Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hare Island in St. Petersburg

Hare Island in St. Petersburg

The place where the history of the Northern capital of Russia started

Photo credit: http://izbakurnog.ru/
Saint-Petersburg or the Northern capital of Russia has been already situated on Neva River for almost 311 years, it is located not far away from Finnish Bay and has got an access to the Baltic sea.

However, before where the queen-like Neva flows framed with square,palaces and cathedrals, way back there was mossy swamps there. But Peter the Great became simply in love with that place and he used to call it "paradise" considering it to be the most ideal place for building a big stone fortress to protect from the Swedes and for building a city around the fortress. According to the plan of Peter I, the life of the future city would have to be focused around warfare and trade. 

The tsar Peter the Great was thinking and thinking about the most suitable place for building the city in order to fulfill all his plans in reality sailing by his boat on the Neva and searching for such a place, and finally he found it. That place was a small island that was called "Zayachiy Island" or "Hare Island". Even nowadays it has been called in the same way.

But you must ask why the island was called "Hare Island"... So in our today's Blogger lens we will give an answer to this question. 

Peter I and his search for a suitable place...

Photo credit: http://www.proza.ru/
The painting "Peter I" by the famous Russian artist Valentin Serov. (1907)

And here go the lines about the tsar from the poem "The Bronze Horseman" written by Aleksandr Pushkin in the year of 1833: 

"On a deserted, wave-swept shore,
He stood – in his mind great thoughts grow –
And gazed afar. The northern river
Sped on its wide course him before;
One humble skiff cut the waves’ silver.
On banks of mosses and wet grass
Black huts were dotted there by chance –
The miserable Finn’s abode;
The wood unknown to the rays
Of the dull sun, by clouds stowed,
Hummed all around. And he thought so:
‘The Swede from here will be frightened;
Here a great city will be wrought
To spite our neighborhood conceited.
From here by Nature we’re destined
To cut a door to Europe wide,
To step with a strong foot by waters.
Here, by the new for them sea-paths,
Ships of all flags will come to us –
And on all seas our great feast opens

The legendary Neva and Finnish Gulf


Why is Hare Island called Hare Island ?
A ship shaped island

Photo credit: http://www.peterburg.biz/
The history of the splendid city Saint-Petersburg started on the legendary island in the year of 1703. This island became ideally suited for the Peter and Paul Fortress. As it is located at the widest point of the river where the Big Neva and the Small Neva converge together where the river falls into the Gulf of Finland. And Finnish Bay is already a tiny piece of the Baltic sea. Everything looks the way how Peter the Great wanted his planned things to be: there is an access to the sea and at the same time the Peter and Paul Fortress is able to block the entrance to the Neva for any enemies.

Hare Island

Hare Island is rather tiny, its length is 750 meters while its width is 400 meters only. The island shape is like a ship.

In fact, there were really lots of hares living on the island that time. Some story exists that is connected with the island name. Builders who were responsible for the construction of the Fortress worked very slowly and angry Peter the Great sailed to the island to punish them. It was a time when spring flood started. While getting out of his boat, suddenly a hare jumped on the tsar's boot escaping from the high water level. That small hare cheered up Peter I that the tsar changed his mind and decided not to punish the builders of the fortress. On that day Peter the Great evaluated the hare's resourcefulness and called the tiny island Hare Island and later established the capital there.

Nowadays near Hare Island left of  Ioannovskiy Bridge or the bridge of St. John there is the monument "Hare escaped from the flood" that is installed on one of the timber piles.

For some time already inhabitants and guests of St. Petersburg have been following some tradition. They say that it is necessary to make a wish and toss a coin to the hare sitting on the wooden pile. But your dream will come true only if your coin reaches the plinth and stays on it. To do it is not so easy as it sounds because the sculpture height is only 58 centimeters.

The Peter and Paul Fortress


The 1st Wooden Bridge of Saint-Petersburg 

Ioannovskiy_Bridge_Saint_PetersburgThe 1st bridge in St. Petersburg was laid almost at the same time when the Peter and Paul Fortress was. Its name is Ioannovskiy Bridgeor the Bridge of St. John. After finishing the construction of Ioannovskiy Bridge there were some changes made: stone dams with arches appeared there. Afterward the arches were covered with stone, and wooden balks were replaced by metal ones. In spite of this, even nowadays Ioannovskiy Bridge has got its original wooden part which makes it unique for the city as the Northern capital does not have any other wooden bridges left.  


In the 1950-s beautiful railings and lanterns  appeared on Ioannovskiy Bridge. 



The statue "Hare escaped from the flood" was created by the sculptor V. Petrovich and the architect S. Petchenko and it was installed near Ioannovskiy Bridge on the 7th of May, in 2003.

However, the statue of the hare has been stolen already for some times since its installation but each time it was returned back by abductors to its original habitat. As it has turned out that buyers of non-ferrous metal do not accept it because the statue of the hare is made of some other simple kind of metal.
Some more facts about Hare Island

Peter_and_Paul_Fortress_in_Saint_petersburgBefore the establishment of St. Petersburg the Swedes used to live on that island. That time they called it "Cheerful Island" as they used to have their holidays and celebrations there. However, later the same island was called "Devil's Island" as during flood it was flooded with its inhabitants. And some time later after it the island started to be called "Hare Island". 

 Sunbathing Hare

Photo credit: http://bezformata.ru/
During whole last summer, in 2013 a Giant Hare 15 meter long made of plywood boards was sunbathing on the bank of Hare Island in St. Petersburg lying on its tummy with its tail up. As there was the festival "Modern art in the traditional Museum" organized in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Photo credit: http://art1.ru/
The creator of the Giant Hare, a master-piece of modern public Art is the famous Dutch artist - Florentijn Hofman, who creates various giant figures depicting known symbols to everyone and embeds them in the context of urban space.  

Who knows maybe this summer the Giant Hare will decide to soak up the sun again on the bank of the Hare Island. As it is very choosy and not used to a changeable capricious weather of the Northern Capital of Russia. Unlike the Giant Hare, you can meet the local Hare sitting on its wooden pile any time and in any weather.       

Some other inhabitants of Hare Island



 If you wonder why Saint-Petersburg was called this way and which other names it had during its rich history you can find an answer in our previous Blogger lens "The Norther capital of Russia".

By the way, in order to reach Hare Island you should get down in the metro station "Gorkovskaya" and walk through Aleksandrovskiy Park.

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