Field of Mars
Today, the square bearing a fearsome name the Field of Mars is a vast green public garden in the very center of St.Petersburg. Lilac trees exhale fragrance here in spring, people relax on the grass in summer, and kids play around. Public festivities and meetings are held here…and all those activities happen within a stone’s throw from an Eternal flame and the Memorial to the Fighters of the Revolution and Civil War.
Formerly, in Catherine I’s reign, the square was called Tsarina’s Meadow. A garden was laid there later. In Catherine II’s reign, the territory was covered with sand, which explains its informal name St.Petersburg’s Sahara desert. In Paul I’s reign, military parades and drills were held there. Two monuments to great military leaders Pyotr Rumyantsev and Alexander Suvorov were installed in the same period of time. Alexander Suvorov was depicted as the Roman God of war Mars, which triggered renaming the square to Field of Mars.
At the turn of the 20th century, cycling races were held here, and soon afterwards a roller-skating ring was opened on the square, which was the hottest new trend in leisure activities. The trend didn’t last long, and the roller-skating ring was replaced by another amusement – a pavilion with a telescope where visitors could watch the starscape.
After the February 1917 revolution, when people who had died in street fights were buried in the Field of Mars, it got its new name the Square of Fighters of the Revolution. In 1919, a memorial to fighters of the two revolutions and the Civil war was erected on the burial site. In 1920-1926, a parterre garden was laid out in the square, which is still there today.
In 1946, the Square of Fighters of Revolution got back its old name the Field of Mars, and in 1957 an Eternal flame – the first eternal name in our country – was installed in the heart of the memorial.
Lilac trees are exhaling fragrance, people are relaxing on the grass with kids playing around…and nearby are gravestones which carry an epitaph “Not victims but heroes are under this tomb. Not sorrow but envy is generated in the grateful hearts of all future generations by your destiny. You lived glorious lives and died brave deaths in those gruesome red days”. It’s our history such as it is. And whatever our attitude to it may be.