Medieval castles in Russia

Moscow Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin, usually referred to as simply the Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil"s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is the best known of kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves a ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Moscow, Russia

Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin

The first attempt to replace the wooden fort on the stone Kremlin in the historic city center of Nizhny Novgorod refers to 1374, but construction limited to only one tower, known as the Tower of Dmitrov (not survived to our time). Under the rule of Ivan III, Nizhny Novgorod plays the role of guard city, having a standing army, and serves as a place of military gathering troops on Moscow"s actions against Khanate of Kazan. ...
Founded: 1500 | Location: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

Gdov Kremlin

Gdov was established as an outpost of the Pskov Republic. It occupied a strategically important position, being close to Lake Peipus, separating Livonia and Rus. Located on an important road to Pskov, Gdov protected it from the north. Its first mention in the chronicles dates back to 1323. Initially, the fortress was a mixture of wooden and earthen fortifications. However, the level of protection was deemed insuffici ...
Founded: 1431-1434 | Location: Gdov, Russia

Suzdal Kremlin

The Suzdal Kremlin is the oldest part of the Russian city of Suzdal, dating from the 10th century. Like other Russian Kremlins, it was originally a fortress or citadel and was the religious and administrative center of the city. It is most notably the site of the Cathedral of the Nativity. Together with several structures in the neighboring city of Vladimir, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. While archeo ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Suzdal, Russia

Vyborg Castle

Vyborg Castle was one of the three major castles of Finland. It was built as the easternmost outpost of the medieval Kingdom of Sweden: it is located on the Karelian isthmus, on a little islet in the innermost corner of the Gulf of Finland. It was originally constructed in the 1290s. The town was originally located inside the outer fortifications of the castle, at the fortress island, but it had to be moved to its present ...
Founded: 1293 | Location: Vyborg, Russia

Derbent Fortress

Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Derbent, Russia

Ivangorod Fortress

Ivangorod Fortress is a Russian medieval castle established by Moscovian Grand Prince Ivan III in 1492 and since then grown into the town of Ivangorod. The castle is strictly quadrilateral with walls 14 meters tall. The original castle was constructed in one summer. Its purpose was to fend off the Livonian Knights. The castle is strictly quadrilateral with walls 14 meters tall. Iva ...
Founded: 1492 | Location: Ivangorod, Russia

Pskov Krom

The Pskov Krom (or Pskov Kremlin) is an ancient citadel in Pskov. In the central part of the city, the Krom is located at the junction of the Velikaya River and smaller Pskova river. The citadel is of medieval origin, with the surrounding walls constructed starting in the late 1400s. The Krom was the administrative and spiritual centre of the Pskov Republic in the 15th century. In 2010, two of the towers of seven (the Vla ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Pskov, Russia

Izborsk Fortress

Izborsk contains one of the most ancient and impressive fortresses of Western Russia. According to the Russian Primary Chronicle, the town was the seat of Rurik's brother Truvor from 862-864. Although his burial mound is still shown to occasional tourists, archaeological excavations of long barrows abounding in the vicinity did not reveal the presence of the Varangian settlement at the site, indicating that Izborsk was an ...
Founded: 1302 | Location: Izborsk, Russia

Shlisselburg Fortress

Shlisselburg (originally Schlüsselburg or Nöteborg) was one of the most important medieval fortresses in the northwest Russia. It is located to the head of the Neva River on Lake Ladoga. Today the fortress and the city center are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first fortification was built by Swedes in 1299 but was lost to the Novgorodians in 1301. A wooden fortress named Oreshek was built by Grand Prince Yury of Mos ...
Founded: 1299 | Location: Shlisselburg, Russia

Ragnit Castle Ruins

On 23rd April 1289 the Landmeister (provincial Master) of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, Meinhard von Querfurt, attacked the lands of the Skalvians. Afterwards he ordered to construct a Teutonic fortress which was to replace an old Prussian fort called "Ragaine". The new stronghold was named "Landehut", meaning "the land"s guarding fort" or "the land"s defence". At the tu ...
Founded: 1397-1409 | Location: Neman, Russia

Korela Fortress

Korela Fortress, at the town of Priozersk, was founded by the Karelians who named the place Käkisalmi. It was first mentioned in a Novgorodian chronicle of 1143 as Korela. Indeed, archeological digs have revealed a layer belonging to the 12th century. Swedish chronicles first reported of the settlement of Keksholm in 1294. Until the 16th century, the fortress belonged to the Novgorod Republic, followed by Muscovy. No ...
Founded: 1143 | Location: Priozersk, Russia

Porkhov Fortress

First record about Porkhov fortress was made in Novgorod"s chronicles in 1239. Knight of Novgorod Alexander Jaroslavovitch ('Nevsky') established the trade way along Shelonj river from Novgorod to Pskov by building of small wooden strong points. Porkhov fortress was one of them. Its fortifications consisted two lines of earthen ramparts and ditches and wooden wall above the ramparts. In 1346 Great Lithuani ...
Founded: 1387 | Location: Porkhov, Russia

Balga Castle Ruins

Balga was a medieval castle of the Teutonic Knights. The hill of Balga had been the site of an Old Prussian (Warmian) fortress called Honeda, that had been unsuccessfully besieged by the Wettin margrave Henry III of Meissen on his 1237 Prussian Crusade. It was conquered in 1239 by the forces of the Teutonic Order, led by Grand Marshal Dietrich von Bernheim. The oldest Ordensburg constructed by the Teutonic Order was buil ...
Founded: 1239 | Location: Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

Koporye Castle Ruins

Koporye contains some of the most impressive medieval ruins in Russia. The first wooden fortress on the coast of the Koporye Bay was built by the Teutonic Knights in 1240, only to be destroyed by Alexander Nevsky the next year. The second fortress was built in stone by Alexander's son Dmitry Alexandrovich in 1280. Enraged by the prince's independence, the Novgorodians razed the fortress two years later. Meanwhile the Swe ...
Founded: 1240-1297 | Location: Koporye, Russia

Labiau Castle Ruins

The earliest mention of Labiau dates back to 1258. At that time Labiau was most probably an old Baltic Prussian village or a small fortified settlement. The first timber fortress was built by the Teutonic Knights during the second Prussian surge, around the year 1274 (other sources suggest that the first stronghold was established in 1258). It stood at the mouth of the Laba River and protected this waterway. During the Pr ...
Founded: 1360 | Location: Polessk, Russia

Preußisch Eylau Castle

In 1325, the Teutonic Knights built a castle called 'Yladia' or 'Ilaw', later known as 'Preussisch Eylau', in the center of the Old Prussian region Natangia. Ylow is the Old Prussian term for mud or swamp. The settlement nearby developed slowly, but in 1348 the Teutonic Order gave the privilege to establish twelve pubs at the surrounding area of the castle. Even though the village had only a ...
Founded: 1325 | Location: Bagrationovsky, Russia

Gremyachaya Tower

Gremyachaya or Gremjatšaja Tower was a defensive keep built by Vasili III of Russia in 1525. The six-storey tower is 20m high and 15m wide.
Founded: 1525 | Location: Pskov, Russia

Staraya Ladoga Fortress

The Staraya Ladoga village used to be a prosperous trading outpost in the 8th and 9th centuries. A multi-ethnic settlement, it was dominated by Scandinavians who were called by the name of Rus and for that reason is sometimes called the first capital of Russia. The village was referred in 862 for the first time in ancient annals concerning calling of three Varangian Rurick brothers as crisis managers for the Russia Land, ...
Founded: ca. 1114 | Location: Staraja Ladoga, Russia

Gerdauen Castle Ruins

The earth and timber stronghold Gerdauen was constructed by the Teutonic Knights in 1270. After a subsequent Prussian uprising, the Knights were too weak to keep hold of all their fortresses. Gerdauen was burnt down, but once the Prussian uprising was put down, the Teutonic Knights returned here and began to raise new fortifications. By 1310, a new stronghold had been completed. At that time it was guarded by embankments, ...
Founded: 1270 | Location: Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.