Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia

Synopsis

For Russians, St. Petersburg has embodied power, heroism, and fortitude. It has encompassed all the things that the Russians are and that they hope to become. Opulence and artistic brilliance blended with images of suffering on a monumental scale make up the historic persona of the late W. Bruce Lincoln's lavish "biography" of this mysterious, complex city.

Climate and comfort were not what Tsar Peter the Great had in mind when, in the spring of 1703, he decided to build a new capital in the muddy marshes of the Neva River delta. Located 500 miles below the Arctic Circle, this area, with its foul weather, bad water, and sodden soil, was so unattractive that only a handful of Finnish fisherman had ever settled there. Bathed in sunlight at midnight in the summer, it brooded in darkness at noon in the winter, and its canals froze solid at least five months out of every year. Yet to the Tsar, the place he named Sankt Pieter Burkh had the makings of a "paradise". His vision was soon borne out: though St. Petersburg was closer to London, Paris, and Vienna than to Russia's far-off eastern lands, it quickly became the political, cultural, and economic center of an empire that stretched across more than a dozen time zones and over three continents.

In this book, revolutionaries and laborers brush shoulders with tsars, and builders, soldiers, and statesmen share pride of place with poets. For only the entire historical experience of this magnificent and mysterious c

Excerpt

Climate, comfort and convenience were not what Russia's Tsar Peter the Great had in mind when he decided to build a new capital in the muddy marshes of the Neva River delta. The site he chose stood in a remote northwest corner of his realm and was still claimed by the Swedes, with whom Russia was in the midst of a long and bruising war. Barely five hundred miles below the Arctic Circle and easily submerged by the tides that flowed upriver from the Gulf of Finland, the region saw snow as early as September and as late as May. Its foul weather, bad water, and low-lying, sodden soil made it triply unattractive. Yet in the imagination of the larger-than-life Tsar of All the Russias, the place he named Sankt Pieter Burkh in the spring of 1703 had the makings of a "paradise." His successors would call it St. Petersburg, Petrograd, and Leningrad. But to the generations of men and women who watched picturesque canals and stately palaces rise from its fever-ridden swamps, Peter's city would be forever known as "Piter," the Dutch version of the name of the sovereign whose will had brought it into being.

Fascinated by the manner in which the Dutch had drawn wealth and power from the sea, Peter wanted Russia to become a seafaring nation like Holland. St. Petersburg's greatest attraction therefore lay in its nearness to the sea lanes of Europe, from which the Russians could acquire the means . . .

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