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Elizabethan St. Petersburg: a City of Baroque Grandeur

Elizabeth's palace

During the reign of Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, St. Petersburg finally became a fine European capital. At the beginning of this period fine buildings stood right next to ugly huts. After 20 years of Elizabeth's reign St. Petersburg and its suburbs could rival the most beautiful European cities.

The Imperial splendor of St. Petersburg was best reflected in the suburban royal residences. Peter the Great's estate Peterhof was remodeled by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of the Winter Palace and the Smolny Cathedral. The Grand Palace and the Grand Cascade of Peterhof were decorated with extreme luxury. That was typical for Elizabeth's time, since her court was big and very expensive for the country's purse.

The Yekaterininsky (Catherine's) Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), which once used to belong to Peter the Great's wife Catherine, was now turned into a magnificent royal residence with a vast and elaborate Baroque garden.

Elizabeth commissioned the lovely Smolny Convent and the Winter Palace, though she died before both buildings were completed. Ironically, during Elizabeth's reign the area near the palace, which later became the Palace Square, was used as a grazing land for the royal cows.

Nevsky Prospekt in the 18th century St. Petersburg

Elizabeth tried to follow many of her father's policies. Unlike some of her predecessors, she preferred to appoint Russians and not foreigners to the highest positions in the country. Being a patron of national arts and sciences, she established the Russian Academy of Arts. It has to be mentioned that Elizabeth was a very lively woman: she preferred to skip work when possible and enjoy balls, receptions, masquerades, firework displays, and other things which were a lot of fun.

Elizabeth's nephew Peter III did not rule for too long. Shortly after assuming power he was overthrown by his wife, a German princess, who soon became the famous Catherine the Great. Under her rule St. Petersburg turned into a "Grand City".

Next Topic: The "Grand City" of Catherine the Great

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