St. Petersburg is the most important city of Russia behind Moscow and is an important industrial, scientific and cultural centre. The city with its architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries, its canals, its long straight streets, gardens, parks and palaces is an important tourist attraction. The city was called Petrograd from 1914 to 1924 and from 1924 to 1991 Leningrad.
St. Petersburg is the seat of the Leningrad oblast, although it is not a part of it itself. The city is located at the mouth of the Neva River in the Gulf of Finland in a delta. The population is about 5 million.
The city is an important traffic hub with a seaport, an airport (Pulkovo) and access to the Volga-Baltic waterway system. The city has a subway (since 1955). There is a lot of industries, including steel, chemistry and engineering. The city is the seat of the Russian Academy of Sciences and has many research institutes, three universities and a conservatory. There are about 120 museums, including the Hermitage and the Russian Museum, and more than 50 theaters, including the Mariinsky Theatre.
St. Petersburg has a large number of museums, including the Hermitage, by far the best known. The headquarters of the Hermitage is housed in the former Winter Palace, the main residence of the Russian Tsars. The Hermitage collection consists mostly of Western European art, and has started with the collection of Catherine the Great, to which the works of the displaced nobles were added after the October Revolution by Bolsheviks. The Hermitage has several branches in St. Petersburg, including the Mensjikov palace.
The Russian Museum houses a large collection of mainly Russian artists, starting with icons. This museum has the second largest collection of paintings by the run of Wanderers (Peredvizjniki). In addition, the collection contains a large number of works of Russian avant-garde artists such as Natalia Goncharova and Kazimir Malevich. The headquarters of the Russian Museum is located in the Michailovski palace, located next to the Cathedral of the Resurrection “Our Savior on the Blood”. The museum also has several branches in St. Petersburg, including the Marble Palace (with the Ludwig Museum).
The most famous theater in St. Petersburg is the Mariinski theater, known under the name Kirov theater in Sovjet Union times. It’s the home base of the Mariinski Ballet and a lot of famous dancers (like Vaslav Nijinski, Rudolf Noerejev and Mikhail Baryshnikov) were trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy linked to the theater.
During the Russian empire, it was a trend amongst Russian nobility to also have a private theater in their palaces. Well-known examples are the Hermitage Theatre and the theater in the Yusupov Palace, which are still being actively used as theaters.