History of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg

A rare visitor of the city on the Neva will not visit the Museum of the History of Petersburg in the Peter and Paul Fortress. There, in the granite of the bastions, the story of the birth of the Northern Capital of Russia stagnated, the center of which, according to Peter the Great's plan, was the citadel symbolizing the power and inaccessibility of the power created by him.

Citadel - the brainchild of Peter I

The history of the creation of the Peter and Paul Fortress is inextricably linked with the Northern War, which Russia and Sweden conducted during the period 1700-1721. As a result of a number of successful military operations, by 1703 it was possible to reconquer Priniewian lands, and for their protection a reliable fortress built according to all the rules of the fortification science of those years was required. Its construction was all the more necessary because the old fortress of Nienschanz, which was located at the confluence of the Okhta River in the Neva, was considered insufficiently reliable.

From the documents that have come down to us it is known that the place for the new fortress was chosen personally by Peter I. To this end, on May 8, 1703, he inspected the Neva banks together with Alexander Danilovich Menshikov and the French engineer Joseph Gaspar Lambert de Geren. The choice of the sovereign fell on the Hare Island, which is located in the widest part of the mouth of the Neva, and has quite suitable dimensions - 750 m in length and almost 360 m in width.

The history of the Peter and Paul Fortress begins on May 16 (27), 1703, from the day when it was laid. Despite the fact that the fortress was built not only on the initiative of Peter I, but also on his projects carried out together with Lambert de Geren, the sovereign himself at this historical event was not present. According to the chronicle of those years, he was in the Olonets shipyard, located on the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga, and the beginning of the work on the Hare Island was directed by AD Menshikov.

Today the day when the Peter and Paul Fortress was laid is considered to be the birthday of St. Petersburg, but very few people know that initially its construction was pursued purely military purposes, and the grounds around it were not supposed to be the new capital of the state. Only afterwards these two events were related, so that Pushkin's "the city will be laid here" came to the head a little later than the creation of powerful fortress bastions began.

Constructing an earth fortress

As can be seen from the history of the construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress, originally it was a wooden and earthy one, however, despite this, it was the advanced fortification structure of those times, consisting of 6 bastions, each of which was a powerful five-sided fortification erected at the corners of the fortress fence.

Before the walls that joined them (curtains) were erected 2 ravelins - bulk structures. Their purpose was to shield the walls from the enemy's artillery fire and to obstruct the assault. A kronverk was also constructed - an external auxiliary fortification intended both for additional protection of the fortress and for creating a bridgehead in the event of possible counterattacks.

The Peter and Paul Fortress was raised by the hands of Russian soldiers and captured Swedes. In addition, according to the decree of the tsar, a certain number of serfs were sent from each province. Heavy working conditions in the cold and damp Baltic climate caused hundreds of unknown builders to remain forever in the graves that covered the hot Neva banks. They were replaced by new parties of working people, on whose bones the walls of the fortress grew, and the capital of the great empire rose from the darkness of the forests.

High-ranking construction supervisors

Archival documents related to the history of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg show that the construction of its bastions was personally supervised by the sovereign and five of his closest associates, whose names they were subsequently named. So, up to now the designations have remained: Trubetskoi bastion, Gosudarev, Menshikov, Naryshkin, Zotov and Golovkin.

At once it is necessary to make a reservation that Peter I only took part in the laying of the Sovereign of the Bastion, and all his subsequent works were supervised by his son - Tsarevich Alexei and AD Menshikov. Very remarkable is the fact that the rest of the curators, in spite of the Russian tradition, not only did not dare to cash in on the task entrusted to them, but in many cases covered the current expenses themselves.

Chronicle of further events

The history of the Peter and Paul Fortress also testifies to a number of miscalculations made during its design. One of them was revealed even before the work on the erection of earth defensive structures was completed on October 1, 1703. As a result of the severe flood that occurred on August 30, the water, rising to 2.5 meters, flooded the Hare Island, and washed away several already finished buildings. This incident once again proved the necessity of building a stone citadel.

In the summer of 1703, another important event happened, which everyone will certainly learn about, who visited the Museum of the History of Petersburg in the Peter and Paul Fortress: on June 29 (July 12), the solemn laying of the Peter and Paul Cathedral, then a small wooden church, took place on its territory. She gave the name of the erect citadel, and later the city, named in the Dutch style - "St. Peter Burkhom". Thus, the date of June 29 can be considered the name-day of the city on the Neva.

In the same year, there appeared the Ioannovski Bridge, which connected the Hare Island with the Petrograd side, although in those days it was a construction of several rafts connected together. By the autumn, on hardly completed earthen ramparts, guns were installed. They were cast-iron and copper guns, both captured, captured from the Swedes, and domestic castings made by Novgorod gunsmiths. Then the Emperor appointed the first commandant of the Peter and Paul Fortress. This honor was entrusted to one of his closest associates - an estonian nobleman, Colonel Carl-Ewald von Renne.

The beginning of the facing of the fortress with granite

In 1705, a new stage in the history of the Peter and Paul Fortress began. After the construction of all the earthworks, and thus the opportunity to repel a possible attack of the Swedes, Peter I decided to rebuild it in stone. The drafting of the new citadel and the management of the works was entrusted to the Italian of Swiss origin - the outstanding architect and engineer of his time, Domenico Andrea Trezzini.

To implement the plan he conceived, additional washing was done on the territory of the Hare Island, as a result of which his width increased by 30 m. Work began in early May 1706, and they began with the restructuring of Menshikov's bastion, because in the event of an assault, he could be the most vulnerable. In the process of construction, the former shafts were razed, and their soil went to the pouring of the island.

According to the new project, only the crownworks - the system of defensive structures, in terms of representing the crown ("crowns" - crowns, "werk" - fortress), located in the northern part of the island and designed to protect against a possible attack from land, remained earthy. From it went the name of the Kronversky channel, which separates the Hare Island from the Petrograd side.

The fortress, which Russia did not yet know

By 1708, Menshikov and Golovkin, bastions, as well as adjoining curtains (walls) and gunpowder were dressed in granite. At the same time, the construction of the barracks and the Peter's Gate, which were created, according to the tsar's order, on the model of the Narva ones, began.

The documents presented in the Museum of the History of the Peter and Paul Fortress testify to how powerful the citadel was built on the Hare Island. Summarizing their content, we only note that for Russia this type of fortification was absolutely new.

Suffice it to say that the thickness of the fortress walls reached 20 m, and the height of 12 m. To strengthen their bases, 40 thousand piles were piled into the ground. Each bastion had firepower, which provided about 60 guns. In the curtains - the walls between the bastions, garrison barracks were placed, and in the casemates a stock of gunpowder was kept.

Secret routes of communication with the outside world were not forgotten either. In particular, under underground structures, underground passages were dug for landings outside the fortress, and so-called paterns were built within its walls, intended for the sudden appearance of soldiers in the rear of the enemy. Exits from them, laid by a single layer of bricks, were known only to particularly trusted officers.

The fortress, which became the core of the city

The victories over the Swedes in 1709-1710 brought the history of the Peter and Paul Fortress to a different level. Since that time, it forever lost its military significance, and the guns installed on its bastions rattled only during official celebrations. Around the fortress, the city, which received the status of the new capital of the Russian Empire, began to grow with extraordinary rapidity, and named after St. Petersburg in honor of its patron Saint Peter the Apostle.

Even before the final end of the Northern War, the Senate began work on the Hare Island, and soon the main political prison of Russia was established. In this the stories of the development of the Tower and the Peter and Paul Fortress are similar. The citadel, erected on the banks of the Thames, also managed to serve as a fortification, an administrative center, a prison, and finally a museum.

It is curious that the first prisoner of the "Russian Bastille" - this name was given to her in due course, was the son of its founder - Tsarevich Alexei, who died (or was secretly killed) in custody on June 25, 1718. The architect Trezzini built a special prison in the territory of the new prison, in which the Secret Chancery was located. He also built the first Mint between Naryshkin and Trubetskoi Bastion, which took a prominent place in the Russian history of money. The Peter and Paul Fortress, in addition, became a place where not only coins were minted, but also state awards.

In 1731 the Naryshkin Bastion was crowned with the Flag Tower, on which the Russian flag was raised every day, and two years later the construction of the stone Peter and Paul Cathedral, which later became the burial-vault of Russian monarchs, was completed. Like other buildings of the fortress, it was built on the project and under the direct supervision of Domenico Trezzini. In the 1930s, it became a tradition to produce at noon a signal shot from the Naryshkinsky bastion, which continues in our time.

The Peter and Paul Fortress acquired its museum significance in 1766, when a building was built on its territory to house Peter the Great's boot, which became after the death of the Tsar one of the relics of Russian history. Finally, the fortress took its solemn form by the end of the 1980s, when its facing with granite was completed, and the Commandant's Wharf and the Narva Gates were built.

Prisoners of the "Russian Bastille"

In the Russian history, the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg was mainly entered as a political prison. Above it was mentioned that Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich became its first prisoner . Later, many of those who contradicted the existing regime shared his fate.

The bastions of the fortress remember the famous princess Tarakanov, who posed as the successor to the throne, the writer Radishchev and the Decembrists, who were kept in the Alekseevsky Ravelin. Petrashevsky, Narodnaya Volya and Nechaevtsy, led by their inglorious leader, visited their walls. In the echoing corridors of the fortress, the footsteps of NG Chernyshevsky, FM Dostoevsky, MA Bakunin, and many other prominent figures of that era were heard.

During the October Revolution of 1917, the garrison supported the Bolsheviks, which in the Soviet years they did not forget to mention even in the brief history of the Peter and Paul Fortress. It was told in detail that during the storming of the Winter Palace, single shots were fired from its walls, and after its completion, the ministers of the Provisional Government became prisoners of the casemates.

Less willing Soviet historians recalled the role that the fortress played in the system of the Cheka prisons, where it entered immediately after the Bolsheviks came to power. It is known that in 1919 four Grand Dukes of the Romanov family were shot on its territory: Dmitry Konstantinovich, Georgy Mikhailovich, Nikolai Mikhailovich and Pavel Alexandrovich.

A particularly gloomy page in the history of the Peter and Paul Fortress was the period of the Red Terror, the peak of which fell on 1917-1921. Mass executions were then carried out near the fortress wall from the side of the Kronverksky Strait. In 2009, there were found the remains of hundreds of people who were victims of the misanthropic regime that had been established in the country for many years.

Fortress's fate in the Soviet period

In 1925, the history of the Peter and Paul Fortress nearly broke off after the Leningrad Soviet passed a decree on its dismantling (destruction) and the creation of a stadium on the Hare Island. But, fortunately, this barbarism was not destined to happen, and a museum was created on the territory of the fortress. Noteworthy is the fact that during the period 1925-1933. In one of its buildings housed the first gas dynamic laboratory in Russia, whose employees laid the foundation for domestic rocketry. In its place in 1973, the Museum of Missile Technology and Cosmonautics, which exists to this day, was opened.

During the Great Patriotic War, an anti-aircraft battery was housed in the fortress, protecting the sky of Leningrad from enemy aircraft, and the spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral was covered with a camouflage net. Despite constant bombardments and bombings to which the city was exposed, there were no hits to the cathedral, but the fortress walls were seriously damaged.

In 1975, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the uprising on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, Kronverk, on the spot where five Decembrists were executed on the night of July 25, 1826, erected a memorable obelisk of pink marble. On it were the names of A. Pestel, P. Kakhovsky, K. Ryleev, S. Murav'ev-Apostol and M. Bestuzhev-Ryumin.

A story without end

Today in the territory of the once formidable citadel the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg "Peter and Paul Fortress" was created. As in former times, every day at noon from Naryshkinsky bastion a signal shot of the gun is heard, which is often given to honorable guests of the city. In 1991, among the sights of the fortress appeared a sculpture of Peter I, made by the Russian-American sculptor MM Shemyakin, and in the post-perestroika period all kinds of recreational activities began to take place on the adjacent beaches. In the 21st century the Peter and Paul Fortress of St. Petersburg is gaining new life. The history, briefly stated in this article, gets its continuation.

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