Bobruisk Fortress which remains have survived present days appeared on the site of a wooden castle in 1807-1836 after the town entered the Russian Empire. Construction of the fortress began after Alexander I signed a corresponding decree on August, 10 1810. The fortress was considered to be the most powerful and impregnable fortress on the territory of the Russian Empire. It was equipped to the latest military art. By the beginning of the war of 1812 the fortress had 5 bastions, inner constructions, ramparts and fosses.
Ideal Classicism Town
Each century in the history of the town was marked by struggles and difficulties. Bobruisk survived invasions of Lithuanian princes, Crimean and Akkermansk tatars, Polish governors, the Napoleon’s Army.
In 1933 Bobruisk became very popular after it was mentioned in The Little Golden Calf (Russian: Золотой телёнок, Zolotoy telyonok) , a famous satirical novel by Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov.
Ancestor of the Fortress
Many centuries ago Bobruisk had a castle. It was a quadrangle building on the right bank of the Berezina River. From its one side the building was protected by a steep hill. Its other sides were protected by a fifteen-meter wide fosse. The perimeter of the fortress was lined with wooden and earthworks. The fortress also had a number of two-storeyed towers and wall gun slots.
The famous Bobruisk Fortress was built on the site of this castle.
In 1793 after the second partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Bobruisk entered the Russian Empire and got a status of an uyezd town of Minsk province. Soon Bobruisk had to face the Napoleon’s army invasion.
In 1810 Bobruisk began construction of a fortress on the bank of the Berezina. Serves from Minsk, Chernigov, and Mogilev provinces worked there.
The construction was guide by the general-lieutenant K.I.Opperman – a count coming from the noble family of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. In 1795 he worked out a design strengthening the power of western borders of the Russian Empire. The fortress in Bobruisk was included in his project.
Development of smooth-faced artillery influenced construction of the Bobruisk Stronghold. All fortification works corresponded to the latest achievements of defense art. The wooden churches were burnt all round Bobruisk. The Jesuit Church and the monastery were reconstructed to be used as artillery ware houses and armouries. Only citizens able to build stone houses remained in the town. Others were sent over the forts.
The Bobruisk Fortress became an ideal classicism town. It was a powerful construction of a square shape with a light curve in, replaying a curve of the Berezina River.
The Northern and Eastern parts of the fortress had special quarters with a hospital, barracks, warehouses and powder magazines. There was a front square, a stone cathedral and a commandant’s house at the edge of the fortress. The Bobruisk Fortress was built rather quickly. It justified itself to be a powerful defense construction and stood a four-month siege of the Napoleon’s Army.
In 1817 the Bobruisk Fortress was visited by the Russian Emperor Alexander I. He ordered all wooden houses situated inside the fortress to be pulled down within a year. According to the project of the famous architect Shtaubert stone houses were to be built instead of the old wooden ones.
In general, planning of the Bobruisk Fortress changed time and again in different historical periods depending on demands for the fortress’s protection.
In April 1818 a new lay-out of the Bobruisk Fortress was presented to Alexander I. According to it the old wall was to be pulled down, and the overall development was related to fortification line. Besides, the fortress’s external view also changed: its outlines became irregular.
In general, construction of fortification was finished only by 1836, but the game was worth the candle. In 1940-s the Bobruisk Fortress was recognized to be the best fortress in Europe.
A bit of history
When the Russian Empire enlarged its borders towards west, Bobruisk Fortress happened to be drawn aside of defense line.
In 1868 its status was changed from the first to the second, and in 1886 the fortress was changed into fortress- storehouse.
In the XIX century Bobruisk Fortress was used as a state prison. The Decembrists - conspirators S.I. Muravyov-Apostol, M.P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin, I.S. Povalo-Shvekovski who had intended to kill Emperor Alexander I but hadn’t managed to fulfill this plan, were imprisoned there.
The turret, houses and casernes of Bobruisk Fortress ensemble, as well as some bastions (including the one where the above mentioned Decembrists were kept) have remained till our days.
A lot of long underground tunnels radiate from the Fortress. Some of them are several kilometers long and stretching under the river reach the local forest.