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Bobruisk Fortress

Bobruisk is known as an industrial center, albeit not very large, but quite developed. And a couple of centuries ago it was a powerful outpost on the path of Napoleon. This is reminded by the Bobruisk fortress, which has been partially preserved to this day. Immediately after its construction it was assigned the first class of defensive structures of the Russian Empire. As conceived by the founders, it was supposed to be the main obstacle on the southern flank. The construction plan was approved personally in 1810 by Emperor Alexander I.

History of the fortress in Bobruisk

This citadel of 120 hectares was one of the largest in Europe at the time. Sometimes it is called Catherine’s, but there is a historical mistake. During the reign of the Empress there was no fortress as such. Under her orders they erected barracks and warehouses for mast billets. When considering the location for the building, attention was drawn to the high bank of the Berezina River. There used to be a castle there. The site became the basis for one of the two forts, as Bobruisk and Dinaburg were to be the backbone of a defense line of more than 1,200 km. This decided the fate of the ancient city, whose history for over 400 years.

All the buildings were completely demolished, including residential quarters, trading houses, and hospitals. The base of the Jesuit church was turned into an ammunition depot. The rest of the area was used for the construction of the fortress. The peasants were not left to their fate; they were given free wood to build houses and offered to settle in the surrounding area.

In the construction of forts, bound and reinforced with earth fortifications, a composition based on egg yolks was used, which made the walls and the buildings themselves very strong.

That said, the Beaverton fortress was a secret. During the construction the cunning architect Karl Ivanovich Opperman immediately installed a system of underground passages, which allowed not to fear complete isolation during the siege, and to make forays into the rear of a possible enemy. The citadel was equipped with the latest technology of the time, which, combined with foresight in planning and preparing the necessary reserves allowed to successfully withstand a siege of Napoleon’s army, which lasted 4 months.

The Role of the Fortress in the War of 1812

The citadel not only protected the southern approaches, but was also a transit point for regular army units. Thus, a three-day rest in it and resupply allowed Bagration’s army to approach in time to connect with the units of Barclay de Tolly. And French troops were never able to take this bastion.

Further fate

After the expansion of the borders, the citadel lost its significance as a defensive line and became a prison for political prisoners. After the Decembrists’ uprising, it included many of its organizers, inspirers and ordinary performers: V. Tizengausen, I. Burtsev, P. Bestuzhev, A. Gvozdev. The peculiar shape of some of the cells caused some of the prisoners to go insane after a short time.

During World War II, the fortress once again became a place of detention, turning into a concentration camp. Within its walls, 7,000 Russian soldiers and officers were burned during one night in 1941.

Features of the architecture of the complex

Fortress in Bobruisk - overview

It was a whole well-fortified city of compact dimensions with a clear layout, where everything was subject to one thing – to ensure successful resistance to the enemy. The basis consists of 5 bastions, living quarters for the garrison of 8 thousand people, outbuildings, warehouses, chapel. Blinded rooms were lined up for the storage of gunpowder. The architecture of the buildings alternated between semicircular elements and sharp angles. Inside were spiral staircases, and the walls themselves were laid out neatly and with great skill.

It took a total of six years to erect it. The main parts were finished in 1811, later it was completed and expanded. The labor force was largely made up of soldiers. The military engineer Theodore Narbut supervised the excavation work, and his plans included the construction of the so-called “wolf pits. There were several entrance gates. The Slutsk, Minsk and Rogachev, sometimes called Vodyanye, were considered the main ones. Ammunition was brought in for a year and food for six months, which ensured a high level of combat readiness of the citadel.

After the expulsion of the French from the territory of Russia and Belarus, modernization of the fortress began, which showed its importance in matters of defense. It was reinforced with lunettes and anti-mine elements. A separate fortification, named after the Prussian king “Friedrich-Wilhelm,” was also built. A dam was installed on the river, and in-built sluices allowed water to fill the space between the main fortress and the new parts.

Streets with military names were laid out inside the fortress:

  • Central;
  • Polygonskaya;
  • Citadel;
  • Infantry;
  • Artillery and others.

A hospital and commandant’s house were also erected. Over time, the value of this complex as a defense structure was lost. It was essentially abandoned and the buildings began to deteriorate. Before World War I, the government received a lucrative offer from Savva Morozov. He was going to buy a fortress. It was planned to open a network of textile factories. For some unknown reason, the deal did not go through.

The fate of Bobruisk Fortress in our days

Only fragments of the former greatness remain. There are about 50 of them. The skill of the builders and the scope of the architect’s thinking continue to fascinate. Opperman Tower, which was built as a prison, is used for its intended purpose. It houses the detention center of Bobruisk. The citadel itself is included in the list of monuments of national importance, yet no concrete steps have been taken to restore and preserve it. But it is worth a visit to plunge into the past and feel proud of your ancestors, who in a short time managed to build such an impregnable fortress.

How to get there

The Citadel is located in the Leninsky district of Bobruisk. Partially preserved nine redoubts, bastion with casemates, Opperman’s Tower, several administrative buildings and sodden earth ramparts.

Many buildings are in a state of disrepair and it is safer to inspect them only from the outside.

From the railway station to the fortress you can walk along Ermak and Karl Liebknecht streets, or take buses number 11 and 11A. There are no organized tours, so you can see the remains of the once-mighty outpost that blocked Napoleon’s way only by yourself, taking with you a few descriptions or schematic maps of the citadel, to orient yourself among the remaining fragments of buildings.

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