Olavinlinna ("St. Olaf's Castle" or "Olofsborg") is one of the greatest medieval castles in Finland. It was built to secure the eastern border of the Kingdom of Sweden-Finland. The construction started in 1475 by Erik Axelsson Tott. Russians disturbed construction work sequently, because the castle was sited in Savonia to the Russian side of the border established by the Treaty of Nöteborg. Olavinlinna was completed probably in 1483 and there were first a main castle and three towers (Church Tower, Bell Tower and St. Erik's Towers).
Olavinlinna withstood several sieges by the Russians during the First and Second Russian-Swedish wars. Gustav Vasa ordered to erect fourth tower (a "Fat Tower") in 16th century and fifth ("Kilj Tower") was built in the 17th century. The castle was conquered first time by the invading Russians in Great Northern War on 28 July 1714. St. Erik's Tower was badly damaged in cannon fire and Russians demolished it. Olavinlinna was returned to Swedish in Treaty of Uusikaupunki, but they lost it constanly only 23 years later in the end of the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-1743.
Russians enhanced Olavinlinna fortifications and it withstood the siege of Swedish in the war of Gustav III in 1788. The Fat Tower was destroyed in an explosion of gunpowder supply in 1791. When Russians occupied Finland in 1809, Olavinlinna lost its defensive status. It was used as garrison, storage and prison and was abandoded in 1850s. Renovation was started in the end of the 19th century.
Currently, the castle hosts several small exhibitions, including the Castle Museum which displays artifacts found in the castle or related to it, and the Orthodox Museum which displays icons and other religious artifacts both from Finland and Russia. The castle forms a spectacular stage for the Savonlinna Opera Festival, held annually in the summer since 1912.
Olavinlinna is the initial model for Kropow Castle in the comic book King Ottokar's Sceptre, an album in the series of Adventures of Tintin created by Hergé.
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.