Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as a northern outpost for a war with Sweden, St. Petersburg became the Russian capital in 1712.

It was a planned city, designed by some of Europe's finest architects as a bold yet refined imperial city _ Russia holding a mirror to the best of European culture.

Those bourgeois attributes were what persuaded the Bolsheviks to abandon St. Petersburg as the capital in 1918 and return the seat of power to Moscow. The American journalist John Reed, whose sympathies lay with the Bolsheviks, called it an ``artificial'' city that poorly represented the real Russia.

Later, the communists would ``honor'' the old capital by renaming it Leningrad after the first Soviet leader.

Today, Lenin's legacy has been largely stripped away, at least superficially. Leningrad became St. Petersburg again in 1991 and seems once more to be the city of the two ``Great'' czars, Peter and Catherine. It's getting harder to find a statue of Lenin.