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The Building of St Petersburg

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 23 April 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the building of St Petersburg, Peter the Great's showcase city for a modern, European Russia. It is a city of ideas. of progress and the Baroque, of Russian identity and Tsarist power. The building of St Petersburg is a testament to Tsarist power but it is also a city of ideas; of progress, of the Baroque and Russian identity. Beset by fire and flood, the city was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 to symbolise a new Russia, one that faced away from the Slavic East and towards the European West.

To this end Peter and his heirs imported European architects, craftsmen and merchants to fashion his new capital.The result is a grandiose European city set amidst the freezing swamps of the Baltic coast; a Venice or Rome of the North. Indeed, the Venetian art connoisseur, Francesco Algarotti called St Petersburg ‘a window through which Russia looks on Europe’. It is a city of beauty built upon the cruelty of a tyrant and to this day encapsulates many of the contradictions of Russia.

With Simon Dixon, Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at University College London; Janet Hartley, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics; Anthony Cross, Emeritus Professor of Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge

  • Further Reading

    Peter the Great: A Biography, Lindsey Hughes (Yale University Press, 2004)

    Peter the Great and the West: New Perspectives, Lindsey Hughes (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001)

    Charles Whitworth: Diplomat in the Age of Peter the Great, Janet Hartley (Ashgate, 2002)

    Sunlight at Midnight: St Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia, W. Bruce Lincoln (New York: Basic Books, 2001)

    The Petrine Revolution in Russian Architecture, James Cracraft (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1988)

    Russia in the Age of Peter the Great, Lindsey Hughes (New Haven: Yale UP, 1998)

    St Petersburg and the British: The City Through the Eyes of British Visitors and Residents, Anthony Cross (London: Frances Lincoln, 2008)

    St Petersburg 1703-1825, Anthony Cross, ed. (Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan 2003)

    Catherine the Great, Simon Dixon (London, Profile Books: 2009)

    St Petersburg: Architecture of the Tsars, Dmitry Shvidkovsky et al. (New York, Abbeville Press)

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