Peter and Paul Fortress

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Peter and Paul Fortress


(until February 1917, St. Petersburg Fortress; between February and November 1917, Petrograd Fortress), a fortress in Leningrad, on Zaiachii Island.

The foundation of the Peter and Paul Fortress (then the fortress of Sankt-Piter-Burkh) was laid on May 16 (27), 1703. This date marks the founding of St. Petersburg.

The fortress, built according to plans drawn up by Peter I, had six prominent corner bastions linked by walls, or curtains. Initially built of earth and wood, the fortress was rebuilt in stone by the architect D. Trezzini between 1706 and 1740. The brick and stone bastions and curtains were 10 to 12 m high and 20 m thick. The fortress was protected on the southeast by the Neva River and on the north by a secondary channel of the Neva and by earthworks (crown work and cavaliers). The crown work was a fortification consisting of one bastion and two demibastions connected by curtains; its earthen walls were lined with 78 cannons and surrounded by a moat, which was covered with turf by 1708. A canal, 400 m long and 5 m wide, ran along Zaiachii island. (In 1882 the canal was filled in.)

In the 1730’s and 1740’s, stone ravelins were constructed in front of the western and eastern curtains: the Ivan Ravelin (named after Ivan Alekseevich, Peter’s older brother) stood on the east side, and the Alekseev Ravelin (named in honor of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich) stood on the west. The ravelins were separated from the main body of the fortress by moats with drawbridges. The moats were filled in at the end of the 19th century.

Beginning in the late 18th century the Peter and Paul Fortress was used as a political prison, housing opponents of autocracy and serfdom. The fortress had been used as a prison previously, even during the reign of Peter. In 1718, Peter’s son, the tsarevich Aleksei Petrovich, was incarcerated in one of the rooms of the Trubetskoi Bastion. I. T. Pososhkov, the economist and pamphleteer, was imprisoned in the fortress on Aug. 26, 1725. In 1741 the prison housed Biron, Osterman, Minikh, and other political opponents of Elizaveta Petrovna. A. N. Radishchev, one of the first revolutionaries, was incarcerated in the fortress in June 1790. Also imprisoned there were numerous Decembrists (five of their leaders were hanged on the crown work on July 13, 1826), members of the Petrashevskii circle, N. G. Cher-nyshevskii, and members of the Narodnaia Volia. Between 1870 and 1872 a cellblock with 69 units was built inside the Trubetskoi Bastion to house persons under investigation and condemned prisoners prior to execution. From 1906 to February 1917 the fortress was used as a prison for military personnel under investigation: sessions of the St. Petersburg military field tribunal began there on Aug. 19, 1906. Cells in the Trubetskoi Bastion held V. P. Obnorskii in 1879; M. S. Ol’minskii in 1894; and members of the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class (A. S. Shapovalov, and N. E. Bauman) from 1896 to 1898. In 1901 and 1902, V. P. Nogin, P. K. Fle-gontov, members of the organizational committee of the Second Congress of the RSDLP (P. N. Lepeshinskii and I. I. Rad-chenko), and editors of Iskra (L. N. Stal’ and S. V. Andropov) were incarcerated in the fortress. Between 1905 to 1907, prisoners in the Trubetskoi Bastion included M. Gorky, V. I. Semev-skii, and N. I. Kareev. After the revolution of February 1917, ministers of the tsarist government were confined at the fortress.

The Peter and Paul Fortress played an important role in the Great October Socialist Revolution, since it housed the field headquarters of the uprising. From 1873 to 1934, a cannon in the Naryshkin Bastion fired at noon, giving the exact time. This tradition was revived during the celebration of Leningrad’s 250th anniversary. Since June 1924 the fortress has served as a historical museum of the Revolution. It is now a branch of the Leningrad Historical Museum.

The historical and architectural monuments of the Peter and Paul Fortress include St. Peter’s Gate (1717-18, architect Trez-zini; wooden relief The Overthrow of Simon Magus, sculptor K. Osner), the classical-style Neva Gate (1784-87, architect N. A. L’vov), and the crown work (1752, rebuilt in 1850 by the architect P. I. Tamanskii; since 1872, part of the Artillery Historical Museum). Structures inside the fortress include the baroque Peter and Paul Cathedral (1712-33, architect Trezzini), which is a three-aisled basilica having a bell tower crowned by a gilded spire. The carved wooden iconostasis was executed between 1722 and 1727 by the Moscow masters T. Ivanov and I. Telega according to a design by I. P. Zarudnoi. The cathedral contains the tombs of the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter I to Alexander III (except for Peter II and Ivan VI An-tonovich). Also in the fortress are the Boathouse (1761-62, architect A. F. Vist; terra-cotta figure Navigation, sculptor D. I. Jensen, 1891), which housed Peter’s skiff, and the Mint (1798-1806, attributed to the architect A. Porto), where gold, silver, and copper coins were struck. Medals have been produced at the Mint since 1922.


Kann, la. Petropavlovskaia krepost’, 2nd ed., Leningrad, 1960.
Bastareva, L. I., and V. I. Sidorova. Petropavlovskaia krepost’ (guidebook, 2nd ed.). Leningrad, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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