IELTS® Listening Practice 32

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Listening Script Vocabulary

(Section 4: You will hear a talk concerning the history of the city of St. Petersburg. First, you will have some time to look at questions 32 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 32 to 40.)

L= Lecturer

Good morning, and welcome to today's lecture on the history of the city of St. Petersburg. I hope you have all done the preparatory reading. If you have any questions, do save them until the end of the lecture and I will try to answer them then.

St. Petersburg, as you probably know, is the second-largest city in Russia after Moscow, with over five million inhabitants. It is an important Russian port located on the River Neva on the Baltic Sea. St. Petersburg is a modern city, and the cultural capital of Russia. The historic centre and certain groups of monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. St. Petersburg is also home to the Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. 

Tsar Peter the Great founded the city on May 27th, 1703. On 1st September 1914, the name was changed from St. Petersburg to Petrograd, on 26th January 1924 to Leningrad, and on 7th September 1991 back to St. Petersburg. Between 1713 and 1728, and from 1732 to 1918, St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved to Moscow.

Now, St. Petersburg was an unlikely location to build a city. It was constructed among the islands and mosquito-ridden marshes where the River Neva flows into the Gulf of Finland. Damp, windy and prone to floods, St. Petersburg has a long winter and the Neva can freeze from November to April, when hardy citizens known as 'walruses' break holes in the ice for a dip. 

According to legend, the location for the city was shown to Tsar Peter the Great by an eagle hovering above it. The story goes that the Tsar cut two strips of turf and arranged them in the shape of a cross, announcing that he would build a church to St. Peter and St. Paul on the location of the cross. The more eloquent later version of the story states that he talked of cutting a window through to Europe.

The first house in the city was a little log hut put up in three days by soldiers for the Tsar himself and subsequently preserved as Peter's Cabin. He lived there in cramped quarters, sleeping on a cot, while keeping a close eye on the construction of his new city's first main building, the Peter and Paul fortress on an island in the River Neva. Nearby rose the original wooden cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, where Peter himself was buried when he died in 1725.

There was also an inn called the Four Frigates, and a shipyard where the first Admiralty buildings were erected at what became the centre of the city. As early as 1704, Peter was writing of the place as his capital – the New Rome, his 'paradise' as he called it - and insisting that it must be made beautiful with trees and flowers. 

However, no one wanted to live in this beautiful new city. In the end, nobles, merchants and craftsmen were ordered to move there with their entire households and pay the cost of building themselves houses. House sizes and designs by an Italian-Swiss architect, Domenico Trezzini, were strictly prescribed. In the early days, prowling wolves ate people who were reckless enough to go outside at night.

In 1710, a modest summer palace was started for Peter and his second wife, Catherine, a tough peasant girl who stood little nonsense. His huge wind-measuring instrument with its giant dials had a room of its own and there was another for his tools and equipment. Peter imported foreign architects to design his paradise in style with squares, canals and broad, straight boulevards. The Nevsky Prospekt, the longest and most important street, was designed by a Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Le Blonde, and constructed in 1711.

St. Petersburg was said to have 50,000 houses in 1714 and it was the first Russian city to have a proper police force. It enjoyed efficient fire-fighting services and street lighting in the best areas, and the inhabitants were under orders to plant trees. It was a symbol of the New Russia, which Peter had created, and under his successors it became one of the most magical cities in Europe.

Now, let's move on to…

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