St. Petersburg has seen enormous changes in its short history. Founded by bisexual Tsar Peter the Great in 1703, this city of beautiful Italianate palaces, broad avenues and ornate churches was the birthplace of Russia’s most beloved creative geniuses: poet Alexander Pushkin, novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Two hundred years after its founding, the city was the cradle of the Revolution, where socialists and angry workers overthrew czarism to pave the way for communism.
St. Petersburg has taken seriously its role as Russian bellwether and has tried on and cast off several names, each reflecting Russian political thinking at the time. It was renamed Petrograd during World War I, because Petersburg sounded too German. The name Leningrad followed with the ascension of communism. And with the fall of communism and initial nostalgia for pre-Marxist life, the city became St. Petersburg once again. Though there has now surfaced-in an astonishingly short time-some nostalgia for communism, the most recent name change reflects a shift in the national outlook that is more than cosmetic: Churches are open again, streets are getting prerevolutionary names, and private enterprise is thriving in this, Russia’s second capital.
St. Petersburg also successfully competes with Moscow for the title of Russian Gay Capital. Muscovites and foreigners alike are lured by the city's hip gay discos, recently opened or with well-established reputation. Ranks of their patrons are dominated by young local students and blond cute Scandinavian tourists. Go-go boys are a must in every gay club and they tend to be quite handsome and affectionate. Entertainment program includes some kind of show (drag or striptease) nightly and mixed drinks are $3 - twice as cheap as in Moscow.