Antiche chiese di Cumiana by Marcella Vittore

By Marcella Vittore

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Even with this it remains personal, and speaks to us of the reign of the great Catherine, as interpreted for her by Cameron, her architect; but we see it as the expression of a personality and not as the native language of a nation. Russian classicism recovered again into its own language, but at a later date, under Catherine’s grandson, Nicholas I. The architect of that time was Rossi, half-Russian and half-Italian by origin, and by then the native vernacular was spoken. When Peter the Great began to build his city it was designed upon the Dutch model.

No single structure in the whole length of the Nevsky Prospekt would he recognize. A little house, and then another little house, in different parts of the city, will be pointed out to the foreign traveller as being Peter’s; perhaps interest may lead him across the Neva to Vasilievsky Ostrov, to the Twelve Colleges — the University; while his eyes will for certain be caught by the tall spire of the Peter Paul fortress, chief monument of the founder’s reign. Outside the city limits Oranienbaum alone survives as a palace of Peter’s period.

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. How different from Stockholm or Helsingfors! When Peter the Great, this overwhelmingly masculine personality was dead, Russia for the remaining three quarters of the eighteenth century was ruled by women. The Czars, without exception, reigned for a few months and came to an untimely end. The Empress Anne, some may think this typical of Russian history, was the daughter of Peter’s imbecile brother, Ivan.

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