St. Petersburg is called the cultural capital of Russia and now this title is becoming particularly relevant. The "New Tourist Geography of St. Petersburg" project is in full swing; within its framework 18 districts of the city as well as its suburbs are turning into cultural clusters. Perhaps the largest of them is Kronstadt. The fortress island and nearby forts are about to transform into a museum town. It will become the country's largest cultural zone, where a special place will be occupied by the territory of the "Island of Forts" - an art cluster with a total area of 150 ha. Restoration of the historical forts - "Kronshlot", "Peter I" and "Emperor Alexander I", which are cultural heritage sites under the protection of UNESCO, - is scheduled to begin in the coming months and will be completed by 2024.
Until 1996, Kronstadt remained a closed island city, and now it is going to become one of the largest historical and cultural tourist clusters in Russia. Alongside the restoration of historical sites and the construction of new museum and educational facilities, the entire city is about to be transformed: modern infrastructure will be created - energy and water supply systems will be updated, street and road network will be expanded. The development of the "Island of Forts" cluster will play a pivotal role in Kronstadt's growth as a museum town. Facilities of its first construction stage opened this summer. The Museum and Historical Park, which central alley tells about the country's naval history through personalities of the heroes of the Russian fleet, received its first visitors in August. Those naval commanders and sailors, who were immortalized in sculptures, were selected via open online voting, involving more than 80 thousand people from 50 countries. Nearby you will find a children's playground with an area of 1000 sqm, promenades and a panoramic swing on the shore overlooking the legendary forts located on artificial islands off the coast of Kotlin.
The restoration of defensive constructions included in the UNESCO World Heritage List is very important and difficult part of the project. For the moment, forts Kronshlot, Emperor Alexander I and Peter I are far from being in the best condition, they require restoration and adaptation to a modern use. A dam leads to the fort Peter I. Two other forts can only be reached by water. However, the possibility to connect Kotlin Island and the island-fort Alexander I by a ropeway of 1200 meters long is considered for the future. This way, up to 300 people per hour can be transported to the historic fort named after the Russian emperor. The shape of the fort resembles the famous French Fort Boyard, but it is larger.
Fort Alexander I, built in the first half of the XIX century on an artificial island, has another name – Plague Fort. The fact is that there was once an anti-plague laboratory. It was organized in 1899 by the director of the Institute of Experimental Medicine, Professor of Forensic Medicine, Sergey Lukyanov. For the purposes of a small group of scientists, the structure of the fort was re-equipped – elevators were installed, steam heating was made and a cremation oven was built. It was the third such laboratory in the world, the other two were located near Paris, France and in Bombay, India. Research continued until the First World War, and in 1918 the laboratory was closed and moved to Saratov, where the anti-plague institute Microbe was created. After that, the fort was used as a warehouse of minesweeping equipment, it was gradually destroying. Emergency work is currently underway there, and the restoration of the fortress will begin in early 2021. It will become a museum. Restoration work in the forts Kronshlot and Peter I, located next to Plague Fort, will also begin soon.
During the preparation for the restoration of the forts, a large amount of work was done - complex archaeological research on an area of more than 27 hectares, - the press service of the project Island of Forts told MK (Moskovskij Komsomolets). – The engineering survey included not only underwater studies of forts structures and the water area of the Cabotage harbor, but also full-scale field works. Specialists identified the design features of the forts, and managed to check the compliance of the structures and their details with historical descriptions. Historical maps were produced, a large selection of historical and bibliographic information was prepared. All available archival materials on the forts have been studied.
The draft concept of restoration and adaptation to modern use of the Kronstadt forts "Emperor Alexander I", "Kronshlot" and "Peter I" was approved by the Council for Protection of Cultural Heritage of St. Petersburg. At the present time the State Expertise’s positive conclusion of the developed project documentation has been received, which makes it possible to start restoration process. The work is planned to be completed by 2024.
Each of the forts will have its own museum. In the "Peter I" fort it will be dedicated to mine explosives. In "Kronshlot" there will be a historical exposition telling about the history of the fortress, which began in 1704 (it was the first defensive structure in the harbor). And in the "Plague" Fort it is planned to open a museum dedicated to the fight against viruses and the creation of a plague vaccine.
The establishment of the city-museum in Kronstadt is planned to be fully completed by 2025.
The material was prepared as a result of 5 information and presentation press tours series that took place from November 28 to December 7, 2020 in the northern capital. It was attended by 50 journalists and bloggers from different regions of Russia.