St Petersburg is the youngest among well-known European cities – its tercentenary was celebrated in 2003. For more than two hundred years it was the brilliant capital of the immense Russian Empire pushing the old patriarchal Moscow into the background. Having lost the official status of the capital in 1918, it has still remained the country’s cultural and spiritual centre. It was in St Petersburg that the new type of Russian man was being formed, the greatest triumphs were celebrated and the events that influenced the destiny of Russia and the world as a whole took place. Not a single Russian city caused such admiration and was an object of such damnation as St Petersburg; there is no other city in Russia with which the brightest hopes and the darkest prophecies were associated.