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 Moscow (in his capacity as Prince of Novgorod) on behalf of the Novgorod Republic in 1323. It guarded the northern approaches to Novgorod and access to the Baltic Sea.
After a series of conflicts, a peace treaty, was signed at Oreshek on August 12, 1323, between Sweden and Grand Prince Yury and the Novgorod Republic which was the first agreement on the border between Eastern and Western Christianity running through present-day Finland. A modern stone monument to the north of the Church of St. John in the fortress commemorates the treaty. Twenty-five years later, King Magnus Eriksson attacked and briefly took the fortress during his crusade in the region (1348–1352). It was largely ruined by the time the Novgorodians retook the fortress in 1351. The fortress was rebuilt in stone in 1352 by Archbishop Vasilii Kalika of Novgorod (1330–1352), who, according to the Novgorod First Chronicle, was sent by the Novgorodians after several Russian and Lithuanian princes ignored the city's pleas to help them rebuild and defend the fort. The remnants of the walls of 1352 were excavated in 1969 and can be seen just north of the Church of St. John in the center of the present fortress.
The fort was captured by Sweden in 1611 during the Ingrian War. As part of the Swedish Empire, the fortress was known as Nöteborg and became the center of the north-Ingrian Nöteborg county. In 1702, during the Great Northern War, the fortress was taken by Russians under Peter the Great in an amphibious assault: 250 Swedish soldiers defended the fort for 10 days before they surrendered. The Russian losses were 6000 men against 110 Swedish losses. It was then given its current name, Shlisselburg, a transcription of Schlüsselburg. The name, meaning "Key-fortress" in German, refers to Peter's perception of the fortress as the "key to Ingria".
During the times of Imperial Russia, the fortress was used as a notorious political prison; among its famous prisoners were Wilhelm Küchelbecker, Mikhail Bakunin and, for 38 years, Walerian Łukasiński. Ivan VI of Russia was murdered in the fortress in 1764, and Lenin's brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, was hanged there as well.
Out of ten towers, the fortress retains only six (five Russian and one Swedish). The remains of a church inside the fortress were transformed into a memorial to the fortress's defenders. The fortress has been the site of an annual rock concert since 2003. There is also a museum of political prisoners of the Russian Empire, and a small collection of World War II artillery.References:
Castle Rushen is located in the Isle of Man"s historic capital, Castletown. The castle is amongst the best examples of medieval castles in the British Isles, and is still in use as a court house, museum and educational centre.
The exact date of castle is unknown, although construction is thought to have taken place during the reigns of the late 12th century and early 13th century rulers of the Isle of Man – the Kings of Mann and the Isles. The original Castle Rushen consisted of a central square stone tower, or keep. The site was also fortified to guard the entrance to the Silver Burn. From its early beginnings, the castle was continually developed by successive rulers of Mann between the 13th and 16th century. The limestone walls dominated much of the surrounding landscape, serving as a point of dominance for the various rulers of the Isle of Man. By 1313, the original keep had been reinforced with towers to the west and south. In the 14th century, an east tower, gatehouses, and curtain wall were added.
After several more changes of hands the English and their supporters eventually prevailed. The English king Edward I Longshanks claimed that the island had belonged to the Kings of England for generations and he was merely reasserting their rightful claim to the Isle of Man.
The 18th century saw the castle in steady decay. By the end of the century it was converted into a prison. Even though the castle was in continuous use as a prison, the decline continued until the turn of the 20th century, when it was restored under the oversight of the Lieutenant Governor, George Somerset, 3rd Baron Raglan. Following the restoration work, and the completion of the purpose-built Victoria Road Prison in 1891, the castle was transferred from the British Crown to the Isle of Man Government in 1929.
Today it is run as a museum by Manx National Heritage, depicting the history of the Kings and Lords of Mann. Most rooms are open to the public during the opening season (March to October), and all open rooms have signs telling their stories. The exhibitions include a working medieval kitchen where authentic period food is prepared on special occasions and re-enactments of various aspects of medieval life are held on a regular basis, with particular emphasis on educating the local children about their history. Archaeological finds made during excavations in the 1980s are displayed and used as learning tools for visitors.