Peter I Fit For Every Taste (monuments to Peter I in Saint Petersburg)

Show me your monument to Peter I, and I’ll tell you who you are

There are plenty of monuments to Peter in Saint Petersburg. Actually, you could put up a monument to him anywhere in the city and it would be appropriate. He was a high-profile figure with a multi- dimensional personality. He is worthy being remembered, yet the ways this is done differ, and the monuments to him do not resemble each other at all. Most of them are not monuments to Peter, but rather to those who commissioned them, those behind putting them up, or to the sculptors. The famous proverb could be rephrased to: "Show me your monument to Peter I, and I’ll tell you who you are".

  • points of interest 2 ,
  • monuments 5
9 km, 422 m
Monument to Peter I on Senate Square (Bronze Horseman)

Monument to Peter I on Senate Square (Bronze Horseman)

Saint Petersburg, Senatskaya ploshchad

The Bronze Horseman

Address: Senate Square

Sculptor: E. M. Falconet

Opening date: August 7th, 1782 (20-year anniversary of Catherine II’s accession to the throne)

Initiated and commissioned by: Catherine II

Peter the Legislator, the Civilizer, the Enlightener


Following the coup d’état and Catherine’s accession to the throne, the Senate offered to erect a whole set of monuments in her honor from her grateful subjects. Catherine, however, is called Great for a reason: she wisely declined this honor and took on a serious approach to erecting a monument to Peter I. Catherine did not like the monument created earlier by Rastrelli Senior, which has long been awaiting its turn. In that work Peter is depicted as a vanquisher and a victor. His military achievements, however, took a backseat in the middle of the 18th century. A new era has new ideals. Now it is obvious to everyone that Peter’s great reforms (and not only his conquests) transformed Russia into an empire, a full-fledged European power. The cost of these fundamental reforms—both at war and behind the lines—was gradually forgotten. Peter I became an idealized hero. The Enlightenment era placed the most value on the emperor’s government reforms, on his actions aimed at spreading European culture and civilization in “wild” Russia. Catherine commissioned a new monument fitting to that image from the French sculptor E. M. Falconet, who was recommended to her by her pen pal, the famous Enlightenment thinker and encyclopedist, D. Diderot. Falconet portrayed the emperor as the conqueror of wild nature. Peter tamed, harnessed barbaric Russia, added law and order, culture and civilization to it, brought it over to the “stable” of European countries. Though not a direct successor of Peter by blood, Catherine was his descendant in spirit.That’s what the inscription on the pedestal illustrates: “to Peter the First from Catherine the Second”

Monument "Tsar-Carpenter"

Monument "Tsar-Carpenter"

St. Petersburg, Admiralteyskaya nab., 6


Address: Admiralteyskaya embankment

Sculptor: L.A. Bernstamm

Opening date: June 14th, 1910

Initiated and commissioned by: Nicholas II

Hardworking Peter, Who Loves His Job and Loves to Learn

Nicholas II’s reign sees a record number of new monuments to Peter I. This mostly has to do with the turn of the century anniversaries: bicentennials of cities founded by Peter, his feats and conquests. That said, it is widely known that Nicholas was not very fond of his great ancestor, as he considered his reforms too radical and not always appropriate. Perhaps, this is why through Nicholas’s efforts there came to be so many “low-key” monuments, bringing back to memory an event or a personality trait, without setting value upon the grandeur and immensity of the politician and government leader.

So, two sculptures by Nicholas’s favorite sculptor, Leopold Bernstamm, were placed opposite the Admiralty: Tsar Peter I Learning Shipbuilding in Saenredam, Holland, 1697 and Peter I Rescuing Seamen during a Flood There is not one word about great achievements, only the idealization of personal qualities: diligence and courage. In the course of his trip to Europe Peter really did study shipbuilding at a wharf in Saenredam. However, his incognito was quickly discovered, and he had to leave his studies. The monument presents and image of an enthusiastic

Peter, who loves what he does and enjoys it. Nicholas gave a replica of the monument to the Dutch city of Zaandam (formerly Saenredam). In Soviet times both monuments by the Admiralty were destroyed and remelted as they were considered to have no artistic value. It was in 1996 that the Dutch gave a replica of their replica to Petersburg to honor the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the navy. For me, another set of symbols comes to the foreground in this case: in the 90’s we were ready to learn from Europe again, to adopt its practices, to catch up to it, and once again, just like in Peter’s times, wanted to become a part of the world of developed countries.

445 m
The Monument to Peter I at the Mikhailovsky Castle

The Monument to Peter I at the Mikhailovsky Castle

Saint Petersburg, Klenovaia ul.

Monument by St. Michael’s Castle

Address: Klenovaya alley

Sculptor: С. B. Rastrelli

Opening date: 1800

Commissioned by: Peter I Mounted on the initiative of: Paul I Peter the Conqueror, the Victor, the Emperor

This was the very first monument (not counting the busts), which was started when the emperor was still alive at his own request in 1716. Even though the tsar did not live to see the finished

product, the image and symbols undoubtedly came from him. Then, this is how Peter saw himself and how he wanted future generations to remember him. The monument was modeled after Roman equestrian statues of emperors, in particular after the monument to Marcus Aurelius. Peter considered his main achievements to be defeating the Swedes, conquering

new lands, getting an outlet to the sea, creating and empire worthy of being involved in European affairs. There were very little peaceful years during Peter’s reign. The major war, the Great Northern War, it lasted 21 years. Virtually all of the most famous of Peter’s reforms were catered to war, took place during wars in order to come out victorious. What future generations later considered to be great and significant transformations, Peter regarded as supporting efforts.


2 km, 205 m
Cabin of Peter the Great

Cabin of Peter the Great

St. Petersburg, Petrovskaya nab., 6

Bust near the Cabin of Peter the Great

Address: Petrovskaya embankment, 6

Sculptor: according to differing sources either  P.P. Zabello or N.F. Gillet

Opening date: August 30th, 1875 (150 years since Peter I´s death) Peter, a Part of the Composition

St. Petersburg goes hand in hand with Peter I, and seeing a monument to the tsar anywhere in the Northern Capital wouldn’t surprise the city residents. Though where it was especially needed was by the oldest building which Peter called home. So it was putup. It was done just for appearance’s sake, just so it would be there. What we now call the Cabin of Peter I, and what in the tsar’s own time was termed The Red Chambers, can more accurately be described as a tent, rather than a house or a palace. Peter rarely lived there because of the war, which required him to constantly be on the move. He stayed there for short visits between 1703 and 1708, when the future of the city was unclear and there was no time to build a more respectable and comfortable palace. 

20 years later, in 1723, after the city became a bit larger, and when Peter I already had a few palaces in the city and outside of it, the cabin was basically turned into a museum on the emperor’s orders. It was encased with a stone pavilion so it could be preserved. The pavilion kept coming out of order and had to be replaced several times (the one that exists today was built in 1844). 

Later, a small park was set up around the cabin, and the property was surrounded by a fence, then the park was made to be bigger and was surrounded by yet another fence, and behind that fence is where the monument to Peter stands. It’s like a Russian doll: the cabin is inside a pavilion, the pavilion is in a small park, the small park is in a larger park. It feels like everyone, or almost everyone after Peter’s reign wanted to play their part in the story of the oldest building and leave their mark: “I too am executing Peter’s orders and honoring his memory” The monument itself is uninteresting and impersonal: it’s more like a monument to the tsar’s lace collar, than to Peter.

2 km, 246 m
Nakhimov Naval School

Nakhimov Naval School

St. Petersburg, Petrogradskaya nab., 2

Bust on the facade of the Nakhimov School

Address: Petrogradskaya embankment, 2/4

Sculptor: V. Kuznetsov

Opening date: 1911 (the start of construction of the Peter the Great School marked the Saint Petersburg bicentennial in 1903)

Initiated by: The City Duma (as a part of the anniversary festivities)

Peter the Pater Patriae, Strict and Unchallengeable Peter was the only Russian ruler to have the title Pater Patriae, given to him by the Senate after his victory in the Great Northern War. In ancient Rome the Senate granted this title for outstanding services to the republic and the empire. After that, it was bestowed upon various rulers in modern and contemporary history.

Peter was a caring, yet strict father. He was concerned about the well-being of his subjects and knew better, what was good and beneficial for them. In case of disobedience he was not squeamish about using corporal punishment regardless of title and rank. For some reason, it was this formidable image in the form of a bust that ended up on the Peter the Great School, the foundation of which was laid to mark the Saint Petersburg bicentennial. The Petrine Baroque-style complex, built at the request of the

City Duma, was supposed to include a men and women’s school for four classes, a free city reading room, as well as a men and women’s trade school. When looking at this bust adorning the building’s facade, you almost hear the message to the students: “If you can´t, we´ll teach you, if you won´t, we´ll make you”.

611 m

Bust on Bolshaya Monetnaya street

Address: Bolshaya Monetnaya st., 19

Sculptor: V. E. Gorevoy

Opening date: 2003

Who would have thought that Peter I also needs protection? Originally this bust was placed by the Petrovsky stadium in 1994 (which until 1992 was called the V.I.  Lenin stadium). But a year later the tsar's head was stolen! It is curious that this happened to the monument placed next to a football stadium, as if to yet again provoke the fans, who already have the reputation of being not the most civilized of the city's residents

. Yet, a year later the monument was found, and in 2003 it was placed on a new pedestal—now near the district administration building, protected by its authority, plus by the security and surveillance cameras.

1 km, 866 m

Monument in the Peter and Paul Fortress

Address: Martynov embankment, 92

Sculptor: M. M. Chemiakin based on wax figure by C.  B. Rastrelli

Opening date: 1991

Initiated by: The monument was given to the city by M. Chemiakin, and the idea of placing it in the fortress was introduced by the mayor of the city, Anatoly Sobchak. Peter the Personality Many write that the monument evokes complex and contradicting feelings, that it is a grotesque caricature, that it is repulsive and frightening. But wasn’t Peter like that? He was controversial and radical, ready to run to extremes, sacrifice his own son. Mihail

Chemiakin cast this monument in the USA and gave it to the city as a gift, and it was Anatoly Sobchak who took the initiative to install it in the Peter and Paul Fortress in 1991. The beginning of the 90’s was a time when authority figures and ideologies changed, it was a time of searching. This monument is a shift away from stereotypes, it makes us think what Peter was really like. He is not depicted as a reformer, as a

triumphant conqueror, as the Pater Patriae. He was a person. A menacing, grotesque, passionate person running to the extremes, a frightening person, who nevertheless stirs up our sympathy.


1 km, 799 m

Useful information

The route is provided by the project “My Saint-Petersburg guide”.

Official website: