The avenue originated in the late 18th century as a road leading from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo. In the 1770s, marble versta columns were installed along the way; many survive to this day. Another notable fact about the avenue is that it coincides with the Pulkovo Meridian. Among historic buildings in the vicinity is the New Smolny Convent with the adjacent Novodevichy Cemetery.
The street borders the Victory Park, whose name refers to the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. The Moscow Triumphal Gate was constructed to Vasily Stasov's design in 1834-38 to commemorate the victory in the Russo-Turkish War, 1828-1829. After the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-1878 the avenue was renamed Zabalkansky (i.e., Transbalkanian), to memorialize the crossing of the Balkans by the Russian army.
The street is home to Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology. It is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Russia, the institute was founded in 1828, and it currently has around 5000 students. Among people who worked and studied here are Dmitri Mendeleev, Pyotr Nikolaevich Lebedev, Alexander Nikolayevich Lodygin, and Abram Fedorovich Ioffe.