and 15th centuries they exchanged their wares with the Danzig merchants at Nu or Nü—now Vasilyevskiy Island. By founding St Petersburg Peter the Great only restored the trade to its old channels. The system of canals for connecting the upper Volga and the Dnieper with the great lakes of the north completed the work; the commercial mouth of the Volga was thus transferred to the Gulf of Finland, and St Petersburg became the export harbour for more than half Russia. Foreigners hastened thither to take possession of the growing export trade, and to this the Russian capital is indebted for its cosmopolitan character. The development of the railway system and the colonization of southern Russia now operate, however, adversely to St Petersburg, while the rapid increase of population in the Black Sea region is tending to shift the Russian centre of gravity; new centres of commercial, industrial, and intellectual life are being developed at Odessa and Rostov. The revival of Little Russia is another influence operating in the same direction. Since the abolition of serfdom and in consequence of the impulse given to Russian thought by this reform, the provinces are coming more and more to dispute the right of St Petersburg to guide the political life of the country. It has been often said that St Petersburg is the head of Russia and Moscow its heart. The first part at least of this saying is true. In the development of thought and in naturalizing in Russia the results of west European culture and philosophy St Petersburg has played a prominent part. It has helped greatly to familiarize the public with the teachings of west European science and thinking, and to give to Russian literature its liberality of mind and freedom from the trammels of tradition. St Petersburg has no traditions, no history beyond that of the palace conspiracies, and there is nothing in its past to attract the writer or the thinker. But, as new centres of intellectual life and new currents of thought develop again at Moscow and Kiev, or arise anew at Odessa and in the eastern provinces, these places claim the right to their own share in the further development of intellectual life in Russia.  (P. A. K.; J. T. Be.)