Russia’s imperial past brings tsars to life

When the reign of the tsars ended in 1917, St. Petersburg’s almost 400-year period as the capital of Russia soon came to an end as well. In 1918, the Bolsheviks moved the central government to Moscow, which has remained the capital ever since.

Today in Russia’s second largest city, the days of the tsars are very much alive.

The graceful boulevards and buildings were designed to showcase the grandeur of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled this vast nation for three hundred years before coming to a fateful end during the Bolshevik Revolution. 

Wherever you look here, Russia’s imperial past comes alive – and it is easy to imagine the fortunate few, the nobility and royalty, who called this city home.

“The Russian aristocracy was comprised of roughly 100 families who had ancient lineages, extreme wealth and centuries of service to the tsars. It wasn’t just about money. It was about breeding, it was about history,” said Doug Smith, author of “Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy.”

Even Vladimir Lenin – leader of the revolution – was himself the son of a nobleman.

Dr. Marina Logunova is the chief historian for the State Museum of St. Petersburg, and the woman behind the restoration of the Cathedral of Peter and Paul – final resting place for generations of Romanovs, including the last tsar, Nicholas the Second, and his family. She said that any descendant of the Romanov family can be buried here

You don’t need a drop of royal blood to experience life as it was once lived.  At Palkin Restaurant, founded 300 years ago, aristocratic Russian cuisine is the specialty.

To truly step back in time, one can visit the Catherine Palace and its wondrous Amber Room.

Just outside, in the woods where Catherine the Great surveyed her empire, even a commoner can feel like a princess.