Saint Petersburg [Санкт-Петербу́рг] (tr. Sankt-Peterburg, IPA: [ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk]), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), is the second-largest city in Russia. It is situated on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, with a population of roughly 5.4 million residents. Saint Petersburg is the fourth-most populous city in Europe after Istanbul, Moscow and London, the most populous city on the Baltic Sea, and the world's northernmost city of more than 1 million residents. As Russia's Imperial capital, and a historically strategic port, it is governed as a federal city.
The city was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on 27 May 1703 on the site of a captured Swedish fortress, and was named after apostle Saint Peter. In Russia, Saint Petersburg is historically and culturally associated with the birth of the Russian Empire and Russia's entry into modern history as a European great power. It served as a capital of the Tsardom of Russia, and the subsequent Russian Empire, from 1713 to 1918 (being replaced by Moscow for a short period of time between 1728 and 1730). After the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks moved their government to Moscow. The Soviet Union later renamed the city Leningrad, although it reverted to its former name after the fall of Communism. During World War II, it was subjected to the longest siege in history by Nazi Germany and Finland.
As Russia's cultural center, Saint Petersburg received over 15 million tourists in 2018. It is considered an important economic, scientific, and tourism centre of Russia and Europe.
- The Communists’ central position was crucial to their war effort, as they had control of the vital populous centres, the industrial areas, including key arms factories around Moscow, and of leading rail nodes, notably Moscow and St Petersburg. Arms supplies were a vital element. For example, foreign troops were sent to Archangel and eventually deployed along the Northern Dvina River to prevent the Communists from seizing the sizeable amount of Western armaments originally destined for the imperial Russian army. As was to be the case in World War Two, these arms had been shipped from Britain. In control of the major cities, the Communists were able to seize and make use of dominance of the telegraph, telephone and postal services. This situation was opposite to the geo-strategy of conflict seen with the Maoist theory of war and with the guerrilla operations that characterised most (but not all) of the conflicts in the Third World in the 1960s and 1970s. In these, the revolutionaries operated from marginal areas, while their opponents controlled the cities. However, in the Russian Civil War, in contrast to the Bolsheviks, the Whites lacked manufacturing capacity.
- Jeremy Black, The Cold War: A Military History (2015)
- By retaining control of St Petersburg and Moscow, the Communists, in a traditional Russian response to attackers, could afford to trade space for time. They did so in what was very much a war of movement, a characteristic of a conflict with a lower force density than that on the Western Front in World War One. Indeed, by October 1919, White forces were within 250 miles of Moscow, as well as close to St Petersburg. Nevertheless, the Communist ability to trade space for time, while benefiting from a central position, provided an opportunity to benefit from the failings of the anti- Communist forces. These failings owed much to their internal divisions and to their political and strategic mismanagement. Although, in combination, there was a formidable array of opponents, each of the anti-Communist forces had its own goals, and they sometimes took non-cooperation as far as conflict.
- Jeremy Black, The Cold War: A Military History (2015)
- ...everything was going in regular caravans to the summer villas. It seemed as though Petersburg threatened to become a wilderness, so that at last I felt ashamed, mortified and sad that I had nowhere to go for the holidays and no reason to go away. I was ready to go away with every waggon, to drive off with every gentleman of respectable appearance who took a cab; but no one—absolutely no one—invited me.
- I tell you solemnly, that I have many times tried to become an insect. But I was not equal even to that. I swear, gentleman, that to be too conscious is an illness--a real thorough-going illness. For an's everyday needs, it would have been quite enough to have the ordinary human consciousness, that is, half or a quarter of the amount which falls to the lot of a cultivated man of our unhappy nineteenth century, especially one who has the fatal ill-luck to inhabit Petersburg.
- Officials at the Reich Security Main Office planned the annihilation with cynical precision. They planned a war that declared the entire Soviet population – the entire Soviet population – to be the enemies, from newborn babies to the very old. The enemies were to be defeated not just militarily, but were also to be made to pay for the war imposed upon them themselves, with their lives, their property, with everything that was part of their existence. The entire European part of the Soviet Union, whole stretches of today's Ukraine and Belarus – and I quote from the orders – were to be "cleansed" and prepared for German colonisation. Metropolises such as Leningrad, present-day Saint Petersburg, Moscow or Kyiv, were to be razed to the ground.
- Frank-Walter Steinmeier, As quoted in the Anniversary of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union speech, 18 June 2021
- The beginning of October, 1941, I was in Leningrad, commanding the troops of the Leningrad Front. Those days were difficult for all of us who had been through the September fighting for Leningrad. But our forces were succeeding in thwarting the enemy's plans. Because of the unparalleled steadfastness and mass heroism of the Soviet soldiers, sailors and noncommissioned officers and the endurance of commanders and political officers, the enemy was encountering an unsurmountable defense on the approaches to the city. By the end of September pressure was noticeably relaxed on all sectors and the front line had become stabilized. But this is not the place to tell the story of the Leningrad fighting nor of the attempted seizure of the city named for the great Lenin. I mention it only to emphasize that all of us, from the Military Council of the front down to the city's ordinary defenders, in those days lived with but a single thought: to stop the enemy no matter what. Everyone did all he could in his assigned post.
- Georgy Zhukov, Marshal Zhukov's Greatest Battles (1969), p. 29