Shlisselburg - A Remarkable Heritage

In Leningrad Oblast, Russia, you will find a town called Shlisselburg, which is found at the head of the Neva River on Lake Ladoga, approximately 45 kilometers east of St. Petersburg. The town was previously known as Petrokrepost and had a population of around about 12,401 according to a Census taken in 2002. The fortress and the city centre are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In the 1300s Shlisselburg was built by the Novgorod Republic to act as a fortress and was named Oreshek. It was in a very good position to guard Novgorod and also had easy access to the Baltic Sea. The fortress was built on the Orekhovets Island, which means ‘nuts’ in Russian, Finnish and Swedish.

There were many Russo-Swedish conflicts, but in 1323 a peace treaty was signed between Sweden and the Novgorod Republic in Orekhovets. This was the first agreement on the border between the Western and Eastern Christianity, which continues to run through the area now known as Finland. In 1611 the fort was captured by Sweden during the Ingrian War and was renamed Noteborg, or Pahkinalinna in Finnish.

During the Great Northern War, in 1702, the fortress was again taken, this time by the Russians under Peter the Great. It was here that it was given its now present name Shlisselburg, which means “Key-fortress” in German. During the reign of Imperial Russia, Shlisselburg was used as a well known political prison. Among the legendary prisoners were Mikhail Bakunin, Wilhelm Kuchelbecher and for thirty-eight years, Walerian Lukasinski. Aleksandr Ulyanov, Lenin’s brother, was hanged there and Ivan VI of Russia was murdered here in 1764.

The fortress contained ten towers, but out of those there are only six left, that being five Russian and one Swedish. What remains of the church that was inside the fortress has now become the memorial of all those who defended the fortress. You can also find a museum inside, which contains a small collection of artillery from the World War II and is also a museum of political prisons of the Russian Empire.


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