Shlisselburg Fortress

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shlissel’burg Fortress


a fortress on Orekhovoi Island, at the place where the Neva River flows from Lake Ladoga. The fortress was known as Oreshek until 1611 and as Noteborg from 1611 to 1702; it was called Shlissel’burg Fortress from 1702 to 1944, when it was renamed Petrokrepost’.

Shlissel’burg Fortress was erected by the Novgorodians in 1323; a stone wall was built around the structure in 1353. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of the wall, along with canals and a man-made harbor (15th-16th centuries) within the fortress, into which ships could enter through a special passage in the wall. The fortress, which was rebuilt numerous times, forms an irregular triangle; five of its original seven towers have been preserved. The walls were up to 6.5 m thick. A specially fortified structure, or citadel, stood in the northeast corner of the fortress, which in the early 18th century was strengthened with seven bastions.

After Kronstadt was built in 1703, Shlissel’burg lost its military importance and was converted into a political prison. Initially, the barracks, the citadel, the Old Prison (built 1798), and the casemates in the walls and towers were used as places of imprisonment. In the 18th and early 19th centuries they held members of the royal family, including the Emperor Ivan VI Antonovich; courtiers who had fallen out of favor; raskol’niki (schismatics); runaway serfs; and the Enlightenment writers F. V. Krechetov, N. I. Novikov, and V. N. Karazin.

In the period from 1826 to 1870, Shlissel’burg Fortress held 96 prisoners, including the Decembrists A. P. Bariatinskii, 1.1. Gor-bachevskii, W. K. Küchelbecker, and I. I. Pushchin; the Polish rebels W. Lukasinski and B. Szwarce; and the Russian revolutionaries M. A. Bakunin and N. A. Ishutin. Beginning in 1872, correctional labor companies made up of arrested military personnel were stationed at the fortress, followed by a disciplinary battalion in 1879. Between 1881 and 1884 the New Prison was built, in which unusually strict conditions prevailed; a gendarme section directly subordinate to the chief of the gendarmes was established.

In the period from 1884 to 1906, the fortress held 69 revolutionaries, including such Narodniki (Populists) of the 1870’s as A. V. Dolgushin and I. N. Myshkin; the members of the Polish party Proletariat L. Waryński and L. Janowicz; the People’s Will members M. Iu. Ashenbrenner, G. A. Lopatin, N. A. Morozov, V. N. Figner, and M. F. Frolenko; and, beginning in 1902, the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s) S. V. Balmashev, G. A. Gershu-ni, and E. S. Sozonov. Fifteen were executed (including members of the Terrorist Faction of the People’s Will, notably A. I. Ul’ianov, on May 8,1887), three committed suicide, 16 died, and eight went insane.

The fortress temporarily ceased to function as a prison on Jan. 8,1906, during the Revolution of 1905–07. After the defeat of the revolution, however, a central prison with a hard-labor regime was erected, and the Old Prison and the former barracks (the Zoo) were rebuilt; a new, four-story wing for 600 prisoners was added in 1911. By 1912 the central prison could accommodate 1,700 prisoners.

More than 530 political prisoners passed through Shlissel’burg Fortress between 1907 and 1917, including more than 130 Social Democrats, among them G. K. Ordzhonikidze, F. N. Petrov, and M. A. Trilisser; other prisoners included about 150 SR’s, 40 anarchists, and 16 members of the Polish Socialist Party, as well as nonparty participants in such rebellions as the soldiers’ and sailors’ uprisings of 1905–12 and the agrarian disturbances of 1905–07. The political prisoners engaged in self-education. They responded to harsh conditions with collective protests in 1908 and 1912, and they maintained communication with the Social Democratic faction of the Fourth State Duma through the illegal Group to Aid the Political Prisoners of Shlissel’burg.

On Feb. 28 and Mar. 1, 1917, all the prisoners in the fortress were freed by the insurgent workers of the Shlissel’burg Plant. On Jan. 23,1919, a monument was erected on a spit on the eastern part of the island to honor all who had died within the fortress walls between 1884 and 1906 (sculptor I. Ia. Gintsburg).

The Shlissel’burg Fortress, which was destroyed during the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, is today being restored as a branch of the State Museum of History of Leningrad.


Galereia shlissel’burgskikh uznikov, part 1. St. Petersburg, 1907.
Kolosov, E. E. Gosudareva tiur’ma Shlissel’burg, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1930.
Gernet, M. N. Istoriia tsarskoi tiur’my, vols. 1–3 and 5. Moscow, 1960–63.
Kann, P. Ia., and Iu. I. Korablev. Petrokrepost’. Leningrad, 1961.
Na katorzhnom ostrove: Dnevniki, pis’ma i vospominaniia politkatorzhan “novogo Shlissel’burga” (1907–1917 gg.). [Leningrad, 1967.]
Vasin, M. “Interv’iu v ‘Gosudarevoi temnitse.’ “ In Belye nochi. Leningrad, 1974. Pages 219–66.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Instead, she and another woman, Liudmila Volkenstein, were sent to the most repressive of tsarist prisons, the forbidding Shlisselburg Fortress. There she remained for twenty years, until a plea from her dying mother persuaded the last tsar, Nicholas II, to release her.