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St. Petersburg turns 300: St. Petersburg (other names include Petersburg, Petrograd, St. Petersburg and Leningrad) turns 300 this year. A history of the city can be found here.

President George W. Bush will be attending a large gala at Peterhof this weekend.

The St. Petersburg Times has full English-language coverage of this weekend's events.

I visited St. Petersburg from July 16-21 in 1992 as part of a larger trip to Russia and the Baltics. Here are a few of the pictures I took in St. Petersburg.

Palace Square

This square is considered to be the main square of the city and serves as a good example of how different styles can be combined in the most elaborate way. On the northern side of the square stands the picturesque Baroque Winter Palace (built in 1754-62).

Across the square, on the southern side, there is a classical yellow-and-white building of the former Imperial Army General Staff (built in 1819-29 by Carlo Rossi). This building encircles the Southern side of the square and through its central arch, designed as a Triumphal Arch of the Classical World, one can get to Nevsky Prospect.

On the eastern side a building of the former Royal Guards' General Staff tastefully closes the panorama of Palace Square, while on the West the square borders with the Admiralty and the Admiralty Garden. With the guided spire of the Admiralty and the dome of St Isaac's clearly seen from here, the view westwards across the stone-clad expanse of the Palace Square is quite breathtaking. In the middle of the square the Alexander Column creates an important focal point for this great architectural ensemble.

St. Isaac's Cathedral

The dome of this cathedral dominates the skyline of St. Petersburg. On a clear sunny day one can see the gilded cupola of St Isaac's from miles away from its downtown site. You can climb up the stairs to the observation point at the dome and get a breathtaking view of the fascinating St Petersburg.(There were no elevators in the mid-19th century, so you will have to climb 300 stairs).

The church itself is a real marvel. Built by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand to be the main church of the Russian Empire, the cathedral was under construction for 40 years (1818-1858), and was decorated in the most elaborate way. When you enter the cathedral you pass through one of the porticos - note that the columns are made of single pieces of red granite and weight 80 tons (about 177,770 pounds) each. Inside the church many of the icons are the most exquisite mosaics. The iconostasis (the icon wall that separates the altar from the rest of the church) is decorated with 8 malachite and 2 lapis lazuli columns. The cathedral, which can accommodate 14 thousand worshipers, now serves as a museum and services are held only on major occasions.

Russian sailors in Palace Square

Russian Navy page

The Cruiser Aurora

In 1917, as the training ship of the Baltic fleet, the Aurora took an active part in the Revolution. On the night of October 25-26, 1917, it fired a blank shot at the Winter Palace (then the residence of the Provisional Government), giving the signal to the rebellious workers, soldiers and sailors to storm the palace [through the arch in Palace Square.] That moment changed Russia's history for over 70 years. The Aurora is now serviced by cadets from the nearby Nakhimov Navy School.

The Kuntskammer (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography)

Our Museum is the oldest state museum in Russia. It was founded in 1704 at Peter the Great’s decree and served as the foundation for the St.Petersburg (and later Russian) Academy of Sciences and a number of the Academy’s scientific and museum institutions. The likeness of the Kunstkammer is still the logo of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS).

In 1992, the Kunstkammer again became an independent museum and research institute within the Department of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The museum has preserved its original title — "Kunstkammer" — and bears the name of Peter the Great given to it in 1903. Today its complete name is: Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkammer), the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Peter and Paul Fortress

When Peter the Great re-conquered the lands along the Neva River in 1703, he decided to build a fort to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish army and navy. The fortress was founded on a small island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 (May 16 according to the old calendar) and that day became the birthday of the city of St Petersburg. The Swedes were defeated before the fortress was even completed. For that reason, from 1721 the fortress housed part of the city's garrison and rather notoriously served as a high security political jail. Among the first inmates was Peter's own rebellious son Alexei. Later, the list of famous residents included Dostoyevsky, Gorkiy, Trotsky and Lenin's older brother, Alexander. Parts of the former jail are now open to the public...

In the middle of the fortress there is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, a church where all the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to Alexander III are buried. The Cathedral was the first church in the city to be built of stone (in 1712-33). The design of the cathedral is most unusual for a Russian Orthodox church (come over to St Petersburg and you will learn why).

On top of the gilded spire is an angel holding a cross. This weather-vane is one of the most prominent symbols of St Petersburg. At 404 feet the cathedral is the highest building in the city.

Other buildings in the fortress house the City History Museum and the Mint, one of the two places in Russia where coins and medals are minted.

The Smolny Cathedral

The Smolny Cathedral was meant to become the main church of a convent, but it had to be very special. Elisabeth, daughter of Peter the Great was not allowed to rule the country, so she decided to become a nun. It was decided to build a convent for her. But as soon as her predecessor was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, she decided to forget the whole idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne.

Though the age in which she lived was rather harsh, Elisabeth (especially in her younger years) was an amazingly joyful woman, who later displayed a special liking for different types of entertainment. As Empress she NEVER WORE THE SAME BALL DRESS TWICE, which has left us with a huge collection of mid-18th century dresses. Now, when you know the kind of character that she had, you can understand why the convent is so picturesque.

The blue-and-white building of the Smolny Cathedral is one of the most fabulous works of Rastrelli (the creator of the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine (Yekaterininsky) Palace in Pushkin, the Grand Palace in Peterhof, and other major landmarks). The cathedral is the centerpiece of the convent, built by Rastrelli in 1748-64. When Elisabeth's reign came to a close, the funding for the convent had quickly ran out. Thus Rastrelli was unable to build a huge bell-tower that was planned and to finish the interior of the Cathedral. The building was finished only in 1832-35. By then the fashion had changed and the interior of the Cathedral was done in neo-classical style. So, when you come in, don't be surprised to see that the interior is so different from the facade.

Nowadays, the Smolny Cathedral is used mostly as a concert hall. The chambers of the convent are used by some local government institutions and offices.

The Stock Exchange and Rostral columns

In the early 19th century one of the most elegant architectural ensembles of St Petersburg emerged on the eastern edge (Strelka) of the island. The imposing white colonnaded building of the Stock Exchange became its focal point, and was flanked by two Rostral Columns. The Stock Exchange, designed by the French architect Thomas de Tomon and built in 1805-10, was inspired by the best examples of Ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The two Rostral Columns, studded with ships' prows, served as oil-fired navigation beacons in 1800s (on some public holidays gas torches are still lit on them).

posted by Jeff Quinton at 15:09


Memorial Day - Frankie B. Johnson, Jr.: A couple of years ago for Memorial Day weekend, a friend and I purchased a POW-MIA bracelet at U.S. Patriot on Forest Drive in Columbia. As he tried to find someone who had been Special Forces in Laos or Cambodia, I looked for an enlisted man from South Carolina.

The one I purcchased bore the name of SP6 (Specialist 6) Frankie B. Johnson, Jr., of SC who went Missing in Action on 21 April 1968 in South Vietnam. That was all I knew at that point.

Later that summer, as I helped scout out locations around Columbia for background images for a video shoot, I started looking at the Laurens County section of the State Vietnam Memorial in Memorial Park and discovered that Frankie Johnson was from Laurens County.

So, I did research online a few more times to discover what I could about SP6 Johnson.

Johnson was a crew chief on a UH-1H in the 17th Assault Helicopter Company of the 16th CAG in the 1st Aviation Brigade. On 21 April 1968, the helicopter (Hull Number 66-16209) left Phu Bai on a recovery mission at LZ Veghel. The mission was cancelled, but the aircraft failed to return to Phu Bai. Their last known location was in Thu Thien Province near the border with Laos - 24 miles from Phu Bai. This area was extremely rugged terrain 4 miles northeast of the A Shau Valley and 17 miles SW of Hue.

Search and Rescue efforts went without result and the entire crew was declared Missing in Action. On 8 May, Johnson's dog tags were found in the back of a non-US 3/4 ton truck. The wreckage of the helicopter was discovered on 25 May and it was determined that Anti-Aircraft Artillery was responsible for its crash. A Presumptive Finding of Death for Johnson was made on 24 July 1978. No remains of any of the crew members have been repatriated.

Frankie Johnson, Jr.'s home of record was Fountain Inn, SC.

posted by Jeff Quinton at 14:28


The Friday Five: 1. What brand of toothpaste do you use?

2. What brand of toilet paper do you prefer?
Scott or Charmin

3. What brand(s) of shoes do you wear?
Nike or New Balance

4. What brand of soda do you drink?
Coke, Cheerwine

5. What brand of gum do you chew?

posted by Jeff Quinton at 15:26


Ebay auctions: My current auctions on Ebay.

posted by Jeff Quinton at 14:21


A Day Late: The Friday Five:

1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.?

In order of preference: Purifier, Bottle, Tap

2. What are your favorite flavor of chips?

Original Baked Lays

3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most?

Anything grilled - chicken, boneless pork chops, or steaks; other than that - Hamburger Helper.

4. How do you have your eggs?

Scrambled, with cheese; sometimes omelettes; sometimes boiled or deviled

5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out?

My mom; turned out great

posted by Jeff Quinton at 19:51