Kronshtadt, also spelled Kronstadt, Cronstadt is a large fortress and St. Petersburg's main seaport. Traditionally, the seat of the Russian admiralty and the base of the Russian Baltic Fleet were located in Kronstadt guarding the approaches to Saint Petersburg. The historic centre of the city and its fortifications are part of the Saint Petersburg UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The fortress was founded by Peter the Great, who took the island of Kotlin from the Swedes in 1703. Pushkin's great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, oversaw its construction. The first fortifications were inaugurated on 18 May 1704. These fortifications, known as Kronstadt's Forts, were constructed very quickly. During the winter the Gulf of Finland freezes completely. Workers used thousands of frames made of oak logs filled with stones. These were carried by horses across the frozen sea, and placed in cuttings made in the ice. Thus, several new small islands were created, and forts were erected on them, closing all access to Saint-Petersburg by the sea. Only two narrow navigable channels remained, and the strongest forts guarded them.
Kronstadt was thoroughly refortified in the 19th century. The old three-decker forts, five in number, which formerly constituted the principal defences of the place, and defied the Anglo-French fleets during the Crimean War, became of secondary importance. From the plans of Eduard Totleben a new fort, Constantine, and four batteries were constructed (1856–1871) to defend the principal approach, and sevenbatteries to cover the shallower northern channel. All these fortifications were low and thickly-armored earthworks, powerfully armed with heavy Krupp guns in turrets. The town itself is surrounded with an enceinte.
During the Petrograd riots of the February revolution, the sailors of Petrograd joined the revolution and executed their officers, thus gaining a reputation as dedicated revolutionaries. During the civil war, the sailors participated on the red side, until 1921, when they rebelled against the Bolshevik rule.
Kronstadt and the supporting forts and minefields were the key to the protection of Petrograd from foreign forces. Despite this, the cruiser Oleg was torpedoed and sunk by a small motor boat after participating in a bombardment of Krasnaya Gorka fort that had revolted against the Bolsheviks. This was followed on 18 August 1919 by a raid of seven Royal Navy Coastal Motor Boats into the harbor of Kronstadt itself, damaging the Soviet battleships Petropavlovsk and Andrei Pervozvanny sinking a submarine supply ship, the Pamiat Azova.
In 1921, a group of navy officers and sailors, soldiers as well as their civilian supporters rebelled against the Bolshevik government in Soviet Kronstadt. The garrison had previously been a centre of major support for the Bolsheviks, and throughout the Civil War of 1917–1921, the navy of Kronstadt had been at the vanguard of the main Bolshevik attacks. Their demands included 'freedom of speech', a stop to the deportation to work camps, a change in Soviet war politics, and liberation of the soviets (workers' councils) from 'party control'. After brief negotiations, Leon Trotsky (then the Minister of War in the Soviet Government, and the leader of the Red Army) responded by sending the army to Kronstadt, along with the Cheka. The uprising was thus suppressed.
During World War II, Kronstadt was bombed several times by Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe. In August 1941 the Luftwaffe began bombing Kronstadt regularly.
Until 1998, Kronstadt was a closed city, from then on it became a touristic attraction with free access to its territory.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.