By Christopher Marsden
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Extra info for Palmyra of the north. The first days of St. Petersburg
A day’s journey, then, takes the traveller from the heart of old Russia to the Baltic — or a night’s, one should say, for it is usually in darkness that the contemporary Russian is conveyed from his capital to the city of V. I. Lenin. In contemplating the differences between his destination and the town he leaves, the Russian traveller’s historical loyalties must, in some measure, be divided. He leaves Moscow, capital, today, of his ‘Soviet Fatherland’, as, for many hundreds of years, it was the capital of the Muscovy from which he sprang: he heads for Leningrad, where the social disturbance which bestowed upon him his present advantages and characteristics had its origin, and which was, in addition, for two hundred years the capital of the Russian Empire.
She would not have spoken the same language as an uneducated peasant. Perhaps the huge physical force of this daughter of Peter the Great gave a more masculine solidity to the age of the rococo that was her background. It may not be too fanciful to think that this is reflected in the vigorous and emphatic façades of her buildings, painted in their bright colours. She had not to look far for an architect. One was ready to her hand, in the person of the younger Rastrelli, of Florentine origin, who had come to Russia as a young boy with his less famous father.
He had the stride and manners of a huge barbarian; and came back to Russia determined to imitate what he had seen. It was the Dutch, more particularly, who had impressed him. The first phase of the new St. Petersburg is, therefore, in the Dutch manner; but the whole population of Holland would have had to be transplanted in order to keep it clean. St. Petersburg was, already, we may think, beginning to take character from the Finnish marshes. But it was the Russian or Muscovite upon the Baltic shores.