"I have to recognize that never has grown in me love to something great and boundless what is usually named patriotism and what an Englishman feels to England or a Frenchman to France. Not only I did not ever love Russia, but very much in it was repellent to me. On the other hand, I loved Peterbourg with that big especial love that an Englishman feels to London or a Frenchman to Paris. I can say, that for me the relation of Peterbourg to Russia was never equal to the relation of London to England (it was Moscow which always represented such relation of the capital to its land) but it was the relation of London to India. Therefore, for me only one slogan existed: Petersburg ist όber alles!"

Alexandre Benois
famous artist,
one of the founders of the 'World of Art' group,
descendant of the family of Sct.-Peterbourg architects
(From his book My Reminiscences)


Forgotten Europeans of Forgotten European Town

Sanct-Peterbourg was founded by the first Russian Emperor Peter I Romanov in 1703 in delta of the river Neva in Ingria – Finno-Ugrian (Baltic Finnish) land of the Inkeris and Votes. Ingria was no less known name than Kurland or Livland since the beginning of the expansion of the neighbouring states into Baltics. 

The 13th–15th centuries was a period of struggle between Catholic and Orthodox states for conquering Baltic and Finno-Ugrian nations in Baltic Sea region and robbing their lands. These lands were: Baltic Prussia (Prusa) in the South, Lithuania, Kurland, Latgala, Livland, Estland, Ingria and Finn-Karelia in the North. With all brutality the Brothers of the Cross together with the Brothers of the Sword subdued Prusa, Kurland, Latgala and Livland. While Estland became a victim of Denmark, Novgorod began its aggression in Ingria and Karelia. Only Lithuania, due to its union with Poland and Russian duchies, escaped enslaving thus guaranteeing future freedom for Latvia and Estonia too.

Nevertheless, Novgorod had not enough military force to subdue Ingria and Karelia incorporating them as parts of the state. Up to Swedish aggression of the 17th c. no real Russian state ever existed there but only military and trade bases gathering tributes for Novgorod, later (after 1478) – for Moscow metropolis. Not to say that Novgorod itself was a Viking creature on Finno-Ugrian land – it was ruled by an Orthodox Viking dynasty with the help of military "druzhinas", which gathered tributes from their subdued and united Russian and Finno-Ugrian tribes. Even the name Rus with all probability is not of the Russian origin.

The Swedes in their turn subdued the region in a similar way. They began to spread Lutheranism in Ingria and Finn-Karelia through settling Lutheran Finns in Ingria which they called Ingermanland. Nevertheless this did not lead to Finnish assimilation of the autochthon Inkeris (Russian Izhora) and Votes (Vozhane) in the region. The latter preserved their own name, language and folk-culture even up to the time of the communist genocide.

The natural boundary between Finn-Karels and Inkeri-Votes was the Neva river. This name means 'marshy' in all Baltic Finno-Ugrian languages. There have been absolutely no Russian hydronyms and very few Russian toponyms in this region up to the 19th century.

One of the most marvelous Imperial parks of the region is in Paulovsk (Paullust, original German name by Emperor Paul I). This park was set up on the banks of Vena-Yoki, which meant 'Russian river' in newer Baltic Finnish. Today it is known in its Russian translation Slavyanka. Vena-Yoki in its turn falls into Neva near the river Inkere (Izhora). Why was this river "Russian "? This is the kernel mystery of the Land giving key even to the name of Finns.

It is clear that Venas were a local Baltic-Finnish tribe living on both sides of the river. For Lutheran population to the North of Venas the latter were a boundary tribe on a territory of mixed Lutheran-Orthodox Baltic-Finnish population. Of course, the Orthodox population was "Russian" for Lutherans in the North. Thus the name Vena 'Russian ' spread from the name of this river among Lutheran Baltic Finnish tribes (cf. even Estonian). On the other hand, for those who lived to the South of the Venas, they were a boundary tribe beginning a territory of pure Lutheran population of the basin of Neva. Therefore this name began to mean pure Finns for the Orthodoxes and spread later first among Russians as Ven > Fen / Fin, then, from Russian, the name spread all over the world!  As for the Finns, they name themselves Suomi.


Having conquered the land and driven the Swedes away, Peter the Great began to treat local population as slaves. They were in masses sacrificed while building Sanct-Peterbourg on swamp and they were even sold as slaves to the Turks. In fact their fortune was even more cruel than that of the Old Prussians who became known due to their heroic wars against the German Order. The Inkeris and the Votes did not struggle but their fate appeared to be the same: almost total annihilation in the 20th century. Nevertheless, similarly to the Germans, the Russians retained the Swedish name of the land, Ingermanland, up to the Bolshevik revolt of 1917.

This was the single resemblance between the German and the Russian conquest in Baltics. The Germans spread their North-European culture in Prusa, Kurland, Livland and Latgala, while the Russians spread no Russian Orthodox Moscovite culture in Ingria. Fascinated with the Western culture, the first Russian Emperor began to hate specific features of Russian culture and dreamed to convert Russia into Western Europe. He succeeded to do this only on his conquered Baltic Finnish land, exactly, in the boundaries of his Metropolis only. No compact Russian population lived around Sanct-Peterbourg up to the 20th century. Local "Chukhna " were peasants supplying Metropolis with milk and other farm products. The coachmen ( "izvozchiks ") and lower servants were also Inkeris and Votes. As for professional workers (not handicraftsmen!), who formally formed the great majority of the population, they all were Russians coming to Sanct-Peterbourg to season works from remote parts of Russia and leaving for their home after a while. Therefore no local Russian culture could form in Sanct-Peterbourg and its environments. As for the craftsmen, they were mostly Baltic Germans. The middle class were mostly minor noblemen from Russia, Germany, Baltic lands and Poland, subdued to common norms of Western behaviour and local Western culture. They rapidly intermingled forming a kind of new local ethnicity. This was really a very curious formation: a town with local Dutch, Russian, German, French, English micro-toponyms (Garach > Gorokhovaya, Holliday > Goloday) and with Dutch and Finnish-Inkeri toponyms in the environment (cf . Peterhof, Duderhof side by side with Ropsha, Pulkovo etc.). Even the official name of the Metropolis was curious: it was Latin-Dutch-French Sanct-Peter(s)bourg. In the first half and in the middle of the 19th c. the main newspaper of the Metropolis was published in Russian, German and French. As for the upper class, they were either of German (cf. the Gottorp family named Romanov, Benkendorff, Dieterichs), French and English (Barclay de Tolly), Polish (Poniatowski, Zakharzhevsky) origin, or they were Russian (Moeller-Zakomelsky), Georgian (Bagrationi) or Tartar (Yusupov) major noblemen entirely intermingled with those of the Western origin. The single junction for this mixture was the Orthodox religion, the architecture forms of which and even hierarchy structure were also Western. It was Emperor Paul I who tried to do romantic steps towards Catholicism but became a victim of his risky policy. The greatest Russians in this theatre were only the last Gottorps: Alexandre III and Nicolas II. They began to introduce Russian church architecture into Sanct-Peterbourg and to dress noblemen in Russian folk-dresses, i.e. to act contrarily to Peter the Great. The Russians thanked them in their own manner: the last Russophile was murdered like a dog together with all his family in a cellar in a city with an ordinary name of the Peterbourg Empire: in Ekaterinburg.

One must acknowledge: this was not Russian but Peterbourg Empire. Sanct-Peterbourg dictated its norms for all lands ever conquered by the Russians. This is comprehensible if one observes the statistics of social layers in Sanct-Peterbourg. Although in the middle of the 19th c. and even later the ethnic Russians made more than 80 % of town's population, they were mostly season workers constantly coming from remote ethnic Russia in order to earn money and to return to their motherland as quickly as possible. Of the remaining true residents, education, court, culture, building and engineering were up to 60 % in hands of persons of non-Russian origin, while the others of Russian origin followed the elitist majority and  tried to intermingle with them, all together forming a kind of local micro-nation. The data of 1869 sufficiently illustrate this (cf. Yukhneva N.V. Etnicheskiy sostav i etnosocialnaya struktura naseleniya Peterburga. / Institute of Etnography of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. 1984, p. 75, 76):

Groups according to engagement

Foreign citizens

Citizens of the Russian Empire

Non-Russian origin

Russian origin

Technical engineers




Railway men




Physicians (men)




Teachers men




Assistant medicine men




Teachers women




Assistant medicine women




Lecturers in high-schools




Civil administration, men




These strata of the residents of Sct.-Peterbourg formed only 2,87 % (ca. 19150 persons) of its 667200 inhabitants.

Among 355 proprietors industrialists and businessmen there were 12 % foreign citizens, 30 % Russian citizens of Non-Russian origin and  58 % of Russian origin (cf. ibid. 69-70).

There were ca. 85000 craftsmen in Sct.-Peterbourg in 1869. They were not able to dictate any Western norms of life independently, but they determined the everyday atmosphere in the Town. Only 39 % of 188 clock and watch workshops were Russian (the other mostly Jewish, German and Finnish). Russian were only 37 % of all 167 carpenter and turnery works (the other – mostly German, Finnish and Jewish) and only 34% of all 380 jewelry workshops (the other – mostly German, Finnish and Swedish). Frenchmen scored an advantage in sewing-shops, although the percentage of Russian sewing-shops was bigger (61 % of 333 sewing-shops of women clothes and 59 % of 822 sewing-shops of men clothes were Russian). Russian were 53 % of 450 baker’s shops (the other mostly Swedish, German and Jewish) (cf. ibid. 65).
Trade was mostly ethnic Russian, although most of the merchants were not constant residents of Sct.-Peterbourg.

The Metropolis attracted not only representatives of western-type cultures, the Ethnic Russians were not an exception.
One cannot be misled with the names of Russophiles V. Bielinski, N. Nekrasov, F. Dostojewski, N. Ostrowski, M. Saltykov-Shchedrin etc.  With the same effect a group of ca. 20 persons could be active in Berlin or in Paris as they were in Sanct-Peterbourg, where they were not able to change its Western character.  Nevertheless they influenced Ethnic Russia from there and prepared the future catastrophe of the Metropolis.  A purely ethnic Russian "Upper Class" described in  F. Dostojewski's "Idiot" has been transposed by him in this novel from Moscow or any other ethnic Russian town:  the ethno-cultural problems of Ingermanland were alien and incomprehensible for this great psychologist of the world standard (as it was naturally comprehensible for him to name local masters of the country with the contemptuous word Chukhna, but the Jews - with the curse words money-piling-up Zhydy; all this because of the great writer's adherence to the Messianic idea of the Theophoric Russian Nation).  

The material here gathered shows the process of gradual westernisation of people of non-Western origin who wanted to become true Peterbourgians before the Bolshevik revolt of 1917. The descendants of the Ethnic-Russian forefather – the kin of Ekimov – underwent the process of westernisation and became typical Peterbourgians through a number of marriages with persons of Western origin. The history of the kin von Wagner demonstrates, on the contrary, Russianising of true Westerners, when they got to Ethnic Russia, not to Sanct-Peterbourg. The Russianising was impossible in Sanct-Peterbourg in spite of the Orthodoxy and the Russian language adopted, because this Baltic Town on Finno-Ugrian soil had no own Ethnic Russian tradition. A representative of the 3rd generation of Klosse, Constantin, spoke Russian in everyday life, nevertheless he named himself "von" and married a Lutheran woman. It seems to be paradoxical, that a descendant of the German kin von Wagner, who were entirely Russianised in a province of Ethnic Russia, turned back to the West European tradition when he became Peterbourgian through his marriage with a woman of the kin of Ekimov, already westernised in Sanct-Peterbourg one generation earlier.

The ethno-cultural situation starts to change only together with the period of growing capitalist industrialisation at the end of the 19th c. Then masses of Belorussians penetrate into the Metropolis first as factory workers creating a basis for future ethno-social revolution.
The Russophile mode spread at this time among Peterbourgians who even had no comprehension of Ethnic Russia. There are photos in the archives of Lutherans Metz as well as Lutherans and Orthodoxes Ekimov, on which one can see children in Russian ethnic garments. But this was not any real Russianising. A Lutheran Maria Klosse converted into Orthodoxy of her free will before her marriage, but her husband Gregory Tarasenko, who had been no less westernised in Sanct-Peterbourg than Maria, went just the opposite way: he turned from Russian religious exaltation toward western agnosticism. Nevertheless, having become Orthodox, Maria, similarly to those children in Russian garments, could not change her culture because she had no knowledge of Ethnic Russia. She could not imagine, of course, to what misfortune and poverty led her and her descendants the Russophilia, which had been the real reason of her conversion.

After the Bolshevik revolt of 1917 the opposite process of de-westernization began.  1917 was beginning of the end of Rastrelli-Czajkowski Western culture in Russian state and the end of local Peterbourgian ethnicity. The name of the Town was Russianised into Petrograd when the war against Germany broke out in 1914. After 1917 the annihilation of Peterbourgians and their culture began.
When an insaint intellectual from Kazan Vladimir Ulyanov Lenin died of idiotism in 1924 near Moscow, the ruined Town got his name: Leningrad.  Well-to-do Peterbourgians, who only could, emigrated to the West, but thousands of Ethnic Russians came on their place.
In twenties traditional Peterbourg culture was practically liquidated, according to well-known Russian culturologue of Peterbourg origin prof. Dmitry Likhachev. Our material shows spontaneous annihilation of alien cultural monuments by Ethnic Russian new comers in Peterbourg after 1917. Demolision by ethnic Russian hooligans of grave monuments of the kin of Visconti at Volkov cemetery is a sufficient illustration of what happened to all old cemeteries in Sanct-Peterbourg.
After the murder of Kirov in 1934 bloody Bolshevik terror started achieving its climax in 1937–1938. Every morning frightened townspeople could see a streak of red water stretched along the Southern bank of Neva from the Building of N.K.V.D. at the beginning of Liteyny avenue. At the same time the autochthons of Ingria, the Inkeris, Votes and Ingermanland Finns, as well as local Estonians were annihilated in masses (the fate of an Orthodox priest Estonian Karp Elb, cf. also Middle Class, bears an evidence of these events in our material). Together with the annihilation of Peterbourgians, this was real ethnic cleansing which combined murder and deportations. The ethnic cleansing was accompanied by a new wave of ethnic Russian
new comers.

The last Peterbourgians died of starvation during the blockade of Leningrad in 1941–1943 (the evidence of our material is Koka von Wagner who died of starvation in the blockaged Town) or became dispersed in Russia in places of their evacuation. The final ethno-Russianisation and leningradisation was a result of new resettling of ethnic Russians after the war.
At that time only 2 possible ways remained for miserable number of descendants of Peterbourgians, i.e. either to escape from Russia, or to become Ethnic Russian.

The 1st way was preceded by growing interest in origins of one's Peterbourg ancestors. Such interest never appeared before 1917 because all real Peterbourgians were mixed. Our material shows Donat Godlewski, grandson of Feodore Ekimov, who was the 1st one to take an interest in his origins even before World War II. He chose the Georgian ethnic identification of his grandmother, although he was not allowed to hold this in his passport by Bolshevik authorities. It was a grandson of Feodore's brother who chose Lithuania in eighties after the War. At the same time his younger cousin underwent entire ethnic Russianising as having been brought up by her non-Peterbourgian mother and a Soviet school. She took no care of her son of her 1st  marriage but she went with her 2nd husband and their little son to Germany leaving her old father dying of cancer. Having made no profit on Germany, she came back with her son and involved herself into a flat conflict with her 1st son, who is said to have committed suicide finally. Now they are the single possessors of that flat. Such wildness is typical of all broad Russia from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad. It demonstrates what was the reason for the last descendants of Peterbourgians not to become Ethnic Russians.

There is no more Sanct-Peterbourg today. Leningrad, or name it Saint-Petersburg or as you want, is a chaotic cemetery settled with alien people who succeeded to disharmonise a network of exterior architecture, to break interior architecture and to cover all staircases with urine even in the centre.

Desecrated, defiled, profaned, annihilated cemeteries of Old Sanct-Peterbourg (one may observe old marble gravestones stolen from their places with old names, often in Gothic letters, rubbed off and with new names on the other side), similarly to cemeteries in Koenigsberg, bear witness of historic ethno-cultural break.