St. Petersburg seemed to be beauty and sorrow wrapped up together. Founded at the mouth of the Neva River in 1703, St. Petersburg has persevered through one tragedy after another. It has survived high death rates among the workers who built it; many attempted and successful assassinations of its rulers; the Russian revolution; ongoing executions of thousands of citizens; the siege of Leningrad; and further executions and imprisonments under the rule of Joseph Stalin. It’s not surprising that the national emotion of Russia seems to be sadness.
And though it all, the Neva persists as the major artery, the main street that holds the city together. Spanned by dozens of bridges as it meanders through the city, the Neva represents commerce and tourism, past and present, fear and hope.
“I love you, Peter’s great creation,
I love your view of stern and grace,
The Neva wave’s regal procession,
The greyish granite – her bank’s dress,
The airy iron-casting fences,
The gentle transparent twilight,
The moonless gleam of your nights restless.”
– from “The Bronze Horseman: A Petersburg Tale” by Aleksandr Pushkin