Shlisselburg fortress is located on the Ladoga Lake at the beginning of the Neva River, and it is approximately 22 miles east of St Petersburg. The fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often referred to as the «Russian Alcatraz» as it is located on an island and housed prisoners in its dungeon for more than 200 years. Visit it with the help of «Grand Petersburg» — the tour operator of St Petersburg.
The Grand Prince Yury Danilovich of Moscow founded Shlisselburg fortress as a wooden structure in 1323 and named it Oreshek (also Orekhov) («Nutlet»). The fortress stands on Orekhovets Island, whose name refers to nuts in Swedish. The fortress was built to guard access to the Baltic Sea and ultimately Novgorod from Sweden. In 1348 King Magnus Eriksson besieged the fortress and held sway over the island during his crusade of the region until 1352. Russia retook the fortress in 1351 and the destroyed fortress was rebuilt in stone by Archbishop Vasilii Kalika of Novgorod in 1352. The walls of the original stone Nut fortress are still visible today.
In 1478 Veliky Novgorod was subjugated to Moscow, the new capital of Russia. It was at this point the fortress was dismantled and a new fortress was built with walls and towers near the water to close the island to water landings and siege machines. In 1611 the Swedes began a 9 month siege of the fortress and briefly retook it in 1612, naming it Noteborg. This caused Russia to be cut-off from the Baltic Sea for 90 years. However, Peter the Great began the Great Nothern War with Sweden in 1700 with the purpose of returning the lands near the Neva and the Baltic Sea to Russia. On September 27, 1702 Peter the Great and Army Field Marshal Boris Sheremetev began the siege of Noteburg and on October 11, 1702 recaptured the fortress. The victory was costly for Russia with a loss of 6000 men, versus 110 for the Swedish. It was at this point the fortress was renamed to Shlisselburg, or «Key-fortress».
Dating back to the early 18th century, the fortress was used as a «royal prison», where disgraced members of the Peter the Great had his family held. Many famous Russians were held in the prison including Lenin’s brother, Aleksandr Ulyanov, who was ultimately hung there. The last of the prisoners were released in 1917. During WWII the fortress withstood a barrage of shelling and bombing on behalf of the German army but the defense held for 500 days, from September 8, 1941 to January 18, 1943. However, the town of Shlisselburg was captured by the Germans. The Soviet Army recaptured Shlisselburg in 1943 which opened access to Leningrad (St Petersburg). As of 1965, the fortress is a branch of the State Museum of St Petersburg.