As Russia’s cultural hub, St. Petersburg delights millions of tourists every year. Founded by Peter the Great, the city was renamed Petrograd during World War I then Leningrad upon the death of Lenin. It became St. Petersburg again when the Soviet Union collapsed. Although the city’s identity was forged by all of these eras, it was the 900-day Nazi siege during World War II that left the deepest scars. Today, survivors of the siege or their descendants can be found in almost every family.
Historians estimate that around 1 million civilians – but perhaps many more – died during the siege of the city known then as Leningrad. The courage of the inhabitants, known as the "Blokadniki" (the besieged), and the bravery of those who fought on the front still make Russians proud. Life in St. Petersburg is punctuated by ceremonies commemorating the siege, which began in September 1941, and its inhabitants still bear the scars of this dark era.