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Petersburg reborn

Out of dereliction, St Petersburg is re-emerging as a great Russian city. The concrete of communism has peeled off to reveal a human logic in the streets, and the return of a belle époque atmosphere

Who would have thought St Petersburg would last three weeks, let alone three hundred years? Built on a mosquito swamp in the far north of Europe, freezing and snowbound in winter, stiflingly hot in summer, it was a problem at first getting people to go there at all. But in due course, its outlandish location became a feature of its appeal: glittering like diamonds in winter sunshine, or sinister and Kafkaesque in stormy weather, or wrapped in the shifting light of summer. The latter climaxes in the so-called white nights of June. I’ve never known why “white” is used to…

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