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Entries / Vasilievsky Island

Vasilievsky Island

Categories / City Topography/Geographical Objects/Islands

VASILIEVSKY ISLAND, the largest island in the estuary of the Neva 1,090 hectares in area. The island is washed by the Bolshaya Neva in the south and the Malaya Neva in the northeast. In the west, it looks on the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland; in the north, it is separated from Dekabristov Island by the Smolenka River. It stretches for a maximum of 4.2 kilometres from north to south and 6.6 kilometres from west to east and raises 1.3 to 3.5 metres above the water’s edge. One version of the island’s naming is that it received its name after a governor or a native of Novgorod in the late 15th century. Another version says that the name is a distortion of Vasikkasaari, a Finnish name translated as Calf Island. Other names were Hirvisaari translated from Finnish as Elk Island and Dammarholt translated from Swedish as Pond Island, as well as Knyazhesky Island, Menshikov Island, and Preobrazhensky Island spread in the early 18th century, the latter used in 1727-30. Vasilievsky Island became its definitive name after the artillery battery of Vasily Korchmin, settled in the spit of the island in the early 19th century. The island had almost no buildings between 1703 and 1715 apart from A. D. Menshikov's wooden house and wind sawmills situated in the spit in 1710-11. Building up started in the mid-1710s as Peter the Great came up with a plan to build a town in the island that would be similar to European regular cities. Architect G. Trezzini's designs developed in 1716, 1718, and 1720s provided for the network of parallel streets (today, the lines of Vasilievsky Island) crossed by avenues, which became the basis for further planning. The glade laid from Menshikov's garden to the bank in 1710s was the main axis and turned into Bolshoy Avenue of Vasilievsky Island afterwards. Most of residential and public buildings were situated in the east of the island and near Bolshaya Neva River Embankment such as the Building of Twelve Colleges, Kunstkammer, and Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Vasilievsky Island was a part of Vasilievskaya Part of St. Petersburg from 1737. Petersburg Port was moved here in 1730s, thus, promoting further construction. The Spit of Vasilievsky Island became an important architectural ensemble from the early 19th century. Although Galernaya Harbour was built in the southwest of the island in the early 18th century and the Galley Shipyard was erected later, the adjacent area remained wild until the mid-20th century. In the north of the island, Smolenskoe Cemetery was situated; the centre was occupied by the vast Smolenskoe Field. Nearly all of St. Petersburg’s scientific and educational institutions were situated in the east of Vasilievsky Island in the late 18th-early 19th century including the Petersburg Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy, the Academy of Arts, the Mining School later renamed as Mining Institute, the First Cadet Corps, the Naval Cadet Corps, and the Petersburg University. Many science, culture, and arts workers, as well as officials and students lived in the houses nearby. Vasilievsky Island still remains the scientific and educational centre. The first regular bridge (see Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge) over the Bolshaya Neva River was erected in 1843-50 to link the island with Admiralteyskaya Side. The island was heavily built up with residential houses between the mid-to-late 19th century and the early 20th century. Among new public buildings were the Library of the Academy of Sciences, Geological Committee built at 74 Sredny Avenue, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry built at 8 Makarova Embankment. A number of large industrial enterprises sprang up in the south and north of the island such as Pipe Works, Siemens-Halske, Cable Works, Siemens-Schuckert, and Baltic Plant, the largest enterprise. Vasilievsky Island and the neighbouring Goloday Island (today, Dekabristov Island) were included in Vasileostrovsky District in 1917. The west of the island was reconstructed from 1920s. During the siege, all wooden buildings were demolished and used as fuel. In 1950-60s, major efforts were aimed at building up the district of the Harbour and reconstructing Bolshoy Avenue. A new district arose in the west of the island in the late 1960s to become the sea face of St. Petersburg. It has been erected on reclaimed land by architects S. I. Evdokimov and later V. A. Sokhin and V. N. Sokolov as the project managers. The area includes Morskoy Harbour Station, Pribaltiiskaya Hotel, Morskoy Slavy Square Ensemble, and Morskaya Embankment. Vasilievsky Island is linked to the city centre (Admiralteysky Island) via Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge and Dvortsovy Bridge, to Petrogradskaya Side via Tuchkov Bridge and Birzhevoy Bridge, and to Dekabristov Island via four bridges. In the island there is Vasileostrovskaya metro station, built in 1967.

References: Медерский Л. А. Васильевский остров. Л.; М., 1958; Пирогов П. П. Васильевский остров. Л., 1966; Лисовский В. Г. Ленинград: Р-ны новостроек. Л., 1983; Никитенко Г. Ю., Соболь В. Д. Василеостровский район: Энцикл. улиц С.-Петербурга. 2-е изд., испр. и доп. СПб., 2002; см. также лит. при ст. Василеостровский район.

G. Y. Nikitenko.

Bolshoy Ave of Vasilievsky Island/Saint Petersburg, city, house 74
Makarova Embankment/Saint Petersburg, city, house 8
Morskaya Slavy Square/Saint Petersburg, city, house 8
Sredny Ave of Vasilievsky Island/Saint Petersburg, city, house 74
Vasilievsky Island/Saint Petersburg, city

Медерский Л. А. Васильевский остров. Л.; М., 1958
Никитенко Г. Ю., Соболь В. Д. Василеостровский район: Энцикл. улиц С.-Петербурга. 2-е изд., испр. и доп. СПб., 2002
Лисовский В. Г. Ленинград: Р-ны новостроек. Л., 1983
Пирогов П. П. Васильевский остров. Л., 1966

The subject Index
Twelve Collegiums Building
Russian Academy of Sciences
Smolenskoe Cemeteries
Academy of Arts
Academy of Arts
Plekhanov State Mining Institute, St. Petersburg
Naval Cadet Corps
Naval Cadet Corps
State University, St. Petersburg
Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge
Baltic Shipyard and Machine-Building Plant
Sea Passenger Terminal
Oktyabrskaya Hotel