Petrograd was the name given to the city of St. Petersburg in the frenzy of anti-German sentiment of WWI. It means the same in Russian, “the city of Peter”.
Even though the name change happened on Tzar Nicholas II watch in 1914, in popular mind it is imprinted in association with the Revolutionary age (“Petrograd, the cradle of the Revolution of 1917″). Here is an old Bolshevik poster, seared into every Soviet school kid’s retina: “We shield Petrograd with our breast!”
Say “Petrograd” to those born in the USSR, and it echoes in our skulls with “war”, “shooting”, “revolutionary soldiers”, “people’s tribunals” and suchlike. Not the stuff we fondly remember.
Say “St. Petersburg”, and it resounds with European sophistication, Imperial glory, spacious ballrooms and high society gossip in French, English and Italian.
As a Soviet-era joke put it:
“Where were you born?”
“Where did you go to school?”
“Where did you work?”
“Where do you want to be buried?”