St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian empire, at the head of the Gulf of Finland and the mouth of the Neva. When a strong wind is blowing from the sea its level rises by several feet, and the poorer parts of St. Petersburg are inundated every year; but when the overflow exceeds 10 feet nearly the whole of the city is inundated. Peter I. laid the foundations of his capital in 1702 on one of the islands of the delta and dreamed to make of it a new Amsterdam. The actual connection between Russia and its capital was established through the Neva, which since it was connected by canals with the upper Volga, became the real mouth of the immense basin of the chief river in Russia and its numberless tributaries. Foreign trade and the centralization of all administration in the residence of the emperor have made of St. Petersburg a populous city covering 42 square miles.
The Great Neva, the chief branch of the river, which has within the city itself a width of from 400 to 900 yards, is so deep that large ships can lie alongside its granite embankments. Cronstadt, built on an island 16 miles to the W. of St. Petersburg, is both the fortress and the port of the capital. Two-thirds of the foreign vessels unload within the city itself. The main body of the city, containing more than one-half its inhabitants as well as all the chief streets, stands on the mainland, on the left bank of the Neva; and a beautiful granite quay, with a long series of palaces and mansions, stretches for 2-1/2 miles. Only two permanent bridges cross the Neva; the other two, built on boats, are removed in autumn and spring. The island Vasilievsky, between the Great and Little Nevas, has at its head the Stock Exchange, surrounded by spacious storehouses, and a row of scientific institutions, all facing the Neva. On the Peterburgskiy Island, between the Little Neva and the Great Neva, stands the old fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, facing the Winter Palace, and containing the mint and the cathedral. It has behind it the arsenal, and a series of wide streets bordered by small, mostly wooden houses, chiefly occupied by the poorer civil service functionaries. Farther up the mainland on the right bank is covered by the poorer parts of the city, but contains some public buildings and a great number of factories. Numerous islands, separated from each other by small branches into which both Nevas subdivide, and connected together by a great number of wooden bridges, are covered with beautiful parks and summer houses, to which most of the wealthier and middle-class population repair in the summer. The main part of St. Petersburg has for its center the old Admiralty; its lofty guilded spire and the gilded dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral are among the first sights caught on approaching St. Petersburg by sea. Three streets radiate from it; the first of them is the famous Nevskiy Prospect.
The Nevskiy Prospect is one of the finest streets of the world, not so much for its houses as for its immense width and length, the crowds which overflow its broad sidewalks, and the vehicles which glove over its wooden pavement. It runs for 3,200 yards, with a width of 130 feet, and then with a slow bend toward the S. for another 1,650 yards, to reach again the Neva near the Smolyni convent.
The climate is less severe than might be expected, but it is unhealthy and very changeable on the whole. The average temperatures are 15.4 degrees F. in January, 64 degrees in July, and 38.6 degrees for the year. A short but hot summer is followed by a damp autumn and very changeable winter, severe frosts being followed by rainy days in the midst of winter, and returning in April and May after the first warm days of the spring.
There are many large factories in the surrounding country, but the industrial establishments of the capital itself are chiefly small. Pop. 1,678,000.
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia