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Castles of Russia

Updated on July 12, 2012

Russian Castles

Russia is a land full of mystery, intrigue, and passion, and its castles (kremlins) represent their country beautifully.This series will focus on some of these castles and their interesting history. I'd love for you to continue your journey with Castles of Russia: II, and then Castles of Russia: III ending with Castles of Russia: IV, Enjoy!

The castles and palaces covered on this page are: Ivangorod Castle, Vyborg Castle, Shlisselburg Fortress, Izborsk Fortress, The Peter and Paul Fortress, Pavlovsk Palace, and St. Michael's Castle/Engineers Castle.

Ivangorod Castle

Ivangorod Castle
Ivangorod Castle

Located outside the town of Ivangorod and overlooking the Narva (Narova) River, Ivangorod Castle was built by Ivan III (Ivan the Great) in 1492 to protect the lands against the Livonian Knights, which were an order of German warrior monks. The Livonian Knights occupied the Narva Hermann Castle in Estonia, directly across the river from Ivangorod Castle, as seen in the photo below-right.

During the Russo-Swedish War, the castle was seized and many of those who took refuge within its walls were put to the sword, the castle was then set on fire. Muscovite forces retook Ivangorod Castle a year later, restored the castle, and improved its defenses. Ivangorod Castle was the focus of attack for years after, changing hands from one nation to another, with each conqueror fortifying the castle until it became one of the strongest fortresses in the 16th century.

In 1704, Peter the Great took the castle from its Swedish occupants returning the castle to the the Russian Empire until the Germans seized the castle in WWI and Nazi Germany took the castle in WWII turning it into a POW camp.

Today, Ivangorod Castle is in a ruinous state, mainly because of Nazi Germany, but this historic site has become a grand museum of history and art, and includes many wonderful exhibits and masterpieces.

Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Simm, www.mvd.ee, and Sergey Nemanov under a CC license.

Vyborg Castle

Vyborg Castle
Vyborg Castle

Located on the Karelian isthmus in Vyborg, Russia, the Vyborg Castle was built in 1293 by the Lord High Constable of Sweden, Torkel Knutsson, to protect the waters which were important for trade. Though the land is now part of Russia, it changed hands between Russia and Finland several times throughout history, ending up in Russian hands in 1944.

In 1366, under Albert III of Mecklenburg, Vyborg Castle became an important stronghold in the region and the governors of Vyborg usually came from important families who enjoyed the pleasure of ruling the large Vyborg community without much interference from the capital.

On November 30, 1495, the Russians were closing in on Vyborg Castle during the Russo-Swedish War. They had taken some of the castle towers and were moments away from taking entire castle when a great explosion was heard throughout the castle. The Russian soldiers claimed they saw the cross of St. Andrews in the sky and ran from the castle, seeing this as a divine warning, considering how November 30 was the day of the Feast of St. Andrew. Although no one knows exactly what happened, it is believed that Commander Knut had some explosive material stored in one of the towers, possibly tar or black powder, which was either purposely or accidentally set ablaze. The ensuing explosion shot fire and debris into the sky in the form of an "X", the symbol of the Cross of St. Andrew.

By the 17th century, Vyborg Castle began to decay and was taken by the Russian in 1710, but was seized by the Finnish in 1812 and restorations began on the castle. In 1944, the land was annexed by Russia in WWII, and has been in Russian hands ever since. Today it is a museum and is host to various concerts, folk festivals and outdoor fetes. The Knights' Tournament is a very popular attraction here, as well as the Vyborg Castle Serenades.

Large photo of Vyborg Castle above courtesy of Khaosaming. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of DenisKlad, Sergey Galchenkov, and Vitold Muratov under a CC license.

Shlisselburg Fortress

Shlisselburg Fortress
Shlisselburg Fortress

Located in Leningrad Oblast, Russia, on the Lake Lagoda, Shlisselburg Fortress was built in 1323 as a wooden fortress by Grand Prince Yuriy Danilovich, and was given the name Oreshek (nutlet), because it was built on Orekhovets Island, which refers to "nuts" in Finnish, Swedish and Russian. It was built to protect access to the Baltic Sea.

In the 14th century, King Eriksson took the fortress, but it was retaken several years later by the Novgorod forces. This period of attacked caused extensive damage. The Swedish took the fortress in 1611, renaming it Nöteborg, and Peter the Great took the fortress in 1702, changing the name to Shlisselburg.

Under the rule of Imperial Russia, the fortress earned notoriety as a political prison, and held Walerian Lukasinski, a Polish officer and political advocate who was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, but was kept until his death, serving 44 years at Shlisselburg Fortress. Lenin's brother was hanged in the fortress.

The saddest tale of captivity, however, was that of Ivan VI Antonovich of Russia. He was imprisoned in various places since he was 2 years old, at times in solitary confinement. He was sent to Shlisselburg at the age of 16, and was again kept in solitary confinement. When he was 22, he was kept in chains and threatened with a scourge (multi-strapped whip) if he became unruly. He was called "the nameless one" because his captors were not told who he actually was. On July 5, 1764, A sub-lieutenant of the garrison, Vasily Mirovich, found out who the young man was and demanded his release, intending to proclaim him as rightful Emperor. Instead of releasing him, his jailors murdered Ivan IV, obeying secret instructions from their commander. They quietly buried the poor young prince in Shlisselburg Fortress, this boy spent his life in captivity merely because he would be king.

Shlisselburg Fortress is a popular tourist attraction and hosts an annual rock concert. The fortress is also home to the Museum of Political Prisoners of the Russian Empire.

Large photo of Shlisselburg above courtesy of Kr4gin. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Ghirlanajo and Sergey Nemanov under a CC license.

Izborsk Fortress

Izborsk Fortress
Izborsk Fortress

Located near Estonia on the Velikaya River in Pskov, Russia, Izborsk Fortress was first mentioned in 862 when three Varangian Knights were called to provide order in the troubled Rusland.

The original fortress of Izborsk was made of wood, and attacked many times, first by the Knights of Livonia in 1233, but the fortress was recovered. It was attacked again in 1240, and the fortress was retaken in 1242. With the constant threat of attack, it was prudent to move Izborsk Fortress to a more secure place, and the fortress was rebuilt several miles from its original position. The fortress had only one stone tower, and was still built of wood. In 1330, the fortress was fortified with limestone, greatly improving its defenses. The Nikolsky Cathedral was built in 1344.

In the 14th century Izborsk Fortress was reinforced and five more towers were added. The fortress was attacked many times thereafter, but no one could take Izborsk Fortress until the Germans seized it in 1941, but it was returned to the Russians in 1945. Today, there is a great restoration effort by the Global Heritage Foundation to rebuild one of Russia's most ancient fortresses.

The large photo of Izborsk Fortress above courtesy of Shakko Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Shakko, Evgenij Rabchuk, and Vitold Muratov under a CC license.

The Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress

Located on Zayachy Island in the Neva River at St. Petersburg , Russia, the Peter and Paul Fortress was built by order of Peter the Great in 1703 to protect the area from attack. Almost from the beginning, the fortress was a political prison. One of those incarcerated was Peter's own son Alexis, who was horribly whipped to death by order of his paranoid father, Lenin's brother Alexander, as well as the famous author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

During the Russian Revolution in 1917, which was a result of the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, soldiers attacked the Peter and Paul Fortress and freed the political prisoners. The fortress was taken and retaken until October, when the Bolsheviks took the fortress and fired upon the Winter Palace from there, demanding the surrender of the Provisional Government ministers. The Winter Palace was soon taken under the command of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, and the government ministers were imprisoned at Peter and Paul Fortress. They were the last people incarcerated at the fortress, and in 1924, the site became a museum.

One of the most famous places inside the walls of the Peter and Paul Fortress is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which is the burial place of all the Russian tsars from Peter the Great to Alexander III as well as the family of Nicholas II, including the two children that were formerly missing, Alexei and Anastasia, whose skeletal remains were found in the Ural Mountains. On April 30, 2008, DNA testing performed in a US lab concluded that they were the two missing children of the Romanov family.

Large photo of Peter and Paul Fortress above courtesy of Wikipedia. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Alexxx 1979 and Philipp Hienstorfer under a CC license.

Pavlovsk Palace

Pavlovsk Palace
Pavlovsk Palace

Located in Pavlovsk, Russia, Pavlovsk Palace was built for Pavel I by order of his grandmother, Catherine II, to celebrate the birth of her son's first born. In 1780, architect Charles Cameron was contracted to design the royal residence, and work soon began on the palace. While the palace was designed by Cameron, many architects and artists had a hand in building the palace. Men like Vincenzo Brenna, Carlo Rossi, Pietro Gonzaga, and many others who were experts in the field followed the vision of Cameron, each incorporating their unique talents.

In the 1800's Pavlovsk Palace became a place where artists and poets gathered to perfect their craft and gather inspiration from the beauty of the palace and its gardens, as well as meet their peers. The royal families of Pavlovsk Palace also collected fine furniture, art, and many other treasures, which were made available for public viewing in 1918, when the palace became a museum of art and culture. The park of Pavlovsk Palace was acclaimed world wide, a place of enchantment, with beautiful pavilions, masterfully carved statues, and a dazzling display of plants and flowers.

When WWII began, there was great concern for the palace treasures, and great care was taken to move the pieces to a more secure place. Soon, invaders raided the palace and destroyed the park spending two years plundering the area. When Soviet forces forced the invaders to retreat in 1944, the invaders set fire to the palace before they left, burning it to the ground. What was left in their wake was a wasteland of devastation and destruction.

After the devastation, experts gathered any remaining fragment and placed them collectively in containers to be used in a restoration effort. In the mid 1950s, the restoration began, using the blueprints and photographs that were guarded before the war. Master craftsmen, architects, and artists gathered to begin work on the new Pavlovsk Palace, and in 1970, the palace was complete. It is a testament to the perseverance and spirit of the Russian people, who took the war torn, pock-marked, ruined land, and turned it once again into a place of beauty and grace.

Large photo of Pavlovsk Palace courtesy of Vivshearer. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Alexxx 1979, apavlou, and Sergey Nemanov (Photo City) under a CC license.

St. Michaels Castle/ Engineers Castle

St. Michaels Castle/ Engineers Castle
St. Michaels Castle/ Engineers Castle

Located in St. Petersburg, Russia, work began on St. Michael's Castle in 1797 for Tsar Paul I, who did not feel secure in the Winter Palace. The facades of the castle each represent a different architectural style: French Classicism, Italian Renaissance and Gothic. The castle was built on the Moika River and the Fontanka River, with canals dug on the remaining sides, meaning access was gained only via drawbridge. The monument to Peter the Great was set in front of St. Michael's Castle with an inscription reading From Great Grandson to Great Grandfather.

Forty days after the completion of the castle, it was invaded by a group of officers who demanded the Tsar abdicate the throne. Paul tried to fight the men and was struck with a sword, strangled, and trampled to death. His son, Alexander was in the castle when the murder took place, and he was crowned tsar.

After the death of Paul I, the castle was abandoned and lay empty until 1819 when the castle was given to the Army for use as the Main Engineering School, hence the name, Engineers Castle, which it is also popularly called.

The castle is not only the Nikolayevskaya Engineering Academy, but it is also a branch of the Russian Museum and houses official portraits of many of Russia's royalty and dignitaries.

Large photo of St. Michael's Castle/ Engineers Castle courtesy of Jennifer Boyer. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Panther and George Shuklin under a CC license.

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    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 3 years ago from Canada

      I don't think I've ever seen pictures of the castles of Russia before. In fact, I don't know if I will ever get to Europe. One co-worker years ago won a trip to Russia. Gosh it must have been 30 years ago. She and her husband had a blast and loved it!

    • worldwidesouven profile image

      worldwidesouven 4 years ago

      Amazing lens and nice photos! Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Well done. By the way the name of the lake near the Shlisselburg Fortress is Ladoga, not Lagoda.

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 5 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Ochen xorosho! Very nice lens! Congratulations on a Squidoo masterpiece!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      it was nice to see

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very educational lens! I enjoyed my visit here today.

    • aksem profile image

      aksem 5 years ago

      Thank you. I have read with great pleasure. I like Pskov Cremlin and some monasteries on the north of Russia. Going to travel around the north of Russia this summer. (I'm from Moscow myself)

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 5 years ago

      I love history, and I love your lens. Thanks for sharing!

    • bluewren56 lm profile image

      bluewren56 lm 5 years ago

      So interesting reading through your lens...makes me want to go and visit.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      You do give us an opportunity here to be transported to other lands and times with such artistry in your guided tour into history with emotional pulls from the sadness of the life of Ivan VI to the restoration back to grace and beauty of Pavlovsk Palace, thank you!

    • AsianMarketplace profile image

      AsianMarketplace 6 years ago

      Very nice and i can never find these infrastructures in my howntown.

    • Northbright profile image

      Norbert Isles 6 years ago from Philippines

      I love Russia for producing the persons described in The Way of a Pilgrim: and The Pilgrim Continues His Way, such writers as Boris Pasternak, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy and the mystic, rustic native Russians of pre-communist era and now these castles. I just imagine that where there are castles there are people and villages sorrounding them. The Russian castles and the villages though are a study in contrast are among the best that represent ancient Russia. I love your lenses on castles. Thank you so much.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      nicely done. Angel blessed and I will feature it on my Squid Angel Road Trip lens when it is finished. cheers

    • efriedman profile image

      efriedman 6 years ago

      Interesting lens about a very interesting subject. I have not seen these places, only the Hermitage and Catherine's Summer Palace, both in or near St. Petersburg. Amazing places. And people there were very welcoming.

    • Mistalina profile image

      Mistalina 6 years ago

      Beautiful lens. Thank you for sharing.

    • joanv334 profile image

      joanv334 6 years ago

      Hello, love Russian history. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ashly Rain profile image

      Ashly Rain 6 years ago

      Great lens! I lived in Russia for about 2 years, and only managed to see The Peter & Paul Fortress and Pavlovsk Palace. Perhaps if Squidoo, and this lens, had been around back in 1992/1993 I would have visited some of the other ones here. Although travel was sometimes an issue, and the country so large, that I'm not sure if I would have made it to places like Vyborg and Pskov! Fantastic lens.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      Another great lens on the amazing castles.

    • profile image

      Ecomum 7 years ago

      I would recommend ton you castles of Slovakia to your attention. There are most beautiful, for one reason, nobody knows about them.

      http://www.slovakheritage.org/Castles/castles_home...

    • profile image

      Jewelia 7 years ago

      Another magnanimous castle Lens. Incredibly informative with such amazingly beautiful images.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      You know, I would buy that coffee table book of Castles of Europe by Debra ... !!! Yes I would. Best to you -- squeeze and hugs -- for the new year! I have treasured our "friendship" thanks to the power of Squidoo. ;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Glad to see my photos here, but let me do some remarks.

      It is not Izborsk Fortress on my photo. This is Pskov Fortress.

      Isborsk near 30km from Pskov and there is another great Forterss.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Great information and awesome photos.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Lizzy

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      OMG! I love that picture of Izborsk Fortress !!! I'm working on hubby to visit Russia -- but he is sooooo resistant. Now, I can tell him there are some beautiful castles to see there.