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Shlisselburg Fortress

Shlisselburg is one of the most important castle in the Russian history. Some laid life to defend their country here, others were imprisoned here regardless of their rank and social position. Emperors, members of the imperial family, Decembrist and simple anarchist lived and died here. One of the most important features of the castle is its untouched beauty and mystique. Its well preserved condition is due to good construction not modern reconstruction. Many people visit and often return to experience the history and explore the remains. Some claim ghost live here and can not quiet rest after their death. It is no surprise especially if you trace 700 year old history of Shlisselburg.



Location: 35 km (22 mi) East of Sankt Petersburg  Map





Image of Shlisselburg

 Image of Shlisselburg  Image of Shlisselburg             


History of Shlisselburg Fortress

The original Shlisselburg Castle was build here in 1323 by Yury Danilovich after signing first Orekhovsky peace treat with the Swedes after 30 years of skirmishes and battles. Peace treaty got its name from an Orekhovsky island where it was signed. This location gave also the name for the new citadel Oreshek or a “nutlet” in Russian. In 1352 the walls were rebuild and you can still see their remains on the island. Much of fortifications that you see today comes from the 15th century than Moscow overtook these lands during their reunification process of all of Russia.


Image of Shlisselburg

In 1612 however the Swedes took the fort killing most of its defenders. According to the legend Russian soldiers hid several icons within damaged walls in hopes that the lands Swedes took will be returned eventually. They called it Nöteborg ("Nut-fortress"). Oreshek/ Nöteborg  was not altered much. Other than few towers and reconstruction it was kept in its original appearance.

During the Northern War Peter I the Great took much of the former lands including the castle of Oreshek / Nöteborg. In 1702 after successful attack where he served as a simple captain of artillery, the castle was taken and renamed as Shlisselburg or “key- city”.

From the early 18th century Shlisselburg the borders of the Russian Empire expanded northward and it did not stood on the border anymore. It was converted into prison and some of the famous names were associated with it. Peter I sent his sister Mary Alekseevna and his first wife Evdokiya Lopuchina here.



Image of Shlisselburg  Image of Shlisselburg

One of the strangest stories that is associated with the citadel is that of deposed emperor John VI Antonovich who was imprisoned here. John was merely 1 than as a result of the coup he lost the throne and became the secret prisoner earning him the name of “Russian Iron mask”. As history claims several officers unhappy with the rule of Catherine the Great decided to kidnap young emperor to replace the German princess. During failed raid 24 year old John was murdered by his guards. The story is still somewhat dubious and unclear. Many claim the raid was actually organized by Catherine the Great. Whatever the truth might be Catherine ordered a “Christian burial in secret”. Strange description follows that include that the grave must be in a hidden location on a shady side. Several historians claim they found the grave where John is buried but no digs were undertaken.


Image of Shlisselburg

This prison later held Decembrists like Wilhelm Küchelbecker, brothers Bestuzhev, Ivan Puschin and others. Alexander Ulyanov, brother of Vladimir Ulyanov (widely known as Lenin) was executed here for his attempt to kill emperor Alexander III. During World War II the castle returned to its original purpose as a castle. Soviet soldiers managed to defend the island and “The road of Life” across the Ladoga lake. Monument honors the lives of those who basically saved Saint- Petersburg ( than Leningrad) against German forces.


Image of Shlisselburg    Image of Shlisselburg

Image of Shlisselburg  Image of Shlisselburg







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