SAINT PETERSBURG-Russian cruiser Aurora, whose salvo against the Winter Palace sounded the start of the 1917 revolution, returned to its mooring in Saint Petersburg Saturday after a year-and-a-half of restoration work.

Several hundred people gathered at night on the banks of the River Neva, which flows through the former imperial capital, to see the Aurora towed from the Kronstadt naval shipyard to its traditional mooring in front of the Winter Palace.

The schedule on which the drawbridges across the Neva are usually raised were changed to allow the passage of the historic ship.

On October 25, 1917, the cruiser, largely crewed by Bolsheviks, fired a blank shot at the Winter Palace, then the seat of the provisional government, signalling the start of the October Revolution. Restored after World War II, the ship was docked on the Neva in 1957 and opened to the public as a museum, receiving millions of visitors. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 it has retained its status as a tourist attraction in the former imperial capital. Despite the presence of its military crew, it has also served in many less conventional events such as private parties and as the set of a pornographic film, according to local media. In September 2014, the ship, which had participated in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War and World War I, left its mooring for the first time since 1987 to undergo restoration work. The body of the ship was restored including the bridge and a fire prevention system installed, the navy museum said, adding that the work cost 840 million roubles (nearly $13 million).

The ship, which features a permanent exhibition of items from the Russo-Japanese War and World War I and is still officially part of the navy, is due to reopen to the public on July 31.