This Week In History: May 21-27


This week in history: Tokyo Skytree Opens, Dracula goes on sale, and Peter the Great Founds St. Petersburg. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

May 22, 2012 – The Tokyo Skytree Opens to the Public

On this day in 2012, the tallest structure in Japan officially opened to the public. Built in February of the same year, this 2,080 foot-tall restaurant and broadcasting/observation tower is the tallest tower and second tallest structure (second to the Burj Khalifa of Dubai) in the world. Despite its delicate appearance and towering height, the Skytree was built with earthquake resistance in mind, utilizing reinforced concrete and other seismic proofing measures to mitigate disaster in the event of another catastrophic earthquake. In addition to being a feat of modern engineering and a tourist attraction, the tower serves as a major broadcasting hub, providing television and other communications to Tokyo and the surrounding Kantō area.

Learn about the engineering behind other amazing buildings in Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures

May 26, 1897 – Dracula is First Sold in London

Written by Irish author Bram Stoker, this seminal work of Gothic horror would first appear in London bookstores on this date in 1897. Dracula, while well received by its Victorian audience, would not be a bestseller in Stoker’s lifetime and he would ultimately die in abject poverty. It would not skyrocket to popularity until the 20th century following a series of cinematic adaptations featuring actors Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and others. Though Stoker certainly didn’t invent the myth of the vampire, his title character helped to establish certain tropes of vampire characters that are still in wide use today.

Learn more about Stoker’s Dracula in Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters in Literature

May 27, 1703 – Peter the Great Founds St. Petersburg

Russia’s second largest city after Moscow was founded today in 1703 by Czar Peter the Great. Peter would declare St. Petersburg the capital of Russia first in 1713, and it would remain the capital until after his death. In 1728 the capital would be moved back to Moscow by his son, but Empress Anna would again declare St. Petersburg the capital in 1732. It would remain the capital city and seat of the Romanov dynasty for the next 186 years. Following the Communist Revolution of 1917, Moscow would once again be declared the capital city of Russia, where it would remain. Today, St. Petersburg serves as Russia’s cultural center, and is home to numerous examples of classical Russian architecture and one of the largest art museums in the world.

Learn more about Russian history in History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev