In this column, I have been writing stories about the United Kingdom. It is time for a change. In my last article, I mentioned Russia organizing the World Cup this year. So, I would like to take this moment to begin our new story in exploring this world biggest country together.
The most famous and biggest cities in Russia are Moscow(莫斯科) and Saint Petersburg (圣彼德堡), which happens to be where the World Cup was held. While Moscow, as I believe you all already know, is the capital city of Russia, what is so special about Saint Petersburg? Actually, Saint Petersburg was the capital city (首都) of Imperial Russia (俄罗斯帝国) for around 200 years since Peter the Great (彼德大帝), who also is the one began to build this city. When you see that Peter the Great is the builder of the city, you must think that is the reason why the city named Saint Petersburg: the city named after the builder. Yet, you are totally wrong. It is actually related to religion (宗教).
Instead of named after the builder, Saint Petersburg is named after its patron saint (主保圣人): Saint Peter(圣彼德). One of the main reasons it got this name is because Saint Peter is also Peter the Great's patron saint. Another reason is that the city follows its first building's name: Peter and Paul Fortress (彼得保罗要塞). This fortress was built by Peter the Great in 1703 during the Great Northern War (大北方战争), a war led by Russia and Sweden (瑞典). This action indicates Peter the Great's intention to show off his rising power on the North: Using this fortress as a protection, Peter the Great built a new capital near his enemy. This new capital is, of course, Saint Petersburg.
A further interesting note about the name of Saint Petersburg shows a distinctly Dutch-German (荷兰-德国) influence, for its original spelling had a similarity with some European cities. This may have to do with the reference Peter the Great took when he built this city, but this is another story, which I shall leave it for the next article.
Last but not least, we should not think that Saint Petersburg has always been the name of the city. This city, like some others, has changed its name throughout history. For example, as mentioned, the original name shows German influence, so the Russians changed its name during World War I while Russia was at war with Germany. And, its name was changed again under the rule of USSR (苏联): from Petrograd (彼得格勒) to Leningrad (列宁格勒). After the fall of USSR, the people of the city voted to restore the name of Saint Petersburg in 1991. And so, we all now know this city as its original name. Meanwhile, this city has lots of nicknames, which I will talk a bit more about it next time.