Peter and Paul Fortress

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View of the fortress in 1905

The Peter and Paul Fortress (Russian: Петропавловская крепость, also Fortress of SS Peter and Paul) is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, designed by Domenico Trezzini and founded in 1703. The fort contains a number of buildings including the Peter and Paul Cathedral, where all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III are interred; the remains of the Imperial martyrs, Nicholas II and his family and entourage, were also interred there more recently. Other structures include the Mint building (active), the Trubetskoy bastion, the Grand Ducal Crypt, and the City Museum.

The fort was established by Peter the Great on May 16 (by the Julian Calendar, May 27 by the Gregorian Calendar) 1703 on a small island, Zayachii (hare) (or Vesiolii - cheerful) ostrov, on the Neva River. Built during the Northern War, the fort was never actually needed. The fort was completed with six bastions in earth and timber within a year, it was rebuilt with stone from 1706 to 1740. From around 1720 the fort served as a base for the city garrison and also as a prison for high ranking or political prisoners. The Trubetskoy bastion, built in the 1870s, became the main prison block. The Cathedral was built from 1712 to 1733, and has a 123.2 m bell-tower and a gilded angel-topped cupola.
Image:Petropavlovskaia Krepost aerial.jpg
An aerial view of the fortress.

During 1917, it was attacked by mutinous soldiers of the Pavlovskii regiment on February 27 (J) and the prisoners were freed. Under the Provisional Government hundreds of Tsarist officials were held in the Fortress, for their protection from the angry people. So many officials were held that the Fortress was filled and the rest had to be taken to the Mikhailovskii Manege. The Tsar was threatened with being incarcerated at the Fortress on his return from Mogilev to Tsarskoe Selo on March 8 (J), the threat was not followed through and he was placed under house arrest.

On July 4 (J) when the Bolsheviks attempted a putsch the Fortress garrison of 8,000 men declared for the Bolsheviks. They surrendered to government forces without a struggle on July 6 (J) .

On October 25 (J), again, the Fortress quickly came into Bolshevik hands. Following the ultimatum from the Military-Revolutionary Committee to the Provisional Government ministers in the Winter Palace, after the blank salvo of the Cruiser Aurora at 21.00, the guns of the Fortress fired thirty or so shells at the Winter Palace. Only two actually hit, inflicting minor damage, and the defenders refused to surrender - at that time. At 02.10 on the morning of October 26 (J) the Winter Palace was taken by forces under Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, the captured ministers were taken to the Fortress as prisoners.

The Provisional Government ministers were the last prisoners at the Fortress. In 1924 most of the site was converted to a museum. In 1931 the Gas Dynamics Laboratory was added to the site. The structure suffered heavy damage during WW II, but was restored post-war.

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Peter and Paul Fortress

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