The Two Capitals Of Russia: Moscow And St. Petersburg

3376 words - 14 pages

The Two Capitals of Russia: Moscow and St. Petersburg

When thinking about the great European capitals, one would tend to
evoke romantic Paris, restless London, even still Rome or Barcelona.
But often, Russian capital Moscow is forgotten. It may be because in
the post-communist era, people easily forgot about that power in
decline. Or because they do not consider Russia to be part of Europe.
Or because Moscow had to compete with St. Petersburg, limiting its
influence. That is why it can be relevant today to talk about two
capitals of Russia.

On the one hand, it is possible to define objectively what a capital
city is, and this could help to determine which, Moscow or St.
Petersburg, fits the definition. On the other hand, considering the
situation of the two cities at one precise moment is not relevant. The
perception the cities throughout history is very important in the fact
that today they can both be considered as capitals. Therefore, it is
necessary to look back into history to find the roots of this
dichotomy.

First, objective criteria can be used to determine the capital status
of both Moscow and St. Petersburg. But then, it is interesting to know
how those two cities thrived during centuries, challenging one
another, symbols of Russia indecision about its place in the world: in
the East or in the West?

Primarily, the easiest way to recognize a capital is the presence of
government, seat chosen officially by the country's rulers. There can
be only one. The case of Russia is similar to this of Germany. Berlin
to Bonn and then back to Berlin for Germany; Moscow, Petersburg and
back to Moscow for Russia. The comparison probably stops there, how
different the situations are (Petersburg has much more artefacts of a
capital than Bonn). From the thirteenth century to the end of the
fifteenth century, Moscow steadily rose as the capital of a unified
Empire[1]. However, in 1712, Peter the Great transferred the centre of
power to new-born St. Petersburg, which became the symbol of the
tsarist power. In 1918, the Communist regime decided to get rid of
that symbolism and established the government back in Moscow. So, even
if at different time, both cities sheltered the political power, which
makes them capitals. However, the definition also states that a
capital is "a city pre-eminent in some special activity"[2]. Then it
becomes harder to draw a strict line between Moscow and Petersburg.
Both have had a great influence in different fields, from economy to
culture. Scott Campbell, in an essay about Berlin, defines the notion
of 'capital city'. He says that "the capital city is usually larger,
more subsidised, or more bombastic (…). National governments treat
capital cities differently, wanting the capital to look and act
differently than other cities in the nation"[3]. It...

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