Peter the Great’s naval fortress

​A large complex of fortifications, also located in Estonia and Finland, was built before and during World War I as part of the system protecting St Petersburg, the capital of the Russian empire, from attacks by sea.

The defence of St Petersburg was changed after heavy losses suffered in the Japan-Russia war (1904-1905). The first plan was completed in 1907. The main defence relied on minefields, coastal batteries and the navy. The main position, the Tallinn-Naissaar-Porkkala line, was known as the Naval Fortress of Emperor Peter the Great, and was the essential part of the defence.

Construction began in 1911. New buildings included anti-ship and anti-aircraft batteries, shelters, trenches, railways and roads, bridges, ports, shipyards and urban military.

The fortress was never completed: its various buildings were destroyed by the retreating Russian troops in 1918. It was, nevertheless, a power to be considered and the German troops made only one serious attempt to break through it before they invaded Estonia (1918).

In the subsequent period of the Republic of Estonia, parts of the fortress were used as the basis for constructing Estonia’s own coastal and sea defence. Due to insufficient funds and often changing defence plans, the coastal and sea defence was never fully built, with the exception of Aegna Island, where the old buildings were extended and modernised and some new ones were added.

During subsequent occupations of Estonia, the buildings of the fortress were not actively used for their original purpose, because warfare had essentially changed. In the middle of the 1950s, the coastal and sea defence based on artillery was abandoned, and the fortifications were only used as storage space.

Since the restoration of independence, practically no parts of the fortress have been used for any military purposes, and they are waiting for a new civilian life.

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