Within a year of founding St Petersburg, Peter – desirous of protecting his new Baltic toehold – started work on the fortress of Kronshtadt on Kotlin Island, 29km out in the Gulf of Finland. Kronshtadt (population 45,100) has been a pivotal Soviet and Russian naval base ever since and was closed to foreigners until 1996.
Soviet history buffs will be interested to visit due to the famous Kronshtadt Mutiny which took place here in 1921 – one of the last overt signs of opposition to the revolution until perestroika. The Red Army sailors stationed there, ironically, were the most revolutionary, pro-Bolshevik element in 1917; Trotsky called them ‘the pride and glory of the Russian Revolution’. Four years later, though, hungry and poor, the sailors set up a Provisional Revolutionary Committee and drafted a resolution demanding, among other things, an end to Lenin’s harsh policy of War Communism.
Red Army attempts to stifle the mutiny were at first repulsed, but on 16 March 1921 the mutineers we’re defeated when 50,000 troops crossed the ice from Petrograd and massacred nearly the entire naval force. Though bloodily suppressed, the event did cause Lenin to relax state pressure and scrap War Communism, marking the end of the Russian revolutionary movement.
The main reason to visit here today is to view up close the exterior of the unusual and beautiful Naval Cathedral.
Built to honour Russian naval muscle, this neo-Byzantine styled wonder stands on Anchor Sq (Yakornaya pi), where you’ll also find an eternal flame for all of Kronshtadt’s sailors and the florid Art Nouveau monument of Admiral Makarov. The cathedral’s intricately detailed facade (anchors and all) has a haunting air of mystery – the off-limits interior has been used as a sailors’ club and cinema since 1932.
A section of the cathedral houses the mildly interesting Central Naval Museum.
Otherwise, Kronshtadt is a pleasant place to stroll around. In the harbourside Petrovsky Park, 700m southwest of the Naval Cathedral, there’s a statue of Peter the Great and you can glimpse Russian warships and even some submarines: be careful about taking any photographs here though. In recent summers Kronshtadt and some of the surrounding sea forts have been the scene of big dance parties, something
St Petersburg aims to promote in the future – keep an eye out for posters in the city advertising events out here.
Sights & Information
Central Naval Museum ((Bj 236 4713; admission R100; о11am-5.15pmWed-Sun)
Skazka (pr Lenina 31) Decorated with Disney characters, this is a good choice from the cafes on the town’s main drag.
Distance from St Petersburg 29km Direction West Travel Time 20 to 30 minutes Bus The only proper bus to serve Kronshtadt is No 510 (30 minutes), leaving regularly throughout the day from outside the Staraya Derevnya metro station on the Vyborg Side.
Marshrutkas leave St Petersburg from outside the nearby Chyornaya Rechka: exit the station to your left, cross the street and veer right towards the bus stop where marshrutkas (20 minutes) or private cars will be waiting. You will arrive in Kronshtadt at the bus stop on the corner of Grazhdanskaya and pr Lenina. From there it’s about a 1km walk southeast to the Naval Cathedral.