Among them was the already world-famous writer Maxim Gorky, who made an appeal on the evening of January 9 “To all Russian citizens and public opinion of all European governments”. Gorky was released in a few weeks thanks to a widespread campaign in Russia and abroad in his defence. While in prison Gorky wrote the tragic comedy Children of the Sun, showing how far the Russian intelligentsia, “blind, drunk not with deeds, but only with pretty words and ideas”, was from understanding the real needs of the Russian people.

In 1907 the tsarist authorities closed down the periodical journal Byloye (The Past) published in St Petersburg since January 1906 and dedicated to the history of the Russian liberation movement (which published, incidentally, on a regular basis news about prisoners of the “Russian Bastille”). One of its publishers, the historian and literary critic Piotr Shchogolev spent more than two years in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where he completed his great work The Duel and Death of Pushkin.

Leaving the prison facilities of the Tru-betskoi Bastion, one may walk along the narrow street between the Catherine Curtain Wall and the Mint Works to the Naryshkin Bastion, upon which stands the flagstaff tower built in 1731-32. In the nineteenth century flags and the keys to the fortress gates were kept here. Today, two guns stand on the bastion to the right of the flagstaff tower. Everyday precisely at 12:00 noon one of them fires a blank shot (the second stands by on reserve). This old tradition was renewed during Leningrad’s 250-year anniversary celebration. Not far from the Naryshkin Bastion is the Neva Gate, built in the style of Classicism by the architect Nikolai Lvov. The gate faces the fortress and is decorated with two pairs of pilasters and a triangular pediment under which the date of the gate’s construction can be read – 1787. The tympanum of the pediment contains a cartouche similar to the one located on the St John Gate.

When you pass under the Neva Gate and walk towards the bank of the Neva, notice the marble and metal plaques fastened to the wall marking the maximum waterline in six places during the most severe floods of the Neva. These marks are accompanied by the following inscriptions:

November 7, 1824, in the second hour of the afternoon water stood 12 feet 10 inches above the normal water level as marked by the line between the letters A and B; September 23, 1924, at 19:30 hours water stood 11 feet and 8 inches above the normal water level as indicated by this line; September 10, 1777, in the seventh hour p.m. water stood according to the red line 9 feet and 11 inches above the normal water level; September 29, 1975, from 3:55 a.m. to 4:20 a.m. water stood 9 feet and 4 inches above the normal water level as indicated by the line;

October 23, 1752, in the tenth hour p.m. according to the green line water stood 8 feet and 5 inches above the normal water level; September 27, 1788, in the second hour a.m. water stood according to the blue line 7 feet and 6 inches above the normal water level. To the left of these curious “chronicle of the floods of the Neva” fastened to the wall is a tide-gauge consisting of a surveyor’s rod marked off in points, which serves to determine the height of water on the river. The floods recorded here caused great damage to the entire city as well as to the fortress itself.

Exiting onto the Neva or Commandant’s Pier, built in 1777, you will see first and foremost the splendid panorama of the Palace Embankment on the opposite bank. To the left across the Neva spans the Kirov (formerly the Trinity) Bridge, the most beautiful bridge in Leningrad opened May 16, 1903, during the city’s bicentennial celebration. Its street lights and obelisks standing near its ends remind one of the Alexander III Bridge in Paris, which was built in 1896 in commemoration of the expansion of Russian-French ties which had commenced five years earlier. Not far from the pier on the right you will again see (this time from the outside) the Naryshkin Bastion. The Neva flows almost right up to its very feet, and the Bastion and the pier appear to be “emerging” out of the water. In the eighteenth century the entire fortress facade “emerged” out of the water in this way.

Behind the Naryshkin Bastion, in front of the Catherine Curtain Wall stand a few dozen tall trees not visible from the pier – the remnants of the park built in 1862 for exercising certain “noble” prisoners (that is, prisoners of noble descent). A little further along the bank of the Neva, and also not visible from the pier, are the Trubetskoi Bastion with the batardeau and half-counterguard and the St Alexei Ravelin. In the opposite direction from the pier stretches the Neva Curtain Wall which ends at the third bastion on the Neva side, the Tsar Bastion. Behind this bastion are located its batardeau and half-counterguard. The fortress walls facing the Neva are reveted with granite. The granite reveting of the Neva facade contains a number of decorative elements. The corners of the bastions, the half-counterguard and the ravelin are rusticated, and small towers rise exquisitely above these corners.

At the end of the eighteenth century the Neva pier and the Neva Gate became the second formal entrance into the fortress. The side of the gate facing the river is decorated with a portico in the style of Classicism and four columns joined in pairs at the bottom by mighty granite blocks. The gate is crowned by a triangular pediment with images of an anchor placed on crossed branches and two bombs. Under the pediment is the inscription: The Neva Gate, 1787.

On the bastions facing the river the oldest surviving St Petersburg memorial inscriptions can be found. These inscriptions, executed in bronze letters, are fastened to granite slabs and indicate the dates when the granite revet-ing of the various bastions was completed. To give the inscriptions an even more solemn appearance, in several places the Cyrillic letter H is replaced with the Latin TV. The first two inscriptions of this type appeared on the faces of the bastion known today as the Naryshkin Bastion. Their identical text reads: “The Bastion of the Empress Catherine Alexeyevna. Clad in stone during the reign of Catherine II in 1870.” And it was from these very inscriptions that the title Clad in Stone was chosen by the eminent Soviet writer Olga Forsh for her novel written in 1924-25 and dedicated to the tragic fate of the “Russian Iron-Mask” – the nobleman-revolutionary Mikhail Beideman. Beideman emigrated to Italy in 1860 and fought for Risorgimento (the Union of Italy) in the detachment of Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1861 he was arrested on the border attempting to return to his homeland, and was held without trial for twenty years in solitary confinement in the Secret House of the St Alexei Ravelin, where he went insane.

The novel Clad in Stone is the best among the literary works whose action takes place, at least partially, within the Peter and Paul Fortress. The latter was also the setting for scenes in the interesting film The Palace and the Fortress, first released in 1924, and whose script was written by Olga Forsh together with a former prisoner of the fortress, the historian and literary critic Piotr Shchogolev. From the Neva pier the viewer may walk along the Neva Curtain Wall and the Tsar Bastion to the batardeau connecting the point of the latter with the half-counterguard covering its left face. In the batardeau the tops of two bricked-in arches mark the place where the aquatic gates were formerly located. Walking further along the shore of the island one will soon see the St John Bridge and crossing the Kronwerk Strait over it, one will again be at the intersection of Kirov Prospekt and Kuibyshev Street.


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4 Dec 2008

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