Centred on the famed statue of the Bronze Horseman, this square is listed on city maps as Senatskaya ploshchad (Senate Sq). Its dominant feature is the immense facade of St Isaac’s Cathedral. Most of the west side of the square is occupied by the Central State Historical Archives and the newer Yeltsin Presidential Library, both of which are housed in the former Senate and Synod buildings, built by Carlo Rossi between 1829 and 1834.
Until 2008 the square was known as Ploshchad Dekabristov (Decembrists’ Sq) after the first attempt at a Russian revolution: the Decembrists’ Uprising of 14 December 1825. The Decembrists were young officers who were inspired by radical ideas from France during the Napoleonic campaigns and wanted to introduce constitutional monarchy. Ineptly, they set up their protest on the same day as the swearing-in ceremony of the new tsar, Nicholas I. After repeated attempts by Nicholas’ ministers to reason with the rebels, they were fired upon. Many officers and bystanders died as a result. Most of the leaders later ended up on the gallows or in Siberia.