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Brest Fortress at the time of its construction was one of the
largest fortifications on the Western border of the Russian Empire.
However it became legendary during first days of the Great Patriotic
War. A small garrison of Soviet soldiers bravely defended their citadel
against overwhelming attacks of the German army.
Constructed: Initial phase
in 1836- 1842 with latter additions
Open: 9am- 6pm every day
History of the Brest Fortress
Brest Fortress was erected in the 19th century by the
Imperial Corp Engineers of the Russian Empire under oversight of general
K.I. Oppermann, General N.M. Malecki and Colonel A.I. Feldman. They
chose a well defended part of the confluence of the river and Mikhavets
in the Western Bug around 1830. They began its construction in 1836
under a name of Brest- Litovsk Fortress. It was completed in 1842. At
the time of its construction Brest Fortress was one of the largest
military citadels in the Russian Empire.
By the time World War I broke out Brest Fortress became
obsolete. They couldn't protect against modernized artillery so Russian
Empire constructed several concentric circles of defenses. Brest
Fortress ceased to be a real castle in a military sense of the word.
Instead it became nothing more than a series of barracks and living
quarters for soldiers and officers.
White Palace (Before and its current state)
In August 1915 German Army managed to capture the Brest
fortress and kept it until the Treat of Brest- Litovsk, which was signed
here. New Soviet government that took control of the country after
Russian Revolution of 1917 chose to abandon World War I and sign a peace
treaty with the Germans and Austrians. The actual treatment was signed
in the White Palace of the Brest Fortress. However today little remains
from the original structure. Most of the original White Palace was
destroyed during heavy shelling by the German army.
Brest Fortress during the Great Patriotic War (World War II)
Brest Fortress along with surrounding lands was
transferred to a newly formed independent Poland after the break up of
the Russian Empire. Only in 1939 it was captured by the Soviet Army that
took the citadel fairly quickly. Within two years Soviet military
command managed to modernize and improve defenses around Brest Fortress
complex. Unfortunately at the same time many of the officers and
soldiers were purged by Stalin and NKVD. Some of the best officers were
killed and those who replaced them often lacked talent and knowledge
about their fortress as well as military service. During early days of
Great Patriotic War (World War II in Russia) it proved to be fatal.
Brest Fortress became legendary during World War II for a
strange reason. It certainly held a strategic location on the border
with the Nazi Germany. Naturally the stronghold of Brest Fortress was
one of the first military bases that was attacked by the German Wermacht.
However subsequent course of history took a surprising twist.
As the German suspected Soviet soldiers were caught off
guard and most of them did not even get a chance to take their battle
positions outside of the Brest Fortress. They were trapped within walls
of an old 19th century obsolete fortress with no chance for
reinforcement. Soviet Army surprised advancing Hitler's army by starting
a fierce and bloody resistance within ruins of the buildings.
Defenders of Brest Fortress managed to keep their barracks for two months
against thousands of infantry soldiers, tanks, artillery barrages and
constant aerial bombing. The last Soviet soldiers hid in the
underground passages of the Brest Fortress for months after the citadel
officially fell to the enemy hands. Occasionally they emerged to kill German troops. The last known
soldier who defended Brest Fortress died 10 months after beginning of
the war. Apparently he ran out of ammunition and didn't even save a
bullet to shoot himself.
Brest Fortress Today
Brest Fortress became legendary in Soviet Union in the
1950's. For some time Soviet officials chose to ignore heroic acts of
its soldiers largely due to a fact that their heroism was forced by
failures of the high command of the Red Army military. Defenders of the
Brest Fortress didn't even get 15 minutes required for a full battle
disposition. Russian soldiers that were captured by the Germans often
were labeled as traitors. Only in the 1950's several journalists and
writers devoted themselves to writing about survivors of the Brest
In the subsequent years Soviet government restored many
parts of the Brest fortress. They also constructed several sculpture
devoted to the heroes of Brest soldiers. Ruins of former barracks as
well as White Palace are located in the Eastern part of the complex. You
can reserve at least a day if you want to explore the whole military