Schlusselburg fortress (Oreshek) is located at the head of the Neva River on Lake Ladoga, 50 kilometers of St. Petersburg. The place had a great strategic value so as far back as 1323, in the time of the Novgorod Republic, a fortress appeared there.
Prince of Novgorod Yuriy Danilovich, grandson of Alexander Nevsky, built a fortress called Oreshek on Orekhovets Island. By that time the Novgorodians were at war with Sweden for about 30 years and the construction of the fortress allowed to define Russian borders.
Already in 1324 a peace treaty was signed at Oreshek. According to the treaty, most of the Karelian Isthmus went to Sweden while the lands along the Neva River, which could be controlled from the fortress, were taken by the Novgorodians.
In 1478 the Novgorod Republic was absorbed by Muscovy. After that the old fortress was dismantled and replaced by a new strong citadel. This fortress survived to our days. The walls reach the height of 16 meters, with the width of 5 meters at the base. Due to these strong walls and towers, as well as a strong current, it was very difficult to capture the fortress, but the Swedes still managed to do it in 1612. The fortress renamed Noteburg belonged to them till 1702.
The storm of the fortress in 1702 was one of the most important stages of the Northern Wars. It was headed by Peter I himself. The fortress was captured on October 14, 1702. That same day it was renamed Schlusselburg.
After the Peter and Paul Fortress was built in St. Petersburg and especially after the Treaty of Nystad was signed with Sweden in 1721, the fortress lost its military role and was used as a notorious political prison.
The first prison building called the Secret House (also known as the Old Prison) was constructed in one of the corners of the fortress. It was surrounded by additional walls. There were kept such people as the first wife of Peter I, Lopukhina, the heir to the throne John VI, Biron, Bestuzhev, Dolgorukov princes, the Decembrists and many other state criminals.
In 1884 the New Prison was built. There served their life sentences 68 member of «Narodnaya Volya», including those who assassinated Alexander II in 1881.
After the revolution of 1917 all prisoners were liberated and in 1928 the fortress was turned into a museum. During the Great Patriotic War Schlusselburg played an important role in the defense of Leningrad.