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Primorsky Krai , Vladivostok

Vladivostok fortress

Музей «Владивостокская крепость»
Игорь Онучин , Туристско-информационный центр Приморского края

 It hasn’t been used according to its intended purposes for a long time that is why it doesn’t have so awe-inspiring look as it used to have. Although only one hundred years ago the citadel created by Russian engineers and builders didn’t have the world analogues and was considered as the most unconquerable naval fortress. One hundred and thirty fortifications, defensive points, and coastal batteries, equipped with 1, 4 thousand guns, which as the matter of fact, didn’t bring down fire on adversary for the entire history of the existence, were installed on the 400 square kilometers. 

The fortress′s history began from the establishing of the small coastal post in the Far East. For this purpose on July 2, 1860, the group of soldiers under warrant officer Komarov command disembarked in the Zolotoy Rog Bay. The small detachment had built wooden outpost, military barracks, and various constructions for household use inside for four months.

In the late 19-th century, with armaments development, it stood to reason that Vladivostok fortifications were absolutely unfitted for defense of Russia′s eastern frontiers. The construction of the new outpost was entrusted to the military governor of the Primorskaya oblast, prominent engineer, Pavel F. Unterberger. He developed a plan of the all-round defense construction and offered a fortress to be equipped with the newest artillery systems and powerful garrison to be placed there.

The famous engineer-scientists such as colonels Chernoknizhnikov, Velichko, Zhigalkovskiy, and Chizh designed the fortress′s permanent installations. More than 1.3 thousands minor and major elements of the defensive system second to none in the world fortification were built within a short period. The most advanced technologies such as mechanical perforators, stone crashing machines, and transporting cableway were applied in the course of the construction. Many Chinese were involved in the building process, however, with the beginning of the underground and concrete works they were replaced by the Russian builders in order to keep in strict confidence the military secrets of defense facility.

 On February 22, 1904, the Japanese squadron under admiral Kamimura command, attempted to attack Vladivostok. Around 200 projectiles were delivered to its fortifications. The fortress didn’t strike back because of its unreadiness to bombardment. Even though, there were no heavy destructions in the city, it was the good lesson for military engineers to find out the shortcomings of the fortifications. Literally days after a vast amount of money (98 million rubles in gold) was allocated to construction of the main line of defense of the fortress. Talented military engineer, General Aleksey Shoshin was put in charge for works.  The forts, defensive points, and antimine galleries built under his auspices from 1910 to 1914, made Vladivostok the greatest naval fortress in the world.

The forts got their own names, but not only numbers. So, forts on Russkiy Island were named after grand princes in Ancient Russia, but northern forts — in honour of the Dynasty Romanovs′ czars and Emperors.

This naval fortress had become the biggest one in the world to the beginning of the First World War. Its enormous garrison numbered 80 thousand men. The powerful citadel, a mere glance of which put enemies off, completely performed its mission, seeing no action. Reportedly, the Japanese Intelligence Service recommended General Staff to put the line «strike from the seaward» out from the plan of Vladivostok capture.

 The Voroshilov battery — an impressive construction of the Soviet fortifier-engineers was erected in 1934 in Russkiy Island. The underground works and rock excavation took two years of building activity.   The concrete facilities under each of two towers descend under the ground to the depth of 15 meters. The concrete vault 3.5 meters thick can withstand a direct hit of aerobomb weighing 1ton. The underground passage 200 meters long links two towers. The huge battery guns weighing 51 tons were rotated by efforts of 10 men in the absence of the electricity.

The Voroshilov Battery was a battle unit of the Russia Armed Forces till 1997. Now it is a branch of the Military and History Museum of the Pacific Fleet. It is interesting that upon examination of battery guns′ accuracy in 1992, the barrel about 2 meters in diameter was destroyed at the third attempt over a distance of 6 admiralty miles (1 admiralty mile equals to 1852 meters). The main museum building is located in the ancient detached house that is historical and architectural monument. The construction committee of Vladivostok port built it in 1903 upon architecture I. Zeenshtrudt′s project. This building was intended for permanent residence of the Siberian Navy Stuff′s married and single officers. The museum has at disposal an unique collection of the showpieces but museum foundation numbers more than 40 thousand depository items such as old-time honours, arms, personal belongings of the famous Russian sailors, colours and banners, ships models, the collection of pictures of famous Primorye′s artists.

The fortress installations are scattered on the vast territory from the Vladivostok suburb to the islands of Peter the Great Gulf. The forts are located on the hills but the batteries — on the capes. One can bump into some fortified structure or other in Vladivostok all over the place.

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Address: Vladivostok, Primorsky Territory

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