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St. Petersburg

Peter the Great was born on June, 29, 1672 on St. Peter's day. Peter learned to sail at age 12, and learned to build ships in Amsterdam. He desired a shipping port for his landlocked nation, and wanted to name it after his patron saint. At first Peter hoped to build such city at the Azov Sea during his military campaign of 1697, and thus acquire an outlet to Europe through the Black Sea. But the Russian army was defeated.

Six years later, in spring of 1703, the long-awaited victory in a decisive battle against the Swedes in the Baltic Sea occurred. So Peter decided to build a city along the conquered shores of the Gulf of Finland, which would let Russia "stand firmly on the sea."

Russia.Peter the Great.
Tsar Peter the Great

Tens of thousands of workers were brought in to dig canals and waterways along 101 islands of the Neva delta. The desolate windswept landscape subject to frequent fogs and floods, impassable marshes and the wide, tidal river Neva (neva was an old Finnish word for swamp) greeted them.

Peter ordered work to commence on building the fortress that eventually became a rallying point from which order and progress set out to overcome and reclaim the wildness. The city was one of the first in the world built according to preconceived plans - drawn up by the most famous Russian and European architects as well as Peter himself. He introduced Western culture, commerce and technology, and was determined to pull his backwater but beloved country out of its long isolation. The first buildings of the city included an admiralty and a shipyard.

Russia.English and Rissoam/

On 16 May, 1703 a salute was fired to celebrate the founding of Saint Petersburg, Russia's "window to the West." Peter immediately brought in 1,000 aristocratic families, 500 families of the best merchants and traders, and 2,000 artisans and craftsmen. Nine years after its inception in 1712, Peter the Great made St. Petersburg the capital of the Russian Empire; it remained so for over 200 years. Both Westerns and Russians flocked into the new capital; by 1725, the year of Peter's death, Petersburg had over 75,000 nationalities.

(Above: Savior on the Spilled Blood
Multimedia Laser Disc (Russian/English text)
Savior on the Spilled Blood. Russian and English Text., Nikolay Nagorsky (Author), Valentina Zelenchenko,
Larisa Beletskaya (Author), Alexander Minin (Photographer)

Nicholas I

The name of Nicholas I is associated with a brilliant period in the architectural history of the Winter Palace and the whole palace complex. The Emperor devoted much attention to the improvement of the residence; a wave of reconstruction swept through the majority of the rooms both living and state. Substantial changes were made in the Great Enfilade leading from the Ambassadors' Staircase to the Large Throne Hall. In 1826 the War Gallery of 1812 was formally opened, while in the early 1830s, from designs by Auguste de Montferrand, two new state rooms were created: the austere Field Marshals' Hall, decorated with portraits of outstanding Russian military commanders, and the grandly elegant Memorial Room of Peter the Great (or Small Throne Room).

The Marquis de Custine, who visited Russia in Nicholas I's reign, commented: "I witnessed the Congress of Vienna, but I cannot recall a single formal reception that could compare for the wealth of jewellery and costumes, for the variety and splendour of the uniforms, for the grandeur and harmony of the overall ensemble with the celebrations given by the Emperor."

The first Russian settlers in America were fur traders who crossed the Bering Strait into Alaska in the mid- eighteenth century. Vitus Bering, a Danish sea captain, discovered the strait in 1741 while exploring eastward under the command of the Czar. Fur traders began to cross the strait to secure land for fur trading. The Russian Orthodox Church founded its first mission in Alaska in 1794. These people converted many Eskimos to their religions, and started small communities in Alaska. The migration stopped, however, in 1867, when Russia sold Alaska to the United States.

November 14, 1826, The Edinburgh Advertiser, Edinburgh, Scotland

St. Petersburg, Oct 23.--Trade is still very active here, notwithstanding the advanced season: from the 11th to the 18th of this month inclusive, 53 ships have entered the port of Cronstadt, of which 234 in ballast; and notwithstanding this, the orders are still so considerable, that there is reason to fear they may not all be executed before the navigation closes. In the month of August, 161 vessels arrived in the port of Riga; sailed 138. The value of goods imported in the same period was full 1,213,848 rubles, that of the exports 3,700,926.--This Journal contains no news from the army.

In 1870, a period of "Russification" began; the Russian government implemented a policy to try to stamp out different ethnic groups within the country. Basic rights were taken away from many people, including the Jews. Jews were forced to move to the Pale settlement, a small region of western Russia and eastern Poland. The conditions and jobs available in the Pale were poor. Following the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, violent pogroms in the area caused many deaths. These conditions led to a huge influx of Russian Jewish immigrants. From 1880 to 1914, there was a new wave of Russian immigrants coming to America, which included poor peasants, such as the Molokans (who arrived after 1905), and persecuted Jews.

Russia.A View of St. Petersburg.

A View of St. Petersburg. The Neva River

The Winter Palace Embankment
As Seen From the Peter and Paul Fortress

Erected by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in the 1730s on the orders of Empress Anna Ioannovna, it had already been reconstructed several times. The palace comprised both newly constructed elements and pre-existing buildings - the palace of Admiral Apraxin and the mansions of associates of Peter the Great. It did not, however, accord with Empress Elizabeth's ideas of an imperial residence and she ordered Rastrelli to put up a new palace in its place.

The Winter Palace became a gem of the new Russian capital. Painted with "sandy paint with the subtlest hint of yellow, and white lime on the ornament", it stood out vividly against the grey northern sky and the leaden waters of the river, towering above the earth ramparts around the Admiralty and the surrounding two-storey houses. A contemporary wrote with admiration about the magnificent panorama of the capital city opened up to him as he approached St Petersburg: "the gold spires of its tall towers and bell-towers, as well as visible too from a distance and rising above the rooftops the upper storey of the new Winter palace, adorned with a host of statues."

The owners of the Winter Palace had different attitudes to it: some loved the "ancestral home", such as Nicholas I; others sensed above all the formal grandeur of "a monument preserving the traditions of several reigns."

Alexander II was the last of the Tsars to genuinely use the Winter Palace as his main residence. After his assassination in 1881, it became clear that the palace was too large to be properly secured (the first attempt on his life the year before had been a bomb that damaged several rooms in the palace and killed 11 guards). Alexander III and Nicholas II both set up their family residences at suburban palaces, the former at Gatchina and the latter at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Nonetheless, the Winter Palace was still used for official ceremonies and receptions.

St. Petersburg. 1880.

Alexander III avoided spending long periods of time in the Winter Palace. Still, its status as an imperial residence remained unchanged and the building was carefully maintained.

A spectacular masked ball commemorating the anniversary of the reign of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich (1646-1676), the second Romanov Tsar, held in 1903 was the last major event hosted by the Imperial family at the Winter Palace.

August 2, 1897, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


May Shortly Ply Between Vladivostok and San Francisco.
Rapid Progress in the Construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway.
When the Line is Finished the Time from Here to St. Petersburg Will Be Twenty-Seven Days.

Kir Alexeieff, who will represent the Russian lmperial Minister of Finance in Korea, and Lieutenant Garfield of the Russian diplomatic service, arrived in San Francisco yesterday and registered at the Palace Hotel. They will sail for the Orient on the steamer China next Thursday. Russia has large and rapidly developing interests m Korea, and it is the policy of the empire to employ accomplished and able representatives in that region. Mr. Alexeieff holds the rank of Councillor of State. He has had military as well as civil training. Mr. Garfield is familiar with affairs in the Orient and attaches great importance to the construction of the great railroad across Siberia, which will, within the next three years, connect St. Petersburg with the Pacific Ocean.

Speaking of this great enterprise at the Palace Hotel last night, Mr. Garfield said that within twelve months a line of steamships would be established between San Francisco and Vladivostok, the eastern terminal station of the great railway. The distance from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg is 10,000 versts or 7736 miles. He figures steamer time between San Francisco and Vladivostok at fifteen days and the time by rail from Viadivo stock to St. Petersburg twelve days, making twenty-seven days for the whole trip.

When this route is open to freight and passenger the Canadian Pacific will have a competitor in a commercial sense, that cannot be ignored. It is well known to the Russian engineers that a port farther south than Vladivostok will be reached by rail, and many predict that Chemulpo, the seaport of Seoul, will ultimately become the terminal station of the Russian railway.

A volunteer line of Russian steamers now makes the run from Odessa and Black Sea ports to Vladivostok. Fifteen ships are now in the trade and four fast steamers will be put in service within the next year. The great commercial triumph for Russia will come when the line of ships is established between San Francisco and Vladivostok.

Sacred Shamanic Tree. Lake Baikal.

Russia.Shamanic Tree, Lake Baikal.

Siberia, Russia
Below: Lake Baikal Frozen in Winter

Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. Known as the "Galapagos of Russia," its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science. It is also surrounded by a system of protected areas that have high scenic and other natural values. The basin supports a variety of plant and animal species, a number being endemic; the most notable of which is the Baikal seal, a uniquely freshwater species.

Russia.Lake Baikal, Frozen. Image by Robert Harding. The great variety of plants in the basin is determined by its climatic asymmetry: the western part is occupied by light coniferous forests and mountain steppes; in the eastern part pine forests predominate; and the north is covered by deciduous forests. The formation of the geological structures in the basin took place during the Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras and there are a number of significant geological features. Various tectonic forces are still ongoing, as evidenced in recent thermal vents in the depths of the lake.

Next year the Siberian road will be completed from Moscow to Irkutsk. Two large boats have been built in the United States to navigate Baikal Lake.

These boats will transfer trains in the same manner that trains are transferred at Benicia (California). The lake, in the mountains of Siberians said to be the highest body of water in the world and also the deepest body of fresh water known. It is predicted that the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railway will turn the tide of tourist travel to the route leading from San Francisco to . St. Petersburg. Surely travelers around the world will accept that route either going or returning. What Siberia will produce for the world's traffic remains to be determined. It is known to possess wonderful resources of timber and mineral wealth.

The first Russian settlers in America were fur traders who crossed the Bering Strait into Alaska in the mid- eighteenth century. Vitus Bering, a Danish sea captain, discovered the strait in 1741 while exploring eastward under the command of the Czar. Fur traders began to cross the strait to secure land for fur trading. The Russian Orthodox Church founded its first mission in Alaska in 1794. These people converted many Eskimos to their religions, and started small communities in Alaska. The migration stopped, however, in 1867, when Russia sold Alaska to the United States.

April 22, 1907, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.


ST. PETERSBURG, April 21. Twenty-five persons are believed to have been drowned by the foundering of the river steamer Archangelsk while it was crossing the Neva late Saturday night.

Russia.The Neva.

Owing to the thickness of the weather, the accident was not seen from the shore. The cries for help of those onboard attracted the attention of two passing steamers, which hastily went to the scene, only, however, to find that the Arkhangelsk had foundered. A number of the passengers on the Archangelsk, mostly workingmen, were rescued. Owing to the swiftness of the current many others were swept under the ice floes.

There is no means of establishing definitely the number of victims. The passage across the river was short and no count was made of the passengers, but according to the police of Ohkta, a suburb for which the steamer was bound, 41 persons are missing, all workmen or small merchants of the humbler classes.

Map of Russia, 1870s. In Russian.


The steamer had scarcely, any ballast, and when she ran sidewise on a big floe, she careened and immediately filled and sank. The catastrophe was over inside of three minutes. Those who were not picked up immediately sank beneath the icy waters. The wreck was located this afternoon lying on the bottom of the river 100 feet from shore. It was impossible for divers to descend, owing to the floating ice.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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