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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saalau Castle Ruins

The Knights of the Teutonic Order appeared on this land in 1257. In 1352, when the Prussian lands were divided between the Church and the Monastic Order, Saalau and the surrounding lands were ceded to the Church. In 1355, the Church had already built here a Chapter House, known as the Cathedral Chancery. The building however was burnt down several times during Lithuanian raids. So in 1376 the Church authorities made a dec ...
Founded: 1376 | Location: Chernyakhovsk, Russia

Schaaken Castle Ruins

Schaaken Castle, built by Teutonic Order, was first mentioned in 1328. Today impressive ruins remain of this brick castle.
Founded: 1328 | Location: Niekrasowo, Russia

Insterburg Castle Ruins

In 1311, Teutonic mercenaries called Landsknechts set up a camp on the high banks of the Angrapa River, close to where it flows into the Inster River. Later, in 1337, the Teutonic Knights built a brick castle in the same location. Most of the construction works had been completed by 1347. The fortress was named Insterburg Castle. For many centuries to follow, Insterburg Castle was a bastion located in the easternmost par ...
Founded: 1337 | Location: Chernyakhovsky, 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

Brandenburg Castle Ruins

The Battle of Pokarwis between pagan Prussians and the Teutonic Knights took place nearby in 1261. The Teutonic Knights founded the village as Brandenburg to honor Otto III, Margrave of Brandenburg who supported the order in the Prussian Crusade, and erected a castle in 1266. Today impressive ruins remains.
Founded: 1266 | Location: Ushakovo, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Church of the Savior on Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.

Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.

In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.

In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.