In the year 1782 a monument to Peter the Great, the founder of St.Petersburg, was erected on the Senate Square west of the Admiralty. Dominating its western side is the building of the Senate, hence its name – the Senate Square.
During Napoleon’s invasion of 1812, Czar Alexander I, fearing the city might fall over to the French, ordered to move Peter’s bronze statue to a northern province. At about the same time, a Major Baturin, meeting with Alexander’s close friend Duke Golitsin, told him he had a strange dream: the Bronze Horseman, or the statue of Peter the Great, comes down from its cliff-like pedestal and heads for the palace, while Emperor Alexander walks out to meet him. “Young man,” says Peter, “just look what you’ve done to Russia. But as long as I stay where I am, my city has nothing to fear!” and he turns his bronze horse and gallops back, the hooves clanking heavily over the cobbles. The Duke reported Baturin’s shocking dream to Alexander, whereupon the Emperor cancelled his order, and the statue was left where it was.
The Senate Square saw the first armed insurgence by revolutionary noblemen against autocracy. Staged on the 14th of December, 1825, it went down in history as the Decembrists’ revolt.
Having defeated Napoleon in 1812, the Russian army liberated both its homeland and Europe from the ambitious dictator. Russian officers returning from the overseas campaign brought home war trophies and progressive ideas. While abroad, they got acquainted with European lifestyle and western philosophy – both had profound influence on the Russian nobility. Lacking understanding of the historical, geographical and ethnic differences between Russia and Europe, the reformist-minded youth was totally dejected by a striking contrast between the Western and Russian way of life. Brewing discontent among a certain part of the younger nobility led to the appearance of secret societies, one of which — the Northern Society founded in St.Petersburg – consisted of moderate reformists who pursued the goal of establishing a constitutional monarchy modeled after the English version.
In November 1825 Emperor Alexander I died unexpectedly in Taganrog. Earlier his brother Konstantin abdicated from the throne, but the abdication wasn’t announced. The army and citizens swore allegiance to abdicated Konstantin. Soon after that, however, they had to take another oath of allegiance – to Nicholas I. Revolutionaries from the Northern Society made use of the power vacuum to plot a revolt. They circulated rumors among the troops that there had been no abdication and that Nicholas simply seized power, while Konstantin was away. The revolt was scheduled on December 14 when the troops were to give allegiance to Nicholas I.
But contrary to all expectations, most of the troops, except just two regiments, did swear loyalty to the new emperor. The insurgent units then marched onto the Senate Square where naval guards and many onlookers joined them. The crowd shouted: “Hurrah, Konstantin”, “Hurrah, constitution!” The regiments, in full battle array, were waiting for further instructions from their leaders. The latter, some of whom backed down at the last moment, failed to seize the initiative. Troops loyal to Nicholas I surrounded the rebels on all sides of the square. When St.Petersburg’s governor, Count Miloradovich appeared before the soldiers, calling on them to return to barracks, two officers fired mortally wounding him.
The incident predetermined the outcome of the revolt. The Emperor first moved cavalry units against the rebels and then crushed them by artillery fire. The same night first arrests were made. About 300 members of secret societies and some 700 soldiers and officers were arrested. Later five of their leaders were sentenced to execution, and the rest were condemned to penal servitude or exiled to Siberia.
In 1925 the Senate Square was renamed Decembrists’ Square in commemoration of the first armed rebellion against supreme power in Russia.
Source:The Voice of Russia