For a very long time the lands along the Neva River have been considered to be poor populated prior to Peter the Great period. But now this myth is completely diminished. And it’s not surprising. On the banks of this full-followed, navigable river the life had never become quiet. Only the Zayachii Island, which was chosen by Peter the Great as the place of future fortress and which is now regarded as the heart of Saint-Petersburg, was unpopular among natives because of frequent floods. The water inundated it due to its low banks. While the other islands, which were located upstream, were full of villages, farms, pastures fields and vegetable gardens. The Island Koivusaari (its up-to-date name is Petrogradskaya side), especially its south and east banks, the bank line of Hirvisaari (nowadays it is the Vasylevsky Island), the islands of Small Neva and the Admiralteiskaya side are considered to have been the most populated. Besides them, on the middle course of Neva there were numerous villages. The amount of its homesteads differed considerably, from 1-3 homesteads to several of dozens. The biggest of them were Gudilov-Hoff (nowadays Ust’-Slavyanka), Kostina (nowadays Rybazkoe), and Vihtula (this is a place of Alexander Nevski Monastery). The natives belonged to different nationalities. Nationality variety was just significant. Vod’ people, Ighora people, Finns, Russians, Swedes, and Germans inhabited this area.
Ingria (this is the name of the lands along the Neva River) was included in Swedish Kingdom in the 1617 year. Since that time Swedes started pursue a policy of ousting the Russians outside this conquered land. The Russian part of population drastically reduced from 89.5% in 1623 year to 26.2% in 1695 year. According to the Stolbovsky treaty of 1617 year those Russian nobles who didn’t want to take out the Swedish citizenship were obligated to quit conquered land in two weeks. After the conquering natives, who professed orthodoxy, found themselves in quite difficult situation. Swedish government strenuously implanted the Lutheranism. This religion was very strict and did not tolerate any other confessions. Never the less, people accepted Lutheranism could reckon on tax benefits and other kind of facilities. The majority of Russian natives chose to go abroad and settle down in the Land of Novgorod.
However, some Russians preferred to accept Swedish citizenship. This group consisted of runaway peasants and villain from land of Novgorod and Tver’. These people crossed the broad alone or with there families and recognize Swedish King. Life in Ingria was much freer for them.
Sweden regarded Ingria as overseas colonial possession. Swedish kings used to invite Germans, Dutchmen in order to develop these new lands. Dutchmen and Germans were permitted to take as much land as they could. Never the less, gloomy and cold lands didn’t attract West Europeans. What is more, Swedish kings handed out lands in Neva region to Swedish nobles too. New landowners built here their estates, made their peasants move here. These factors resulted into settlers predominating over natives in Ingria. By the time Russian army returned here and Saint-Petersburg was founded the local lands had been divided among Swedish landlords.
Not surprising that the biggest possessions belonged to governors of this region. For example, Bernard S. von Steenhusen had got the large lands near Nienshanz, and his estate, named “Bienkerholm Hoff”, was located on island Koivusaari (Petrogradskaya side). While the brothers Akkerfelt possessed the lands which were situated along the right side of nameless river (nowadays its name is Fontanka) and near the “Small River” (now this river is called Moyka). That time their house was at the same place as Mihailovsky Castle now. The part of their lands (near the Neva river) in the middle of XVII century was taken by sailor Erih von Konou, who built here the estate Konoshof. The dwelling was located near the head of Fontanka. Apparently, Erih von Konou was good and diligent manager. He managed to lay out a good garden. In 1704 it became the base for future Letniy Garden. Downstream the Neva river on the bank Konou built his house. In average years on its foundation was erected the Letniy palace for Peter the Great.
Ingria being inclement region was populated by willful and independent people. For many times Swedish governor-general of Ingria Ioran Sperling was faced with natives’ obstinacy who didn’t want to pay some taxes. What is more, natives used to complain of there administration to king. Governor-general wrote to Stokholm: “People of this region are wayward not only in the country but also in the towns. That’s why the special punishment is needed for them”.