Thursday, 16 February 2017

‘The Fickle Neva’

Although flooding from the Neva in St. Petersburg occurred yearly, there were two catastrophic floods a century apart: 1824 and 1924

On September 23rd, 1924 in Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg), strong winds and heavy rains continued from the day before and intensifying during the day of. At 1:20PM, cannon shots from the Peter and Paul Fortress, warning the public of the fast rising Neva water, were repeated every 15 minutes.

By 3:00PM, the flood waters were surging rapidly over the Palace and Admiralty Embankments, reaching within half an hour the Nevsky Prospekt and beyond.

Photograph (below) of the northern side of the Winter Palace facing the Neva 1924

Photograph (below) of St. Isaac’s Cathedral area 1924

The peak of the flood was at 7:15PM with waters receding by midnight and the end was announced at 7:00AM on September 24th.

The flood caused massive damage and losses: 19 bridges demolished, 550 trees in the Summer Garden uprooted, 5072 buildings flooded, 15,000 homeless, 208 deaths.

Photograph (below) of Palace Embankment 1924

Photographs (below) of Nevsky Prospekt

Photograph (below) of Sadovaya Ul.

Photograph (below) of the Mariinsky Theatre where a witness wrote “… in the water swam violins, basses, cymbals … two valuable harps worth 15,000 rubles each …”

Were the first sales in the Winter Palace, held on July 16th, 1925, of Imperial property of  ‘ museum value...’ a result of the flood the previous autumn in the palace basement and first floor?

In 1927, M. Zoshchenko wrote an amusing short story ‘Royal Boots’ about buying boots during the 1925 sales and having them disintegrate within four days. He probably had attended the sale on July 20th of the court livery for 2000 servants: coats, jackets, shoes, caps, gloves, underwear.

Cover Page of Royal Boots [Царские Сапоги]


  1. Golly, how awful. I'd never heard about this....

  2. River's are truly fickled things!
    Funny how the two major floods happened a century apart from each other makes you wonder if there will be another one in 2024? I truely hope that it doesn't but if it does then it must be a natural
    occurrence, I guess we will just have to wait and see. Was there one in 1724?
    Ghostie x.

  3. Every year there were floods but not as catastrophic - there was one in 1777 also. Now they have built a dam (dyke) that was completed in 2011 to prevent or hold back the flood waters.