The forts of the First World War

The First World War influenced much the development of Grodno region in 1914-1918. A hundred years ago, bloodthirsty battles between the Russian army and the Kaiser troops took place in the outskirts of Grodno region for a long time. Now only the majestic forts of the First World War that have survived up to now in bad condition reminds us about the sad events that took place a hundred years ago in Grodno region. These forts are still important for researchers studying the historical development of Grodno region, and tourists who come to witness the powerful monuments left behind by the former wars, and simple lovers that sometimes get into the forts to take pictures how this all looks fr om the inside.  

Fort is a massive fortification wh ere there are a military post, ammunition and weapons. The first forts were formed in the outskirts of Grodno in the XIX century and presented dug works. However, as it was shown by the Russo-Japanese war, those fortifications were not very reliable and effective; they could not fully disrupt an attack of the most experienced enemy. It was necessary to build quickly something new, something more modern. There were only seven earthen fortifications; and only three ones have survived: the first, second and fifth works.

By decree of Emperor Nicholas II, in 1912, the construction of new forts of Grodno fortress was started. Concrete structures were located a few kilometers from the town on the both banks of the Neman. There were constructed thirteen full-featured concrete forts, and the rest remained either unfinished, or at all in the blueprint stage. The construction of the first five structures took place in the late XIX century and lasted for two years. The fourth fort is the only one that has survived since the First World War. It has been well preserved and is located near Strelchiki village of Grodno region just a few kilometers from neighboring Poland.

Interestingly, the concrete forts were fully equipped for soldiers disposed there, ranging from the illumination to the ventilation system. There were erected special posts called armor cupolas to observe enemies. Numerous entries were closed by massive doors. It is thought that those forts were built by the local population, that is, by ordinary residents of Grodno. It was a very profitable business as one could earn money. So many people were eager to take part in the construction. The work went on even in severe frosts. For a long time, the retreating Russian army had been destroying those forts exploding them. Only four of them have been preserved in good condition. There are mass graves of soldiers of the war period near the dilapidated fortifications.

The forts were often used not only by the Russian army but also by the enemy troops. Sometimes they were turned into warehouses. The forts of the First World War, dilapidated, neglected and covered with moss, are worth visiting by those who travel in Grodno region and are keenly interested in military fortifications left to the Belarusian land by terrible war years.