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 built from 1239 to control naval traffic on the Vistula Lagoon. With the assistance of Duke Otto I of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the Knights defeated the Old Prussians along the coastline of Warmia and Natangia. The subjugation of these pagans led Duke Świętopełk II of Pomerania to declare war against the Order during the 1242 Prussian uprising, although he was forced to acquiesce. From 1250 Balga was the administrative centre of Kommende Balga and the seat of a Komtur of the Teutonic Knights. Many Komturs at Balga like Winrich von Kniprode or Ulrich von Jungingen later rose to the office of the Grand Master.
In 1499 Grand Master Friedrich von Sachsen had the commandery dissolved. Upon the Prussian Homage, Balga was part of the Polish Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and the castle became the residence of George of Polentz, Bishop of Samland. From 1627, parts of the castle were broken down at the behest of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden during the Polish–Swedish War in order to gain building material for the construction of the Baltiysk (Pillau) fortress.
Balga was also the name of the nearby village, after 1945 renamed Vesyoloye, which is now abandoned. Until the end of World War II Balga was in the former German Province of East Prussia; it was the site of one of the final battles of the Wehrmacht with advancing Red Army forces during the East Prussian Offensive, which devastated the castle remains.References:
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 among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.