By Irina YELISEYEVA, RAS Corresponding Member, St. Petersburg University of Economics and Finance
"Sprung out from the dark of mire and wood", the young capital of Russia staggered contemporaries by its fantastic magnificence and growth-it was a city without peer in Russia. St. Petersburg, conceived by its founder, Peter the Great, as a European city open for trade, scientific and cultural communication with the West-it is still quite up to the mark. Let us look at it in the mirror of statistics which can tell us everything.
Praised in this country as Northern Palmyra, St. Petersburg is the cradle of many venerable institutions: of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1724), Academy of Arts (1757) and higher military and naval schools. St. Petersburg is also the birthplace of Russia's first scientific societies: of Economics (1765), Mineralogy (1817) and Geography (1845). It became the home of this country's first House of Scientists (1919). Our city attracted the best minds of the nation and enlisted them in its service. Way back in 1764, part of the Smolny Convent compound was given to a boarding school where high-born ladies could get their education. That was the "Educational Society of Noble Girls", which subsequently got the name of Smolny Institute. Its graduates formed the first generation of well-educated women who swelled the ranks of this country's intellectual elite.
Our city became the cradle of Russia's scientific and technical intelligentsia largely thanks to the opening of a new type school in 1902-the Polytechnical Institute named after Peter the Great. St. Petersburg is the site of unique collections famous worldwide: those in the custody of the Hermitage, one of the world's largest artistic, cultural and historical museums (founded in 1764); and those at the RAS Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography named after Peter the Great (Kunstkammer) opened as far back as 1718; at the RAS Institute of Oriental Studies and at the N. I. Vavilov Institute of Plant-growing operating under the auspices of the All-Russia Agricultural Academy. This list could be continued. St. Petersburg is the home town of scientific and research schools: of economics and mathematics (represented by L. Kantorovich, Nobel Prize for 1975); of chemistry (let's name the author of the Periodic System, D. Mendeleyev, and N. Semyonov, also a Nobel Prize winner); of physiology (one of its lights was I. Mechnikov, Nobel Prize for 1908).
It is not by chance that our city was chosen as the seat of Russia's first European University and that the two Nobel Prizes, one at the beginning, and the other, at the end of the 20th century, were awarded to the natives of St. Petersburg-Academician I. Pavlov (physiology, 1904) and Zh. Alferov (physics, 2000).
The Palmyra of the North is a monumental city, in the literal sense, with so many wondrous palaces, squares, avenues and embankments, all that accentuating the might and glory of the
Russian state. The first prominent landmark of its architecture, the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, was put up to the design of the architect D. Trezzini (1712 - 1733) who worked in St. Petersburg; the famous Bronze Horseman, commemorating Peter the Great who proudly sours on steed of bronze, was unveiled in 1782 (sculptor, E. Falcone). The Admiralty, which is our city's hallmark and symbol, took its present form in 1806 - 1823, as it was rebuilt by the architect A. Zakharov. Next came Alexander's Column (1834) and St. Isaac's Cathedral (1858), both designed by A. Monferran.
St. Petersburg, the regal city on the Neva, grew into a major financial center that attracted capital both from Russia and from other countries. It was the seat of the Assignation Bank of the Russian Empire (its edifice built by the architect G. Quarenghi in the 1780s). In 1914 it housed as many as 78 joint-stock banks and their affiliates as well as finance houses.
St. Petersburg also developed into a large industrial and manufacturing city. By the end of 1750 it ran 80 industrial enterprises, and their number grew to 137 by the year 1861, and to 642 by 1900 when as many as 146,300 workmen were employed. Meanwhile its industries continued to grow apace. In 1913 the city's plants and factories had a work force of 242 thousand, and almost half a million in 1917. St. Petersburg accounted for 12 percent of Russia's industrial output (namely, 25 percent of machine engineering, nearly 50 percent of the chemical industry, 70 percent of the electrotechnical industry).
The Putilov (Kirov) Plant, founded in 1801, is a symbol of St. Petersburg's industries. Up until 1824 it had been manufacturing artillery shells and household items. In 1868 it shifted to the production of rail (for railways), and then to the output of steam locomotives and railway cars. In the early 1990s the Kirov Plant and its amalgamated enterprises employed 25 thousand. Coping with the crisis of the late 1880s and early 1990s, this plant is now an association of sixteen independent industries which are faring quite well.
The first official statistics on the population of Northern Palmyra appeared in the 18th century thanks to the efforts of St. Petersburg's Academy members, first and foremost, of Academician A Schloezer (1735 - 1809). While in Sweden, he studied the system of P. Vargentin (1717 - 1783) making it possible to keep track of the population's natural movement (dynamics). In February 1764, at his initiative, Empress Catherine II issued a ukase on the mandatory registration of all demographic events in the capital. In keeping with this edict, the Russian and German parishes were to send monthly reports to the Academy of Sciences. Proceeding from the correlations of births and deaths with the number of the living as practiced in Berlin and Rome, Schloezer applied this system to St. Petersburg, making a correction for the situation in this city where the birth rate proved to be higher, and the mortality rate, lower, than in Berlin and Rome. Accordingly, the population numbers of the city on the Neva were estimated at 149 thousand in 1764.
Meanwhile, St. Petersburg's population kept growing fast: if something like 40 thousand lived on the present territory of the city soon after its foundation in 1703, there were over 420 thousand in the 1830s, and a million toward the close of the 19th century. This figure doubled by the year 1912.
From the latter half of the 19th century on censuses came into use for determining the number and makeup of the city's population. The first census was conducted in 1864 in keeping with the plan worked out by Academician R Keppen; the next one, in 1869, was supervised by A. Bushen; and the censuses of 1881 and 1890 were carried out under the guidance of J. Janson, the founder of the St. Petersburg statistical service and Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.
The population of St. Petersburg shrank dramatically during the First World War (1914 - 1918) and the Great Patriotic War (1941 -1945), and also as a result of famine (1919 - 1921). In 1918 St. Petersburg lost its status of a capital city as the Russian capital was moved back to Moscow (March 1918). But our Palmyra of the North increased its numbers again with economic recovery. Thus, in December 1926, when the first general census was conducted in this country after October 1917, the population of Leningrad (renamed this way in 1924) reached 1 million 614 thousand, or twice as much as in 1920, but still a million less than in 1916. Natural growth rates stabilized in a period from 1923 to 1926 due to a drastic drop in the mortality rate and an increase in the birth rate, now back to normal again (however, 88 percent of the increment occurred due to migrants, with the figure for native residents being but 12 percent). The sex-age structure of the population became more balanced. But its ethnic makeup changed. While in pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg (Petrograd between 1914 and 1924) such nationalities as Germans, Finns and Estonians made up a considerable percentage, it fell by 1926 when ethnic Russians accounted for 85 percent of the population. The point is that some of the ethnic Finnish and Estonians emigrated to their native lands, Finland and Estonia, which became independent states; and on the other hand, there was a considerable inflow of Russian rural folk who settled in Leningrad. Yet about 200 thousand Finns and kindred Finnish-Ugric groups (otherwise loosely known as Ingerman-landers) stayed on in Leningrad's suburbs.
In the 1930s Leningrad opened a far-flung chain of state-run catering services-public baths, laundries, mechanized community kitchens and canteens. By 1931 state-run commercial outlets had ousted the private enterprises (which in 1928 had accounted for more than half the commodity circulation). The number of foodstores increased 1.6 fold in the pre-war decade (i.e. before 1941). Two hundred new schools and over 130 kindergartens were built in the 1930s and 1940s. Overall, in the 1940s our city ran 550 public schools with a class of 440,000 (threefold as much as before the October Revolution of 1917, and sevenfold as much in the number of secondary schools).
The nazi siege of Leningrad (1941 - 1944) claimed a toll of over one million lives, mainly in the harsh winter of 1941 -1942. The number of people who stayed in Leningrad can be estimated indirectly, say, by the number of ration cards: the city authority in charge of rationing reported on March 14, 1942, that 2,151.9 thousand (or just above two million) cards had been handed out in February of that year. The demographic curve kept declining up until 1944 when the population of Leningrad was down to 546 thousand, but it was up to 927 thousand in 1945.
The post-war years saw a steady up trend in the population numbers, as shown by the census data: in 1959 the population of Leningrad topped 3.4 mln, it was above 4 mln in 1970, and over 5 mln in 1989, according to the last All-Union census of 1989.
In 2000 a system of federal okruga (districts) was instituted in this country. St. Petersburg became the center of one of them, the Northwestern okrug whose territory has nearly a fifth of the world's conifers, and is rich in oil and gas (including the huge deposits in the Barents and Kara Seas), and in minerals, metals and coal.
The Northwest is one of Russia's "side clamps" holding the nation together. This is a nexus where the meridional rivers emptying into the White Sea run in parallel with overland transportation routes. Further north, in the Arctic Ocean, this okrug takes in part of the latitudinal Northern Sea Route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The district has two strategic sea outlets: one, to the Baltic (and farther into the North Atlantic) and the other, to the Barents Sea. Its territory is crossed by transportation routes from Central and Northern Europe to the Far North, the Urals and farther east, to the Far East and Asia. Our Northwestern okrug is a standout, for it includes Russia's only enclave, the Kaliningrad oblast in the west.
It has always been a practice to publish statistical data, itineraries and maps timed for landmark dates in our city's history. For instance, dedicated to its 50th birthday (1753) were the well-known plan of St. Petersburg and the album of engravings after M. Makhayev's drawing, remarkable for their documental accuracy. To mark its centennial (1803), a gold medal was minted: its obverse side carried the profile of Peter I crowned with a laurel wreath and having an inscription, "From the grateful posterity"; and its reverse showed Heracles pointing at the plans of St. Petersburg anno 1703 and anno 1803. Prepared for our city's sesquicentennial in 1853, were the prints of St. Petersburg's plans in 1700, 1705, 1725, 1738, 1756,1777,1799,1840 and 1849, supplemented with the plans of thirteen districts within the Russian capital (the edition was compiled by N. Tsylov). St. Petersburg's bicentennial (1903) was celebrated in a grand way, with many itineraries and books on its history off the press.
This tradition is much alive today, too. A great many jubilee projects are timed for our tricentennial, including a statistical survey in three volumes to give an objective and accurate picture of the life of this great and ever-young city.
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