How and why Petersburg was called at different times.

The abbreviated name "Peter" was born in the XVIII century and was used including in Soviet times - oddly enough, even Joseph Stalin said so. And also Petersburg was once renamed Petrograd (because of the Germans) and was called Red Leipzig (because of the publishers). More information about the official and popular names of North Palmyra - in our material.

St. Petersburg a.k.a Peterburkh
Initially, St. Petersburg was called the fortress, founded in May 1703 on the Hare island, but soon this name spread to the whole city. In Dutch, the original name of the city sounds like Sankt Pieter Burch [San (k) tpiterburkh], which is why some citizens in the era of Peter the Great said that they live in Petersburkh, without the pronounced “g” sound.

The history of the official name of our city is quite simple: it was named after the Apostle Peter, the patron saint of Peter I.

Peter: from Karamzin to Stalin
Mention of such a reduction can be found even in the "History of the Russian State" Nikolai Karamzin, written in the beginning of the XIX century. According to the chronicler, "the common people say we have Peter instead of Petersburg." In the last third of the XVIII century, such a version of the name can be found in fiction - for example, in “Elisee” Maikov, “Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow” by Radishchev, as well as in verses by Mikhail Muravyov.

It is also interesting that the official name of the city in Finnish, Pietari, is formed from the Russian spoken version. After the renaming of the city to Leningrad, the name “Peter” lost popularity, but still it was sometimes used in conversations. According to the testimony of Admiral N. G. Kuznetsov, Joseph Stalin sometimes called defending Leningrad St. Petersburg.

Petrograd and the crusade against the Germans
In 1914, the Russian Empire entered the bloody World War I, in which Germany became the main enemy in our country. Patriotic citizens launched a campaign against the Russified Germans, newspapers published attacks on German communities, and soon they decided to strike the enemy with geographical names on the front. Nicholas II ordered to call St. Petersburg Petrograd his highest decree.

“This name is somehow closer and more tender to the Russian ear! From now on, a new era will shine in Petrograd, in which there will be no place for the German domination that has spread throughout Russia to Petersburg, which, fortunately, has become obsolete, our period of history, ”wrote soon Petrograd Gazette, which quickly changed their name.

Part of the intelligentsia to the patriotic frenzy of compatriots reacted with hostility. For example, Zinaida Gippius wrote the following lines in those years:

Who attacked the brainchild of Petrovo?
Who is the perfect doing of the hands
Dared to offend, having taken away even a word,
Dare to change even a single sound?

"Petersburg or Petrograd is not a joke, but the whole history of Russia, its entire future, its entire historical meaning. Free creative will or slavish obedience, moving forward, in breadth, into the world, or the isolation of the Chinese wall, the universe or the area, "stolichnost" or "provincialism", — wrote the Russian artist Alexander Benua.

Echoes of this period still remained on the maps of St. Petersburg: the historical district between the Malaya Neva and Malaya Nevka is called the Petrograd side, and in 1963 the Petrogradskaya metro station was opened.

Leningrad and the cradle of all revolutions
The decision to rename the city was taken in 1924, after the death of the great leader of the proletariat, Vladimir Lenin. There is a version according to which officials in Moscow and Petrograd raced to file an application for renaming cities in honor of the creator of the Soviet state, but Muscovites were late for the day.

“Red Petrograd is the cradle of the proletarian revolution,” it was said in the decree of the II All-Union Congress of Soviets. This is due to another unofficial name of St. Petersburg - “the city of three revolutions”. This refers to the 1905 revolution, as well as the February and October revolutions that occurred in 1917.

Leningrad turned back to St. Petersburg only on September 6, 1991, after 54% of those who had voted in favor of renaming the city. Interestingly, this was not a referendum at all - the poll had no legal force, and the city was renamed by the decree of the city authorities, who listened to the opinion of the citizens. The Petersburg construction company responded most ingeniously to the next change of the name of the city. In advertising new homes built on individual projects, residents of the northern capital were offered to move "from Leningrad to St. Petersburg."

Palmyra, Venice, Leipzig
Over the years, Petersburg was compared to other prominent cities. The writer Faddey Bulgarin on the pages of the Northern Bee for the first time likened St. Petersburg to Palmyra, one of the richest trade cities of antiquity, known for its incredible architecture. So for St. Petersburg stuck another informal name - North Palmyra.

Comparison with Venice suggests itself - both cities are united by a huge number of beautiful rivers, canals and bridges. But Leipzig associates Petersburg for an unexpected reason. The fact is that at the beginning of the 20th century, the northern capital was known for its book publishing houses. Quality products were famous for "Raduga", "Lengiz", "Alkonost" and other enterprises. This is how the comparison with the book capital of Europe, Leipzig, was born. So they began to say after the literary exhibition in Florence in 1892, which was held for Petersburg publishing houses with great success.

Special offers

Visit SPb Tram Museum and have a memorable ride on a vintage tram through the historical attractions.

Enlarge your War and Peace knowledge by joining Guide For You on the War and Peace Trail. (more…)

If you are looking for something unique to do in Saint Petersburg, experience Russian Blacksmith mastership!


Moderate 2 Day Shore Excursion St. Petersburg, Russia from 241$ Reserve Now & Pay Later