This book examines a critical phase in the city’s history. Founded by Peter the Great a mere sixty years before Catherine II ascended Russia’s throne, St. Petersburg became one of the leading economic and political centers of Europe during her reign. Previous books on St. Petersburg have focused on its foundation and earliest years, or on the nineteenth century, when its cultural dominance within Russia was well established, or on the twentieth century, when the city was cradle to revolutions and subsequently lost its role as capital to Moscow. Catherine’s reign has been largely overlooked, despite the fact that much of the city’s image in Russian culture was established in that epoch. The Most Intentional City is based extensively on unused archival sources from central archives in St. Petersburg and Moscow as well as regional archives and manuscript collections. These are flavored with published accounts by Russians as well as foreign residents and visitors from a number of countries, including Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, and various German states. The rich secondary literature, especially that produced by Russian and Soviet scholars, adds to the interpretation. It is said that the first wife of Peter the Great once placed a curse on Peter’s new city: “May Petersburg be empty!” The city’s detractors over the centuries have enumerated many reasons why the city never should have been established and why it should not have grown. Yet grow it did. No other city in the world situated so far north (almost on the sixtieth parallel) is more than a fifth its size. In Catherine’s reign the city assumed the vitality, the social and economic strength, and the identity in myth and legend that assured that the curse pronounced against it would remain unfulfilled. The Most Intentional City reveals how it all took place.