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Two buildings remind us of the fact that Peter I intended Vasilievsky Island to be the administrative center of Petersburg. One of them, the red brick building of Twelve Colleges, faces the river with its narrow side façade. Next to it, there’s quite a long two-storey building with a three-storey risalit. This is the Palace of Peter II.
The Twelve Colleges Building was also built by architect Domenico Trezzini. Its main facade extends 400 m deep into the island and is now almost completely hidden behind the greenery of the garden. The building was intended for higher government authorities, the so-called Colleges. Tsar Peter the Great established them in 1718 to solve important state issues collegially, that is, altogether, not only by the noblemen but also by people of other social classes. At first, there were twelve Colleges, including the College of Foreign Affairs, the Military College, the Admiralty College, and so on. The architecture of the building is highly symbolic. There are twelve identical parts under one extended roof. In the C18th, each part of the building had its own entrance. This emphasized the independence of each College and, at the same time, their relationship when dealing with public affairs.
For more than a century, the building was used by the Colleges and, after they were transformed into Ministries, by ministerial departments. In 1835, it was handed over to the St.Petersburg University and partially rebuilt. The University students and teachers were the elite of the Russian science. Among them were the inventor of the radio Popov, the creator of the Periodic table of chemical elements Mendeleev, and other prominent Russian scholars. Dmitri Mendeleev was living and working in this building for 33 years. Today, his memorial apartment hosts a museum.
Nowadays, the Twelve Colleges Building remains the main building of the St.Petersburg State University. It hosts an academic library, administrative services, and some faculties of Humanities. Many people dream of studying at the University on the Vasilievsky Island Spit. The students of engineering faculties located out of the city quietly envy the students of the Arts.
By the way, two Russian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, studied in the Twelve Colleges Building. They don’t forget their Alma Mater and regularly come here to meet the University students and staff.
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.