Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg 
and Related Groups of Monuments (1990)

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The 'Venice of the North', with its numerous canals and more than 400 bridges, is the result of a vast urban project begun in 1703 under Peter the Great. Later known as Leningrad (in the former USSR), the city is closely associated with the October Revolution. 

Its architectural heritage reconciles the very different Baroque and pure neoclassical styles, as can be seen in the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, the Marble Palace and the Hermitage.

  • UNESCO (France) 2003. The Cathedral of the Resurrection, Saint Petersburg. 

St. Petersburg was founded by Czar Peter I on the ethos of the free city of Novgorod, which once had a sea watch on this very site, from which Novgorodian sea pilots guided German ships across Lake Ladoga.  Peter won this site back from the Swedes who had taken control of it, and founded St. Petersburg in 1703. 

UNESCO (France) 2003. World Cultural Heritage. Cathedral of the Resurrection, Saint Petersburg.

Russia 1997. Souvenir sheet from the series "Russian State History", Czar Peter I.

Russia. Bronze statue of Peter I, in Saint Petersburg.

By transforming the thousands of stone masons, carpenters, soldiers and state criminals who had been driven to these marshy, mosquito-ridden parts into obedient instruments of his will, Peter himself became an instrument of the political and economic imperatives, which dictated the need for a new capital on this site. 
  • Russia 1997.  Souvenir sheet from the series "Russian State History", showing Czar Peter I on the background of St. Petersburg and battleships.This sheet belongs to the below set of Peter's achievements. 
  • Bronze statue in St. Petersburg of Peter I. 

Peter was compelled by another imperative, a psychological one, resulting in his urgent need to leave Moscow.  In his childhood a frenzied, bloodthirsty mob had burst into the Kremlin, and he had been saved only by a miracle.  Plots were constantly being hatched against him there. The Moscow boyars' beards were just the place for all Peter's reforms to get entangled in.  Fearless though he was in his battles against foreigners, Peter feared Moscow as he would fear an old witch with an evil eye.  The marshes on which he built the new capital seemed firmer to him than the stone patterned floors of the Kremlin. The series of Russian State History, issued in 1997, illustrates beautifully Peter's achievements in building his new capital. 

Russia 1997. Russian State History. Stamp #1 of five. Russia 1997. Russian State History. Stamp #2 of five. Russia 1997. Russian State History. Stamp #3 of five. Russia 1997. Russian State History. Stamp #4 of five. Russia 1997. Russian State History. Stamp #5 of five.

For many, this massive workload proved fatal.  St. Petersburg is a marsh paved with human bones.  As there was no suitable building land, the first migrants dragged earth from far-off places to the city bastions on old sacks, bark matting and even in the hems of their coarse hemp clothes.  Fever and disease claimed a great many lives.  When a person died, he was wrapped in the matting in which he had just dragged earth and buried in the earth he had brought himself. 

Russia. Plan of St. Petersburg, early 1800s. Russia. Photograph ofthe coastline of Schlüsselburg, St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg is on the same latitude as the southern part of Greenland and Alaska and consists of 101 islands separated by 65 rivers, channels and strems, totalling 160 km in length and spanned by 365 bridges, of which 20 are movable. The central and one of the most famous bridges in St. Petersburg, is the Anichkov Bridge with the Horse Statue by Piotr Klodt.  Its population is now over 5 million and includes over 100 different nationalities and ethnic groups.  

Russia. Photograph of Anichkov Bridge and Piotr Klodt's Horse Statue.

Russia 1993. Definitive stamp. The Anichkov Horse Statue.
  • St. Petersburg. Photoghaph of Anichkov Bridge and Piotr Klodt's Horse Statue. During the blockade of St. Petersburg in WWII, the statues were buried underground in the garden near Anichkov Palace, in order to protect them from the shells. 

  • Russia 1993.  The Anichkov Horse Statue. 

The city known as St. Petersburg, Petrograd, and Leningrad over the short 300 years of its history, years which have, nevertheless, absorbed entire epochs, has always been referred to as "Peter" by its inhabitants.  Having once walked its streets and breathed its air, moistened by the closeness of the Baltic, it is impossible to shake off the initial feeling that you are touching something eternal and holy, yet, at the same time, something earthly and fleeting. 

Saint Petersburg 1703-1914

Petrograd 1914–1924

Leningrad 1924–1991

Informally also "Piter" 

The key feature of St. Petersburg's architecture is the predominance of horizontal over vertical lines.  The shimmering line of rooftops seen against the background of the sky makes the buildings seem illusory or ephemeral. This impression is reproduced exquisitely by Dostoyevsky in his "Adolescent":  "Amidst this fog I was a hundred times beset by a strange but persistent dream:  what if this mist disperses, goes up and away;  will not all of this rotten, slimy city rise together with it and disperse like smoke, leaving behind only the original Finnish swamp?"

A characteristic element of the city are the three spires, those of the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Admiralty and the Mikhailovsky Castle.  
  • Russia 1995.  Peter and Paul Fortification. 
  • Corresponding photograph (from a book) from the seaside of the fortress.  

Russia 1995. Definitive stamp. Peter and Paul Fortification, St. Petersburg.

Russia. Photograph from the seaside of Peter and Paul Fortification, St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg is Russia's second largest metropolis.  It has huge ports, factories, research institutions and educational establishments.  Still referred to as the "northern capital", it has lost much of its former glamour.  Founded by Peter the Great it bore, not without pride, the title of capital of the Russian Empire between 1712 and 1918. 

Russia. Photograph of St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

Russia 1992. Definitive stamp. St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

Russia 1992.
St. Isaacs Cathedral

High rising over the city is the dominating St. Isaac's Cathedral.   

The enormous bulk of the church with its gilt dome was meant to form the focus of St. Petersburg's second center, fulfilling a town-planning function similar to that of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. 

Other domes are evenly distributed all over the city, and their spherical, non-rectilinear shapes sit like decorative flourishes, feminine in character, above the city's masculine lines.  

  • Far left:  Photograph of St. Isaac's Cathedral.

A tremendous personality, Peter had a great gift for deploying numerous resourceful foreigners in the service of Russia.  He appointed them to high state office with complete confidence;  sensing that his solicitous gaze was upon them and appreciating his friendly, business-like disposition, they did not let him down.  

Russia 1992. Definitive stamp. Peter Memorial. St. Petersburg. Russia 1994. Cathedral of the Holy Trinity [Troitzky Cathedral], St. Petersburg. Russia 1994. Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg. Russia 1995. Definitive stamp. The Admiralty, St. Petersburg.

In 2003 St. Petersburg celebrated its 300th anniversary through a huge amount of prestigious stamps. The releases started already in 2002 with exquisite panoramic or semi-aerial views of St. Petersburg, and the most famous landmarks of the city. 

  • View of the Peter and Paul Fortress, the steeple and angel of the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral (vertical). 
  • The Admiralty and the Admiralty steeple topped with a gilded ship, a symbol of Saint Petersburg (vertical).
  • St. Isaac's Cathedral and sculpture of Atlant. 
  • Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg and the Monument of Marshal Barclay de Tolli. 
  • Cathedral of Resurrection built on the place of the attempted murder of  Emperor Alexander II, with griffen of the Bank Bridge over the canal of Griboedov. 

Russia 2003. View of the Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg.

Russia 2003. The Admiralty, St. petersburg.

Russia 2003. St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

Russia 2003. Kazan Cathedral, St. Petersburg.

Russia 2003. Cathedral of the Resurrection, St. Petersburg.

The philatelic celebrations continued in 2003 with two prestigious sets of each 3 stamps. There are two different -- yet similar -- souvenir sheets coming with the stamps. The first part of this set is known as "The Bridge-issue".

Russia 2003. The Anichkov Bridge. St. Petersburg. Russia 2003. Open bridge across the Neva, St. Petersburg. Russia 2003. View of Vasilievsky Island.

Russia 2003. Souvenir sheet. Peter I Monument and view of St. Petersburg. 75R.

The second part of the set is known as "The Palatial Issue". 

Russia 2003. The Palace Square, St. Petersburg. Russia 2003. The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg. Russia 2003. The Summer Garden, St. Petersburg.

Russia 2003. Souvenir sheet. Peter I Monument and view of St. Petersburg. 100R.

The Winter Palace and the Hermitage
It is, to put it mildly, unforgivable not to visit the Hermitage when you are in St. Petersburg.  There are only a few museums of this class in the world - perhaps the Louvre in Paris, The British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  The museum has nearly 400 exhibition halls and is annually visited by more than 3 million visitors, who would have to walk over 20 km to view the displays in all the halls.  
  • Russia 1986. The Winter Palace - Hermitage. 

Russia 1986. The Winter Palace - Hermitage.

The architectural appearance of the complex of buildings housing the Hermitage today is majestic, and reflect the changes in artistic taste and architectural style that took place with the transition from baroque to neoclassicism.  The Hermitage was initially set up as the private museum of the empress Catherine the Great after the design of the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli.  In the 18th century, the setting up of royal picture galleries was regarded as an affair of national importance in the countries of Europe.  Catherine the Great started her gallery a year after her ascension to the throne in 1762.  Having begun to collect art later than the other European monarchs, she spared no expense for the purpose.  

Russia 1998. Czar Nicholas II with family. St. Petersburg.

  • Russia 1998.  Czar Nicholas II, and on the tablet a contemporary painting of his family.  They were all murdered in Yekaterinburg in Siberia on the order of Lenin in 1918.  

The last Russian Czar having lived here was Nicholas II and his Czarina, Alix, born princess of Germany. 

The Czar was son of the Danish Princess Dagmar, who became Czarina Maria Feodorovna through her marriage with the later Czar Alexander III.  

(The Czarina was sister of the British Queen Alexandra, married to King Edward VII) 

Click here to read more about the Russian family tree's relation to Denmark and the Royal Danish Glücksburg family.

It is not difficult to imagine the splendour and daily luxury in which the Royal families have lived through the times.  Below are shown species of emerald items from the Czarist period.  Click the below link to pay a direct visit to the Hermitage, and be taken on an astounding roundtrip to the collections, that include more than 15,000 paintings, 12,000 sculptures, 600,000 works of graphic art, 1 million coins and medals, 224,000 works of applied art.  To this comes the library, one of the world's largest depositories of books on art, that runs into no less than half a million volumes. 

Russia 1996. "Mother-of-God" icon from Kazan. St. Petersburg.

Here are some of the treasures in the Hermitage, shown on modern Russian stamps.

Russia 1996.  


  • Coffee Pot, 18th century. 
  • Bottles for aromatized water, 17th century. 
  • Religious Cup, second half of the 17th century.  
  • Ink Bottles, 17th-18th centuries. 
  • Perfume Bottles, 17th century. 
Russia 1996. Art Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Stamp #1 of five. Russia 1996. Art Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Stamp #2 of five. Russia 1996. Art Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Stamp #3 of five. Russia 1996. Art Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Stamp #4 of five. Russia 1996. Art Treasures from the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Stamp #5 of five.

In 2002 The Hermitage Museum celebrated its 150th anniversary. It was opened in February 1852 as the first Russian Public Art Museum and was named The New Hermitage. For the occasion was issued a prestige booklet of four stamps and one souvenir sheet. The booklet is beautiful; all single stamps are issued in "sheet-format" on a velvet-like claret background colour, and with texts in Russian and English.  

Russia 2002. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Stamp #1 of four. Russia 2002. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Stamp #2 of four. Russia 2002. Souvenir sheet. Hermitage Museum. St. Petersburg.
Russia 2002. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Stamp #3 of four. Russia 2002. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Stamp #4 of four.

In Russia the tradition of collecting works of art led down from Catherine's time and became a part of the state policy in the first decades of the 19th century.  Regularly enriched collection of paintings, sculptures and pieces of arts and crafts could not be housed in the apartments of the Winter Palace called "The Hermitage" by Catherine the Great, neither in the halls of the Lesser Hermitage nor in the Older Hermitage. 

This fact suggested the idea of creating a special building for the museum where arts of various schools, ages and nations of the world could be admired.  The Czar Nicholas I commissioned the German architect Leo von Klenze to design the building of "The Imperial Public Museum". 

Russia 1994. Close-up of the architect V.P. Stasov, the architect of the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

The Russian architects V.P. Stasov and N.E. Yefimov put into effect von Klenze's design, making material changes in order to fit the new construction to the existing architectural ensemble. A remarkable feature of the building was a portico supported by ten granite Atlantes, now a symbol of the Hermitage Museum.  The interiors of the New Hermitage are striking for their palatial splendour.  All the halls of the New Hermitage make up the magnificent setting for the Hermitage's priceless artistic treasures, and hugely increase the historical and cultural value of a "museum within a museum". 
  • Russia 1994. Close-up of the architect V.P. Stasov, who also built the Troitzky [Holy Trinity] Cathedral in St. Petersburg. 

The Russian State Museum
In a way, it is thanks to the Tretyakov Gallery, that the Russian Museum exists today. The story goes that in 1893, Emperor Alexander III (himself an avid collector of Russian paintings) deigned to bestow his royal attention on the Tretyakov Gallery. Having examined the collection, Alexander exclaimed: "How fortunate Moscow is!  We have nothing of the kind down in St. Petersburg!"  Soon afterwards the decision was taken to open a museum of Russian art in the Russian capital. And open it did - in 1898. The museum occupied one of St. Petersburg's architectural marvels - the Mikhailovsky Palace, built by Carlo Rossi for Alexander I's younger brother, Grand Prince Mikhail, in the first quarter of the 19th century, it became part of what is now known as Mikhailovsky Ploschad (formerly Square of Arts).  

The main facade, with its majestic Corinthian colonnade, is set back deep into the front garden.  Rossi decorated the ground floor of the facade with symbols of Martian glory - armour, helmets, shields and swords.  Mighty lions stand on guard at the main entrance. To the right is the souvenir sheet issued at the occasion of the museum's 100th anniversary.

Russia 1986. Russian State Museum. Michailovsky Palace, St. Petersburg.

  • Russia 1986. Russian State Museum (Mikhailovsky Palace). 

The opposite facade (looking out into the Mikhailovsky Garden) is altogether different:  soft and mellow, it gives the impression of poetic harmony with the outlying scenery.  

Its serene beauty reflects the quiet, cosy thoughtfulness of the garden. In autumn the leaves of the St. Petersburg maples, which are of the same delicate yellow hue as the palace walls, gently fall on the sloping steps of the garden entrance. 

Russia 1998. Souvenir Sheet. Russian State Museum (Michailovsky Palace). St. Petersburg.

  • Russia 1998.  Russian State Museum (Michailovsky Palace). 


The collections started with works of Russian art assembled from country residences of the Czars, the Hermitage, the Academy of Arts and, of course, from private collections. There were about 2,500 of them - mostly paintings, sculptures and drawings. No other museum comes near to its collection of graphic and sculptural works. You will also find period furniture, samovars, carved stones, china and Russian gems. Today the Russian Museum is rivalled only by the Tretyakov Gallery as the world's largest repository of Russian and Soviet art: there are more than 370,000 items in its collection. 

Finally must be mentioned the palace museums at Tsarskoye Selo, now Pushkin. In 1710 Peter the Great presented the lands of this estate to his wife, the future Catherine I and named the settlement Tsarskoye Selo (The Tsar's Village), and established it as a palace center. It remained a residence of the tsars until 1917, when Nicholas II and his family were exiled to Siberia, and eventually murdered in Yekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk). After the exile of Nicholas II, Tsarskoye Selo was renamed Detskoye Selo (Children’s Village). Finally, in 1937 it was renamed Pushkin, in honour of the poet Aleksandr Pushkin, who was educated in the city. 

Pushkin’s Catherine Palace, built between 1717 and 1757 in baroque style, has hundreds of magnificent halls, including the famous Cameron Gallery and the chapel; gold, silver, mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli, and amber were used lavishly in the decorations. The Alexander Palace was built from 1792 to 1796. Surrounding the palaces are beautifully kept gardens, walks, and fountains. The railroad built between Pushkin (then named Tsarskoye Selo) and Saint Petersburg in 1837 was the first in Russia. 

Russia 1986. Grand Palace Museum (Petrodvorets), St. Petersburg. Russia 1986. Catherine Palace Museum (Pushkin). Russia 1986. Palace Museum (Pavlovsk).

The last celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary was through the below issue in 2004 of the newly restored Amber Room in the Catherine Palace (stamp above middle) at Tsarskoye Selo. 

The Amber Room, as shown in fragment on the below sheet, has its walls and wall panels totally decorated in amber that comes in many shades, from ivory over orange to blackish-brown, transparent or opaque. Amber is a fossil resin that, in prehistoric times, exuded from various now-extinct coniferous trees. Found in either round, irregular lumps, grains, or drops, it is slightly brittle and emits an agreeable odor when rubbed. Amber burns with a bright flame and pleasant smell and becomes negatively electric by friction. Extinct and extant species of insects are sometimes found encased in samples of amber. It was obtained in antiquity from the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, where it is still found. It is also found in small quantities in Sicily, Romania, Siberia, Greenland, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Australia, and the United States. Amber is used in the arts and in the manufacture of jewelry, cigarette holders, and pipestems. The Amber Room is decorated uniquely with amber coming from the Baltic Sea.  

Russia 2004. Souvenir sheet. The Amber Room in Tskarskoe, and Florentine Mosaic "Touch and Smell".

Russia 2004. St. Petersburg. The Amber Room in Tsarsklye Selo. Stamp #1 of three. Russia 2004. St. Petersburg. The Amber Room in Tsarsklye Selo. Stamp #2 of three. Russia 2004. St. Petersburg. The Amber Room in Tsarsklye Selo. Stamp #3 of three.

There are dozens of more stamps depicting Saint Petersburg (or Leningrad) and surroundings. On this page I have only shown those that are the most vital for a primary knowledge of this fabulous city and its historical background. I can only advise visitors to this page to visit the below links, that will provide much more in-depth information. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Russia (on this web site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Russia-section, for further information on such sites. 

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Revised 24 feb 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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