The Founding of Saint Petersburg
During the course of the Northern War with Sweden the Russian forces have gradually moved from the
Lake Ladoga region down the Neva River to the Swedish fort of Nienchanz. After an 8-day siege on
May 1, 1703 the Swedish garrison surrendered.
To protect the newly conquered lands in the
Neva delta Peter the Great needed a fortress, but Nienchanz was small and badly damaged.
Looking for a site for his new fortress, Peter the Great chose the island of Enisaari, which was
known to the Russians as Zayachii Ostrov.
On May 16, 1703 (May 27 by the
modern calendar) the St. Petersburg fortress (St. Peter's and Paul's Fortress) was founded and that
day became the official birthday of the city.
Several days later a wooden Cabin of Peter
the Great was built, becoming the first housing structure of the new city.
The original clay walls and bastions of the fortress were completed by the end of the summer of 1703 under
the careful supervision of the tsar and his close associates. The builders of the fortress (mostly
soldiers and peasants) worked in very primitive conditions, since the climate was very damp, good
housing non-existent and food in very short supply. Working from dawn to dusk, they died in great
numbers, but the war still went on and the fort had to be completed as soon as possible.