Situated on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, it was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27 1703. On 1 September 1914, the name was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd (Russian: Петрогра́д, IPA: ), on 26 January 1924 to Leningrad (Russian: Ленингра́д, IPA: ), and on 7 September 1991 back to Saint Petersburg. Between 1713 and 1728 and in 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the capital of Imperial Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved to Moscow.
Saint Petersburg is one of the modern cities of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is home to the Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. Many foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and businesses have offices in Saint Petersburg.
An admirer of everything Dutch, Peter the Great originally named the city, Sankt-Peterburg ; this name lacked the letter "s" between "Peter" and "burg". On Sept. 1, 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd (Russian: Петрогра́д, IPA: ), meaning "Peter's City", in order to expunge the German-sounding words Sankt and Burg. On 26 January 1924 it was renamed to Leningrad (Russian: Ленингра́д, IPA: ), meaning "Lenin's City". On 6 September 1991, the original name, Sankt-Peterburg, was returned. Today, in English the city is known as "St. Petersburg." Local residents often refer to the city by its nickname, Piter.
Swedish colonists built Nyenskans, a fortress at the mouth of the Neva River in 1611, in what was then called Ingermanland, which was inhabited by Finnic tribe of Ingrians. The small town of Nyen grew up around it.
At the end of the 17th century, Peter the Great, who was very interested in seafaring and maritime affairs, wanted Russia to gain a seaport in order to trade with the rest of Europe. He needed a better seaport than the country's main one at the time, Arkhangelsk, which was on the White Sea in the far north and closed to shipping during the winter.