Kronstadt, also spelled Kronshtadt, Cronstadt (German:
Krone for Crown and Stadt for City) is a Russian seaport
town, located on Kotlin Island, thirty kilometres west
of Saint Petersburg near the head of the Gulf of Finland.
It is under the administration of the federal city of Saint
Petersburg and is also its main port.
In March 1921 it was the site of the Kronstadt rebellion.
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 World Heritage Site Saint
Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments.
Kronstadt was founded by Peter the Great, who took
the island of Kotlin from the Swedes in 1703.
The first fortifications were
inaugurated on 18 May 1704.
These fortifications, known as Kronstadt's Forts,
were constructed very quickly.
The Gulf of Finland is not very deep, so during the
winter it completely freezes through.
Workers used thousands of frames 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 seven batteries to
cover the shallower northern channel.
All these fortifications
were low and thickly armoured
earthworks, powerfully armed
with heavy Krupp guns in turrets.
The town itself is surrounded
with an enceinte.
In 1921 a group of sailors and soldiers and
their civilian supporters rebelled against
the Bolshevik regime in Soviet Kronstadt.
Their demands included freedom of speech, a s
top to the deportation to concentration camps,
a change of Soviet war politics and the
liberation of the soviets (workers'
councils) from Party control.
After brief negotiations Leon Trotsky, then the
Minister for War in the Soviet Government and
the leader of the Red Army, answered by sending
the army to Kronstadt, and the
uprising was ruthlessly suppressed.
This was the last major revolt against Communist
rule within Russia proper until the
dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
World War II
During World War II, Kronstadt was bombed several
times by Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe.
The most famous bombing was Stuka ace Hans-Ulrich
Rudel's sinking of the Soviet battleship Marat.
The town of Kronstadt is built on level ground and is thus
exposed to inundations, the most famous being in 1824.
On the south side of the town there are three harbours:
the large western or merchant harbour, the western flank
of which is formed by a great mole joining the
fortifications which traverse the breadth of the island
on this side; the middle harbour, used chiefly for
fitting out and repairing vessels; and the eastern
or war harbour for vessels of the Russian navy.
The Peter and Catherine canals, communicating with the
merchant and middle harbours, traverse the town.
Between them stood the old Italian palace of Prince
Menshikov, the site of which was
later occupied by a pilot school.
The modern town's most striking landmark is the
enormous Naval Cathedral, built from 1908 to 1913
and considered to represent a culmination
of the Russian Neo-Byzantism.
The older St Andrew Cathedral (1817), formerly
Kronstadt's pride and beauty, was destroyed on
communist orders in 1932. St Ioann of Kronstadt,
one of the most venerated Russian saints,
served there as a priest from 1855 to 1908.
Among other public buildings are the naval hospital,
the British seamen's hospital (established in 1867),
the civic hospital, admiralty (founded 1785), arsenal,
dockyards and foundries, school of marine engineering,
and the English church.
The port is ice-bound for 140 to 160 days in the year,
from the beginning of December to April.
A very large proportion of the
inhabitants are sailors.
The Kronstadt Sea Fortress used to be considered
the most fortified port in the world.
It has never been taken by an outside force.
Kronstadt still retains some of the "forts",
small fortified artificial islands.
Formerly there were 42 such forts, situated in
line between the southern and northern shores
of the Gulf of Finland.
Some fortifications were located inside the
city itself and one was on the western shore
of the Kronslot Island (on the other side
of the main navigational channel).
Nowadays, the construction of the Saint
Petersburg Dam has led to some of
the forts being demolished.
The dam also permitted Kronstadt and some of
the forts to be reached without using a boat.
Among the most important surviving forts are
the Fort Konstantin, the biggest in the Gulf
of Finland; the Fort Rif on the western shore
of the island; and the particularly
well-preserved Chumnoy Fort (Plague Fort).
The largest and the newest of the forts,
constructed at the beginning of the 20th century,
is Fort Totleben, named after Eduard Totleben.
For a more information about
Kronstadt see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia