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Bridging banks of time: Rare photographs of St. Petersburg bridges in Presidential Library's recent acquisitions

2 October 2018

Bridges is an important part in the life of every resident of St. Petersburg and one of the main distinctive features of the city on the Neva River, which has always attracted, intrigued and fascinated tourists from all corners of the world. Bridges are in the spotlight of a new collection of photographs, which have entered the holdings of the Presidential Library. Under the cooperation agreement "Mostotrest" - one of the oldest construction companies in Russia - has provided over 500 unique pictures.  

These photos, like pieces of a large and complex mosaic, make up an amazing and truly exciting history of St. Petersburg bridges: from the moment they were drawn on paper up to their construction. Each picture or a series of pictures represent episodes from the history of bridges. This is the image of the Izmaylovsky Bridge, which is marking its 280th anniversary this year. One of the photographs shows that in 1932 the bridge needed some structural reinforcement. In the picture you may see a brigade of Soviet workers, headed by a foreman P. Stepnov, in the middle of work.

Here is the photograph of the Green Bridge, which will celebrate its 300th anniversary in two years from now. The Presidential Library provides access to the design of its facade and the cost estimation dated 1905 "for the reconstruction of the Politseysky (Police) Bridge across the Moika River along Nevsky Prospekt". The Green Bridge was renamed Politseysky Bridge in the first half of the 18th century either after the city police department, that was located nearby, or the house of N. I. Chicherin - the famous Police General Chief of St. Petersburg. After the revolution the bridge changed its name and became known as Narodny (People's). The historical name - the Green Bridge - was returned in 1998.

The collection of photographs of the Krasnooktyabrsky Bridge, that was under construction in 1957, gives an opportunity to study the bridge building process. Today the bridge links the left bank of the Obvodny Canal with Bezymyanny Island.  

Of particular value are the images that give a chance to look back into the bygone days. Thus, you may discover the Izmaylovsky (or Nikolsky) Tram Bridge across the Fontanka River, which is gone now. Until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War only horse-drawn trams and later trams had run along the bridge, while pedestrians had been prohibited. When the routes were changed, the bridge was not used anymore. For this reason over the years it became dilapidated and was finally dismantled. Only the footings of the bridge have survived to present days..

It is also worth noting that many bridges used to look very different in the past - they were often rebuilt. No exception in this respect is the Italyansky Bridge over the Griboyedov Canal, not far from the Church of the Savior on Blood. Photographs, which are available on the portal of the Presidential Library, show that initially prior to 1930s the bridge had been wooden. It was later during the 1950s that it was made of steel.

All the photographs of St. Petersburg bridges from the recent acquisitions of the Presidential Library are available both on the portal and in the Electronic Reading Rooms. There are currently over 600 reading rooms in all 85 regions of Russia.