Kronstadt was founded by Peter the Great, who took the island of Kotlin from the Swedes in 1703. Pushkin's great-grandfather, Abram Petrovich Gannibal, oversaw its construction. The first fortifications were inaugurated on 18 May 1704.
These fortifications, known as Kronstadt's Forts, were constructed very quickly. During the winter the Gulf of Finland freezes completely. Workers used thousands of frames made of oak logs filled with stones. These were carried by horses across the frozen sea, and placed in cuttings made in the ice. Thus, several new small islands were created, and forts were erected on them, closing all access to Saint-Petersburg by the sea. Only two narrow navigable channels remained, and the strongest forts guarded them.
Kronstadt was thoroughly refortified in the 19th century. The old three-decker forts, five in number, which formerly constituted the principal defences of the place, and defied the Anglo-French fleets during the Crimean War, became of secondary importance. From the plans of Eduard Totleben a new fort, Constantine, and four batteries were constructed (1856–1871) to defend the principal approach, and seven batteries to cover the shallower northern channel. All these fortifications were low and thickly-armored earthworks, powerfully armed with heavy Krupp guns in turrets. The town itself is surrounded with an enceinte.
In summer 1891, the French fleet was officially — and triumphantly — received in Kronstadt. It was a first step towards the coming Franco-Russian Alliance.
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