The Boyen Fortress in Giżycko was built between 1843 and 1855 as a point of strategic importance as it blocked the pass between lakes Niegocin and Kisajno. In early April 1843, King Frederick Wilhelm IV gave the order to start construction of the fortress. A plan was developed according to which an earth-and-brick fort was to be erected on the plan of a hexagon. The fort was to be connected with the mainland by four access roads, and the entire structure was to be surrounded by a 2303m long wall. The ceremony of laying the foundation stone, which took place on 4 September 1844, was the beginning of the proper construction of the fortress.
In 1846, a decision was made to honour one of the supporters and initiators of the fortress, General von Boyen, by naming the fortress after him. Its bastions were named Hermann, Ludwig, Leopold (all of which were the General’s given names) as well as Schwert, Recht and Licht (which stood for the symbols that could be found in the General’s coat of arms, i.e. Sword, Law and Light).
The Fortress was designed for a garrison of approximately 3000 soldiers. The Giżycko Garrison was formed in 1859. From 1889 on, Giżycko served as the Commander’s Post, and in 1902, the Fortress Boyen came to house an artillery arsenal.
On the brink of World War I, the natural ground formations combined with the battlements erected near the fortress were to fend off the Russian Army, which was about to enter Eastern Prussia, until the situation was decided on the western front. At that point, the fort in Giżycko also played a key role in the military mobilisation in Mazuria, and once the mobilisation was complete and most of the forces marched out of Giżycko, the town was left with a party of about 4000 soldiers commanded by Colonel Busse. The party carried out numerous raids on the units of the approaching Russian Army, and later, in August 1914, effectively defended the Boyen Fortress against the Russian offensive.
After World War I, the function of the fortress was changed to include, for instance, a hospital within its walls. Just before World War 2, the Boyen Fortress was one of the gathering points of the German Army, which later invaded the territory of Poland from Eastern Prussia. The crew of the Lötzen Fortress was part of the Nord Army pushing towards Mława and Modlin and fought in numerous battles, including that on The Wizna River. During the war, the fort served as a training centre for soldiers from General Vlasov’s army, who had defected to the German side. When the town was attacked in January 1945, the Fortress was abandoned without resistance.
In 1945, the Boyen Fortress was taken over by the Polish Army, which used it to a limited extent. In the 1950s, a decision was made to use the fort as a location for a number of food companies, which resulted in much transformation and a lot of damage, and, most importantly, the construction of new buildings which differed greatly from the fort’s original architecture. This situation continued until the early 1990s, when most of the companies were closed down. It is since than that the Boyen Fortress has been a popular tourist destination.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.