Catherine the Great initiated an impressive monument to the founder of St Petersburg as a tribute to her predecessor and to stress her own position as Russian monarch. The French sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet created the statue that depicts Peter as a Roman hero. Thousands of people attended the inauguration in 1782.
The pedestal is remarkable: a single piece of red granite; the Thunder Stone. It took a thousand men 18 months to transport the original 1,500-ton weight from the place where the stone was found, to its destination. The pedestal looks like a cliff, with Peter the Great on top of it, facing the Neva River, his horse trampling a snake, representing his enemies.
The statue became known as The Bronze Horseman by a narrative poem with that title by Aleksandr Pushkin. The key theme of this poem, widely considered to be one of the most significant works of Russian literature, is the conflict between the state (Tsar and empire) and the individual citizen.