If you’re like me, it’s not these kind of questions that keep you up at night.
But there have been times that I have had this question vaguely in the back of my mind, particularly with the warmongering Swedes just to the West. And it’s common knowledge that there is nothing the Vikings would love more than to plunder the treasures of Russia’s northern capital.
Peter the Great loved the sea, and although he did not have the foresight to build the city of St. Petersburg in a location that was not a swamp or would not rain each and every day over the next 300 years, he did quickly provide the necessary fortifications in the Gulf of Finland. Check it out:
At first glance, it would appear that St. Petersburg is simply inviting a sea attack from the meddling West. But if you look closer, you will see Kotlin Island comfortably situated in the middle of the Gulf of Finland. And Peter the Great took this a step further by building a string of forts from Kotlin Island to shore.
In total, there were 22 forts forming a line of defense from shore to shore.
Kotlin Island and the town on the island, Kronstadt, has a rich naval history and is now home to a major sea port.
Not all of the original forts remain, but there are regular excursions for those tourists who want to visit the remaining structures. Fort Alexander is perhaps the most well known and has a history that includes defense against naval attack, housing of a research laboratory on plague and bacterial disease, and was even known as a rave hotspot at one time.:
The construction of these forts was no small task. As Russia Beyond states:
“The foundations of the fort were built during the winter, and used ingenious techniques. They built small wooden cabins right on top of the ice that covered the bay, and then filled them with heavy boulders. Under their own weight, these constructions sank to the bottom.”
Unfortunately, I had only one day in Kronstadt. I was busy filming a building that is for sale for Expat Flat. I came for that particular building, but left impressed with the potential for tourism for the island of Kotlin and the town of Kronstadt. More than six million tourists come to St. Petersburg annually and a rapidly increasing number of those tourists are discovering this hidden gem of Russia’s history.
Here’s the video of the building in Kronstadt that is comfortably situated next to the beautiful Anchor Square and the indescribably beautiful Navy Cathedral.
So, the next time you’re in St. Petersburg, make sure you visit Kotlin Island. It won’t be a “hidden gem” for tourists to Russia for much longer.
And, as a bonus, if you speak Russian, here is a video blog I made of Kronstadt for the Youtube Channel “The Американец”: