THE CITY OF SAINT Petersburg in Russia is known throughout the world as 1 of the marvels of urban planning and magnificent architecture. As the capital of the Russian Empire from 1712 to 1918, the city was the staging ground for the dramatic events of Russian history, from Peter the Great’s forced introduction of Western (modern) customs in the early 18th century to the upheavals of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Renamed Petrograd during World War I (to sound less German), then Leningrad in 1924 to honor the Soviet Union’s first leader, the city has once again returned to its original name (since 1991—actually, Sankt Peterburg, from the Dutch) and once again focused itself leaning Westward in an effort to reclaim its position as a leading center for European culture. The year 2003 saw the city celebrate its 300th anniversary with exhibitions, major building renovations, and religious and civic festivals throughout the year. Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city, with over 4.7 million people living in its borders. Located 400 mile (650 kilometer) from Moscow, Saint Petersburg presents itself as a second capital for Russia: while Moscow is very much at the center of Russia, with train lines emanating in all directions, Petersburg is located on the far western fringe, on an outlet to the sea, within close proximity to other European capitals in the Baltic. It was this very position, at the head of the Gulf of Finland, that led Peter the Great to undertake the massive project of building this city in the first place, his great “window on the West,” starting in 1703. The area where the Neva River flows into the gulf had only recently been taken in war against the Swedes but consisted of nothing but marshland and the remains of the fortresses of Nyen and Nöteborg. As part of his program to reform Imperial Russia by looking toward the political and cultural world of Western , Peter ordered a city to be built from scratch, sparing no expense, and hiring the finest German engineers to drain the swamps and the best Italian architects to design its buildings.