A proponent of westernising Russia, Peter the Great, who established the city, originally named it Sankt-Pieter-Burch (Сан(к)т-Питер-Бурхъ) in Dutch manner and later its spelling was standardised as Sankt-Peterburg (Санкт-Петербу́ргъ;[a] the Russian name lacks the letter s between Peter and burg) under German influence. On 1 September 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd (Russian: Петрогра́д[a], IPA: [pʲɪtrɐˈgrat]), meaning "Peter's city", in order to expunge the German words Sankt and Burg. On 26 January 1924, shortly after the death of Vladimir Lenin, it was renamed to Leningrad (Russian: Ленингра́д, IPA: [lʲɪnʲɪnˈgrat]), meaning "Lenin's City". On 6 September 1991, the original name, Sankt-Peterburg, was returned by citywide referendum. Today, in English the city is known as "Saint Petersburg". Local residents often refer to the city by its shortened nickname, Piter (Russian: Пи́тер, IPA: [ˈpʲitʲɪr]).
The city's traditional nicknames among Russians are the Window to the West and the Window to Europe. The northernmost metropolis in the world, St. Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North or Russian Venice due to its many water corridors, as the city is built on swamp and water. Furthermore, St. Petersburg has strongly European-inspired architecture and culture, which is combined with the city's Russian heritage. Another nickname of St. Petersburg is The City of White Nights because of a natural phenomenon which arises due to the closeness to the polar region and ensures that in summer the nights of the city do not get completely dark for a month. Just as Venice is associated with romance, in St. Petersburg the White Nights have a high value for couples in love.