Today in History: St Petersburg Is Founded

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The city of St. Petersburg itself was dressed in an ermine robe of snow, its frozen river and canals glittering like the duchesses’ diamonds. In the distance the sun shone on the brightly colored domes of the Church of the Resurrection. “Look, Misha, I said, “The domes look like a tumble of crown jewels.” (Ch. 1, St Petersburg; p. 2, Angel on the Square, Harper Collins, 2001).

It’s not snowing when we finish the last pages of Gloria Whelan’s Angel on the Square, but my daughter is just the age of Katya Ivanova, daughter of Irina Petrovna Baronova, lady-in-waiting to the royal Romanov family. In the warm May tumble of our New York cityscape, we visualize jagged junks of ice making their way down the sparkling Neva River during the Spring of 1913. Intrigued by the golden time of the aristocracy and tide of events leading up to the Russian Revolution, we, like Katya, are drawn to the magical, romantic city of St Petersburg, which dates back more than three centuries.

Did you know that Tsar Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, founded the city of St Petersburg on May 27, 1703 after winning access to the Baltic Sea in the Great Northern War? That Russia became a major European power with the emergence of this great new city, which was capital of the Russian empire for over 200 years?

Moving from historical fiction to historical news, we enjoy interesting stories about the origin and development of St Petersburg, the northernmost city in the world with a population of over one million, and whose historic center and monuments, including the Hermitage, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and Peter and Paul Fortress, constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, whose content serves to inform and inspire classroom teaching and learning.

Taubman, P. (1998, Jun 29). A Window on Russia and Its History. New York Times (1923-Current File)

St. Petersburg: Peter’s Designs in Building It, and How It Looks in Summer. (1881, Aug 13). New York Times (1857-1922)

Caroline, V. H. (1905, Mar 19). Legend of St. Petersburg. New York Tribune (1900-1910)

The City of St. Petersburg. (1905, Jan 23). The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959)

By Serge Schmemann. Special to The New York Times. (1991, Jun 13). Leningrad, Petersburg and the Great Name Debate. New York Times (1923-Current File) 

Moffett, G. D. (1991, Dec 05). St. Petersburg, Capital of Resilience: St. Petersburg: Resilient Capital of Change. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File) 

Dobavleno primechaniye: Angel on the Square is part of the Gottesman Libraries contemporary children’s literature collection, comprising notable and award winning books that are housed in the second floor reading room. For a more detailed description of available resources please read about the Children’s Fiction and related collections.

… and, if you’re inclined, check out unique images of Russia and Siberia from the Rothman Lantern Slide Collection, a K-12 teaching resource containing several thousand mounted photographic transparencies intended for projection by a magic lantern.

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