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A classical-style building with a monumental portico and a granite-faced ground floor was built by architect Jacomo Kvarengi for the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Academy of Sciences was the pet project of Peter I. He established it in 1724, not long before his death, and appointed his own Life Medic Laurent Blumentrost its president. Being concerned about the prestige of the young Academy, the Tsar invited European scholars to be its members. First Russian members of the Academy were admitted after the Peter’s death by his wife and successor Catherine I. All of them were very young. The future math genius Leonhard Euler was only 20 years old. Naturalist Gmelin was 18. The oldest member, mathematician Nicolaus Bernoulli, was 30. Not many of the young members of the Academy who came to Petersburg stayed in Russia. But for those who did, it became the second motherland. A decade after its foundation, 10 Russian scholars were admitted to the Academy. Pretty soon, it surpassed many European institutions of the kind by the level of scientific work.
At first, meetings of the Academy were held in the house of Tsar Peter’s diplomat Peter Shafirov. Then it moved to the Kunstkamera and only in 1789 to a purpose-built building on the University Embankment. The work of architect Jacomo Kvarengi was accepted by Princess Ekaterina Dashkova, the then director of the Academy of Sciences. Most of all, the learned lady disliked the muted décor of the building façade and the windows with no casing. The architect made a concession and decorated Dashkova's study according to her taste.
It should be noted that after numerous reconstructions, the initial interiors of the building preserved in the conference hall only. The last changes were made in 1925 when the main staircase was decorated with the Battle of Poltava mosaic created by the Russian scholar Mikhail Lomonosov in the mid-C18th.
In 1934, the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences moved from Petersburg to Moscow. A number of academic institutions remained in the group of the buildings on the Neva, including the “Nauka” Publishing House and Branch of the archive of the Academy of Sciences.
Vasilievsky Island is a historical district in St. Petersburg, located in the delta of the Neva River. It is bordered by the Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva Rivers in the south and northeast, and by the Gulf of Finland in the west. Two of the most famous St. Petersburg bridges, Palace Bridge and Blagoveshchensky Bridge, connect it with the mainland to the south. Exchange Bridge and Tuchkov Bridge across the Malaya Neva connect it with Petrogradsky Island.
In 1715-25 Peter the Great planned this island to become a city center but those plans were not destined to be fulfilled. There are lots of legends connected with Vasilievsky Island and its buildings. For example, the name of the island Vasilievsky people usually associate with a certain man called Vassily or Basil. The legend says that was the name of one Peter’s foremost gunner officers and military engineers, Vassily Korchmin, who had his artillery battery to ward off the Swedish navy at the spit of the island and got the tsar's letters addressed "To Vassily in the Island".
During the tour you will hear some legends of the island and see all its landmarks. It is better to start the tour from the easternmost tip of the island, called Strelka (or the Spit, literally Arrow) which features a number of museums, including the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange as well as two Rostral columns. The Spit is a place popular for wedding processions and tourists. Nice postcard views on the city are open from here.
The edifices lining the Universitetskaya Embankment along the Bolshaya Neva include the Kunstkamera, The Palace of Peter II, the Twelve Colleges Building, the Menshikov Palace, the Imperial Academy of Sciences, and St. Andrew's Cathedral – all dating from the 18th century.
Museums, State University and the Imperial Academy of Sciences with library tell us the island has been for the recent centuries home to academic life. There is even the House of Academicians.
The island is a very romantic place with many cafes and restaurants, and panoramic views from the embankments. Just download the application “Your Audio Guide” (free) and the excursion. And walk as much as you want. Enjoy the unforgettable views of the northern capital.