Fort Alexander I or Plague Fort was constructed in 1838- 45 under supervision
of Russian- French engineer Moris Gugovich Destrem (Jean Antoine
Maurice) and Mikhail von der Veide as a
military bastion to defend former capital of the Russian Empire
against enemy fleets. It was part of the forts that included
other citadels like "Peter I", "Fort Risbank aka Pavel I", "Fort
Constantin" and "Kronshlot". It measured 60 meters by 90 meters
with 4 levels high. It was supported by 5535 piles that reached
a height of 12 meters. A layer of sand, concrete and granite
slabs further strengthened the base for the military
fortifications. It was officially commissioned on 27th July 1845
by Nikolay I (Nicholas I) and named in honor of his father
Alexander I. Its defenses consisted of 137 cannon and a
garrison of over 1000 soldiers. During Crimean War the British
Royal Navy fleet approached Kronstadt and Saint Petersburg,
however a line of impressive forts and first naval mines stopped
any attempts to attack Russian capital and Russian fleet. In
1869 the fortress ceased its use as a military fortification.
It was stripped of its fire power and in 1897 it
was transferred to Institute of Experimental Medicine. The
location was perfect. It was close to Russian capital of Saint
Petersburg, yet it was easily quarantined in case of emergency.
Many doctors lived and worked here with different deadly
disease. This included, typhus, tetanus, scarlatina, cholera,
Staph and Streptococcus infections. But it was particular famous
for experiments with Yersenia bacteria that caused bubonic
plague. This gave fort Alexander I its second name of Plague
Fort (Chumnoy Fort- Чумной Форт).
The work wasn't all smooth and perfect. In 1904 doctor
V.I. Turchinov- Vizhnekevich died from plague. S. Poplavsky that
doing the autopsy of the dead doctor also got sick, but
survived. Another outbreak happened in 1907 when M.F. Schreiber
fell victim to plague. Doctor L.V. Padlevsky got sick, but
survived with the help of other doctors. The laboratory was
closed in 1917 after outbreak of the Russian Revolution.
Today fort Alexander I undergoes a massive
reconstruction. There are plans to turn the old citadel into a
tourist destination, including museum, bar, restaurant and a
club. It is accessible for tourists by boats.
Doctors at the bed side of their sick colleague.