The area between the famous Winter Palace and the Admiralty is the heart of St. Petersburg, Nevsky Street its main artery.
The southern end of Palace Square is enclosed by the semicircular building of the Admiralty. At the other end glows rococo ornamentation of the Winter Palace (now houses the Ermitage Museum).
The Ermitage is one of the largest museums in Europe, along with the Louvre and the British. It was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 to house his personal collection of jewelry and works of art (2.7 million items ranging from Stone Age to the twentieth century). The painting section stands with works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, Velazquez, El Greco, Gauguin and Picasso. Another is the famous collection of gold jewelry, silver and precious stones, pieces of ancient India, China, Mongolia, Egypt and Iran.
Just in case you mistakenly heard that it was all ice and snow in Russia, take a peek at the Big Bikini Exposition. This is right on the river Moskva in Moscow!Moscow has been the capital of Russia for almost its entire history. The exception is during the period of the Russian Empire, which lasted from 1721 until the Russian Revolution 1917. For these two centuries the capital was St. Petersburg. The Russian Empire was the second largest contiguous Empire in world memory; only the Mongol Empire had been greater.Check out what's happening north of Mongolia these days, in ChitaAlthough you may not have heard of Sochi, on the Black Sea, they're building up quickly and hope to host the 2014 Olympics.Other periods of Russian history include the Tsardom of Russia, from Ivan IV to Peter the Great, and the Grand Duchy (14th-16th centuries).The earliest period of Russian history was ruled by the Novgorod Republic and Kievan Rus, which was the first Russian state dating back to 800AD in Kiev.Modern Russia remains one of the world's superpowers. They launched the earth's second satellite, called Sputnik 1, and were the first country to put a human being into orbit around earth. (The first one is called the Moon.)After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia became a federal republic of 83 states.Text by Steve Smith.