On 26th July 2005 the oldest sports venue in Russia – Stadium named after V. Lenin (now called Petrovsky) – celebrated its 80-years anniversary.

Stadium named after V. Lenin (now called Petrovsky)

On 7th April 1924 the Leningrad governmental organizations decided to construct a multi-use stadium to develop sport in the young country. And on 16th April 1924 the Presidium of the Leningrad Executive Committee issued a decree setting up a new stadium to be built on Petrovsky Island. Alois Voevodin (originally Alois Veivoda, Czech), famous Saint-Petersburg and later Leningrad athlete and footballer, was appointed for the position of the architect and the designer.

Alois Veivoda had achievements both in athletics and engineering. Apart for being Russian champion in running and jumping, playing on the right wing in the best Russian football team and organizing first international matches of Russian footballers with professional Czech clubs, during the period from 1907 till 1912 he had projected and constructed several sports grounds and stadiums in Saint-Petersburg. From the middle of 1920s he became the senior architect and designer of the new stadium. Veivoda was in charge of presenting general stadium disposition plan; plan of the stadium with indication of basketball and football playgrounds, cycle track and stand; plan of the wooden stands with indication of places for the audience and premises for sportsmen; front of the stand facing the embankment of river Zhdanovka.

Alois Veivoda

The name of the stadium had been chosen beforehand. On 21st January 1924 the head and one of the founders of the Communist party and of the USSR V. Lenin died and lots of factories, new building projects and even cities were named after him (for instance, on 26th January 1924 Petrograd was renamed to Leningrad). And since the new stadium was intended to be the biggest sports venue in the country, it had been named in advance after the leader of the October revolution.

The construction works began at the time of the design approval. They were widely covered in all local press, from which people could get to know that due to the complicity of the project the construction process was divided into 3 stages. During the first year it was planned to build all sports grounds including:

The second year started with the construction of the 450-metres long ground for motor cycle and bicycle competitions. Then the project provided building of:

In spite of all efforts made by the constructors to build and to open the stadium in time, the climatic conditions played their role. The first major problem, even disaster, happened on 23rd September 1924 when due to the strong wind coming from the Gulf of Finland the flood occurred. It seriously spoiled most of ground works held on the stadium.

The next major weather problem concerned the official opening of the ice skating arena and track in the end of 1924, when due to unpredictably warm weather the ice didn’t freeze. As a result the arena was opened only in the beginning of 1925.

The official opening of the stadium was celebrated several times. The first time it was on 26th July 1925 when documents concerning the approval of the stadium were signed. It had happened 2 weeks before very important football match between Leningrad team (the 1924 RSFSR champion) and Kharkov team (the 1924 USSR champion). The Leningrad team won with the score 5:1, though in 1924 it had lost.

12th July was chosen for the grand opening of the stadium sports club but again due to the weather conditions (heavy raining) it was postponed till 26th July which coincided with the celebration of the 3rd anniversary of Spartak.

The end of July 1925 was marked with first international competitions held on the stadium. The participants were athletes from Moscow, Leningrad and Finland.

This was the beginning of brilliant stadium history marked with various sports highlights.

On 13th February 1927 the stadium hosted the first in the country international bandy match between national teams of Sweden and the USSR, which ended with the overwhelming win of the Soviet team (11:0).

Later on the new stadium became home for the recently established city team of Leningrad, which on 22nd September 1928 took over twice Olympic champion the national team of Uruguay.

Olympic champion the national team of Uruguay

After a number of years the 10,000 seats stands of the stadium became insufficient and in 1933 the first reconstruction was undertaken: the capacity was enlarged to 25,000 seats.

The opening of the renovated stadium was marked with the football match between Leningrad and Turkish national teams, which ended in a draw. {[7]}

The same result was achieved on 5th September 1935 when the Leningrad team played with professionals from Prague, whose goalkeeper was thought to be one of the best at that time.

But more interesting game was played with the Basque team on 30th June 1937. This match was very expected because most members of this team, being members of the Spanish national team, had won practically in all meetings with Soviet teams. But this time it was a draw game (2:2).

Since the stadium was built as a multi-use sports venue, it should be admitted that it didn’t hosted only football competitions. For instance, in July 1937 the stadium held first national championship in swimmimg.

On 22nd of June 1941 the stadium pitch was reserved for 2 games: Spartak (Moscow) – Spartak (Leningrad) and Zenit (Leningrad) – Spartak (Kharkov). But the Great Patriotic War has started and most of the spectators and footballers went to the military registration offices to mobilize. The stadium became a military object hosting antiaircraft emplacements on the reserve pitch. The military unit was quartered in the changing rooms. Coaches started training soldiers and militiamen.

In the spring of 1942 different sports activities (cross-country races, volleyball, basketball and football matches) started being organized. And from 1943 teams of military units and subdivisions defending the city had been holding the championship of the city under siege.

6th September 1942 was marked with the Leningrad championship in athletics with 260 sportsmen participated.

6th September 1942 was marked with the Leningrad championship in athletics with 260 sportsmen participated

During the war the stadium was seriously damaged and the reconstruction lasted for a long period. Besides, the city government focused on constructing a new 100,000-seat stadium. The Stadium named after V. Lenin was intended to be a training sports base.

Later on the stadium was passed under the authority of the Sports Venues Department. In the mid 50s an architect's office with participation of Nikolay Baranov (city chief architect), Oleg Guryev and Viktor Fromzel elaborated the project of the stadium fundamental reconstruction. Since then the stadium is surrounded with ferroconcrete stands with inner premises, in which 5 gym halls and comfortable changing rooms for sportsmen and referees are located. At the time of big competitions one of the gym halls was transformed into a roomy press-centre. Another point, that should be mentioned here, is a new athletics running track with synthetic coating, which was the best in the country. As a result the stadium became one of the athletics centers in the USSR.

As a result the stadium became one of the athletics centers in the USSR

From mid 60s the stadium started hosting first-rate athletics competitions. On 1st June 1967 there was a grand opening of the Summer Leningrad Spartakiad, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the USSR.

In 1968 the stadium for the first time gave home to the Znamensky Memorial.

In July 1970 thre was the athletics match between the USSR and the USA (so-called “Match of Giants”). Though on the first day it was raining, all 30,000 seats of the stadium were occupied. The Soviet team won with 200 points against 173 points scored by the Americans.

In 1971 the stadium was the home for the European Championship in Women Speed Skating, where Nina Stankevitch from Leningrad became the first in all-round competition.

In 1973 the Znamensky Memorial was held in the stadium again. Lots of records were set there.

At that time the Stadium named after V. Lenin was the second sports venue in the city while the first one was the Stadium named after S. Kirov on Krestovsky Island. So as for the football matches, the stadium on Petrovsky Island was used by local reserve teams or by teams playing in the 2nd national league (Dinamo). It was also used for holding national rugby, bandy and field hockey championship, various athletic competitions of different levels.

At that time the Stadium named after V. Lenin was the second sports venue in the city while the first one was the Stadium named after S. Kirov on Krestovsky Island.

During the preparation for the Olympic Games’80 in Moscow the stadium was again reconstructed. Chief architects Stanislav Odnovalov and Nina Balazh focused on inner premises and rooms, where interiors were renovated. In some of them the second store was added. The commentator building was completely reconstructed and the drainage system of the pitch was replaced. The new invention was the construction of the VIP box and installation of 4 high towers equipped with 576 floodlights, which provided very good lightning and made it possible to hold evening games and broadcast them without any additional illuminatuion.

All these works had been finished by 1978 when the Stadium named after S. Kirov was put under reconstruction and for the period the Stadium named after V. Lenin became number 1 city sports venue.

For the time of the Olympic Games in 1980 the stadium was used as a reserve of the main sports arena, holding games of one of the groups. At the same time it was used as a training base for all team coming to the city. There were 7 Olympic matches with participation of national teams of Columbia, Kuwait, Nigeria, Venezuela, Zambia, Cuba and Czechoslovakia.

In 1981 the stadium was for the second time home to “Match of Giants” in athletics between the USSR and the USA. It generated considerable public excitement due to the USA who had boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow. There were 260 accredited journalists from 32 countries who covered all 36 types of sports competitions. And again the USSR has won (204:178).

One week later there was the third time the Znamensky Memorial was held on the stadium. It was marked a number of participants – 600 sportsmen were competing for medals.

The next reconstruction of the stadium (which had been already renamed to Petrovsky) was undertaken in 1992 during the preparation to the Goodwill Games held in Saint-Petersburg in 1994. Again Stanislav Odnovalov was appointed for the position of the chief architect. He decided to maintain facades and damp course. Besides, the matrix indicator board was replaced with a new one and the second rotary board was installed. The reconstruction concerned the lighting towers – the quantity of the floodlights was cut down to 320 but the quality of illumination remained the same. According to the project the stands were constructed in the training complex (now the Small Sports Arena). {[20]}

One year later the pitch of the stadium (the Central Sports Arena) was equipped with the electrical heating and the stands were fitted with new plastic seats bringing more comfort to the spectators though decreasing the capacity to 21,725 seats instead of 30,000. These changes made the Petrovsky Stadium competitive in holding high-rank football matches.

At this time the stadium became home for FC Zenit – the only football club from Saint-Petersburg playing in the Russian Premier League.

Gradually the Petrovsky Stadium became number one sports venue in Saint-Petersburg. It was finally proved when in 1996 it was chosen as the best place for holding “golden” match of national championship between FC Spartak (Moscow) and FC Alania (Vladikavkaz).

The stadium hosted matches when FC Zenit won bronze (2001) and silver (2003) medals in the national championship. It was also used for holding games of the UEFA Intertoto Cup and the UEFA Cup.

The following famous teams played here:


In the context of celebrating 100-year anniversary of the Russian football on 20th August 1997 there was a friendly match Russia – Yugoslavia. The match ended with only one goal scored from penalty performed by the Yugoslavians. Two others resulted differently: the game on 25th May between veteran teams of Russia and France was played in a draw, and on 5th September the city team of Saint-Petersburg took over their Moscow rivals having scored 2 goals.

At the very end of the last century 2 remarkable competitions in athletics took place on the stadium – the Final of the European Cup (27.06.1998) and again the Znamensky Memorial (17.06.2000).

In the year of 80 anniversary of the stadium it welcomed for the first time the FIFA World Cup qualification match between national teams of Russia and Latvia, which ended with the victory of the host team (2:0).