The Bobruisk Fortress and its history

The Bobruisk Fortress and its history

The Bobruisk Fortress is not as well known as the Brest Fortress - and in vain. Its history is no less dramatic and its role in the Belarusian history is significant.

History of the construction of the Bobruisk Fortress

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The Bobruisk fortress is older than the Brest fortress, and in the 19th century it was considered as one of the most impregnable fortresses in Europe. It was built by the order of Tsar Alexander I to strengthen the defensive line on the western border of the Russian Empire. Prior to that in the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, there had been an ancient castle which probably also had played a role in the choice of the site. The construction work began in 1810. It was managed by Count Karl Opperman, and involved mostly soldiers and peasants in its construction. According to the architectural plan, apart from the strong walls, the fortress was additionally protected by 10-meter high ramparts and ditches, which were fed by water from the Berezina and Bobrujka rivers. The engineer Theodore Narbut, who was one of the originators of the Bobruisk fortress, developed an ingenious system of "wolf holes" and underground passages in order to disorient the enemy and have an opportunity to attack from the rear if necessary. The arsenal of the Bobruisk fortress had over 300 guns of different calibers, and the supply of ammunition and food was to be sufficient for a long siege - from six months to one year.

The test by battle

The not yet completed fortress was tested by the battle. In 1812 it was besieged by Napoleon's troops. "No other fortress in Russia was as useful as Bobruisk in 1812" - Major-General Mikhailovsky wrote in his memoirs. And here is why: for more than four months the small garrison of the Bobruisk fortress held back the onslaught of the Great Army of twenty thousand men. Thanks to the fortress, General Bagration, commander of the 2nd Russian Army, was able to let the army rest for three days, replenish personnel and ammunition supplies, and then unite with the 1st Army of Barclay de Tolly.

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In 1820-23 the future Decembrists served in the fortress, and it was here where they came up with the so-called "Bobruisk plan" to overthrow Alexander I. As we know, it was not destined to happen. After the Senate Square uprising was put down, the Decembrists were sent to the Bobruisk fortress, which became a prison for political prisoners in 1825. Hertzen wrote about intolerable conditions of the Decembrists' detention in the Bobruisk fortress: "Let it be Siberia, let it be anything, but not this terrible prison on the Berezina river!

The construction continued, and by 1855 the fortress had grown into a small town with houses and administration. There was also Alexander Nevsky Cathedral there, a botanical garden and a public garden, and four streets were paved with stone. Military parades and fairs were held here from time to time.

During World War II the Bobruisk fortress had one of the darkest days because for a time it became a concentration camp for Soviet prisoners of war. About 40 thousand soldiers and about the same number of civilians died here.

The Bobruisk Fortress today

Unfortunately, after the war the Bobruisk fortress continued to deteriorate and the authorities did not try at least to conserve it. Less than half of its objects have survived to this day. Only in 2002 the government paid attention to the fortress and included it into the list of historical and cultural sites of Belarus. In the future it is planned to turn it into a historical and cultural complex and partially reconstruct it. For example, the reconstruction of the observation bridge and the Minsk Gate is planned. But even now the Bobruisk fortress looks so majestic and formidable that it attracts tourists.

It's worth a visit to touch the living and unpolished history of Belarus.