St Petersburg & Russia

Holland, Russia and St Petersburg

Without waiting, the Prince arrived with his entourage, knocked at my door and proceeded to enter. Not having been informed of this I was somewhat taken aback, but soon regained my composure and addressed his Majesty with an honest respect that seemed to surprise him, since he asked in Dutch, “How do you know who I am? And how do you know me?”

Cornelis de Bruyn on Tsar Peter the Great in: Reizen over Moskovie, 1711.

The first regular contacts between Holland and Russia were naturally commercial in nature. These began after around 1500 and focused mainly on the port of Archangelsk, in the north of Russia.

Towards the end of the 17th century the Russian ruler, Tsar Peter I, turned his attention to the west. One country he visited was Holland, and Dutch influences were soon felt in Russia. As in Peter’s prestige project: the city of St Petersburg. When the new city of the River Neva began to take shape, Dutch trade moved away from Archangelsk to the new port. Later, cloth merchants from Twente known as Rusluie came to St Petersburg to try their luck. A Dutch enclave soon emerged, and some Dutch entrepreneurs managed to rise to the position of suppliers to the court.

In the early 19th century, the Romanovs and the Oranges made contact, leading to the marriage of Grand Princess Anna Pavlovna and Crown Prince Willem II. As a result, in 1840 the Netherlands had a queen of Russian descent.

This and other aspects of Dutch-Russian relations are explored in these pages. They offer some of the historical background to the current contact between Amsterdam and St Petersburg – between the Hermitage on the Neva and the Hermitage on the Amstel.

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The Hermitage Amsterdam is located on Amstel 51, Amsterdam

Photo Janiek Dam

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