New Dvina Fortress    

Archangel, Russia                
Archangel has been inhabited since at least the 1st century, when Vikings, snooping around for new places to pillage, came across a settlement of "many buildings" there around the year 800AD. Located as it is where the Northern Dvina River flows into the White Sea in northern European Russia, the city was front & center in centuries of regional thrashings about featuring those Vikings, Norovgrodians, Norwegians, Swedes and of course Russians.

By the mid-16th century, British, Scottish and Dutch maritime traders had found Archangel. Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) worked out trade deals with the newcomers, and since the Baltic Sea was primarily controlled by Sweden at this time, Archangel became Russia's main link to the outside world...despite the fact that the port was completely locked in by ice during the winter months.

Peter the Great (1672-1725) ordered the construction of a proper shipyard at Archangel in 1693, and New Dvina Fortress was built for its defense from 1701 to 1705. Simultaneously, however, Peter recognized the limitations of a port that's unusable for five months out of the year, and set about bashing at the Swedes in order to obtain a warmer-water port.

A brief word on New Dvina Fortress' location. There are several waterways through which one can reach Archangel from the White Sea, so it took a while for me to locate New Dvina Fortress on Google Maps. It seems to be sited on what would arguably   be   the   shortest,

A 1799 drawing of New Dvina Fort
northernmost route, but one wonders at the wisdom of only protecting one of the routes. Had I been Peter the Great, I would have spread a constellation of starforts all over the Dvina River delta. But that's just me, and I like starforts.

Perhaps Tsar Peter knew best, because in 1703 St. Petersburg was founded on the Baltic sea, in the form of the beginning of construction on the Peter and Paul Fortress, on May 27th. By 1722, Peter decreed that St. Petersburg would henceforth be Russia's primary port, and that Archangel would only be permitted to accept enough goods to sustain itself. All the folks at Archangel's shiny new shipyard and fortress threw their hands up in frustration, and Archangel took a nosedive in international importance for the next few decades. This decree was lifted in 1762, but by then St. Petersburg was firmly established as Russia's main port.


John Bellingham (maybe)
New Dvina Fortress quite possibly played a vastly indirect role in the only assassination of a British Prime Minister, that of Spencer Percival (1762-1812) on May 11 1812. In 1803, a British export representative working in Archangel named John Bellingham (1769-1812) was imprisoned at what was most likely New Dvina Fortress for (perhaps maliciously) thwarting an insurance claim for a ship lost in the White Sea by another, local shipping businessman. Bellingham spent the next few years being imprisoned in various unpleasant places and desperately trying to make his way home, which he finally managed to do in 1809.

Upon his return, Bellingham immediately began petitioning the government of the United Kingdom for compensation of his imprisonment, based on some logic that I don't understand from reading these accounts. Great Britain had broken off diplomatic relations with Russia in November   of
1808, however, and wasn't interested in entertaining Bellingham's loony claims.

Naturally, Bellingham bought two .50 caliber pistols, had special pockets sewn into his coat for their concealment, went to Parliament and hung around until Prime Minister Percival showed, and then proceeded to shoot him in the heart. Way to go, New Dvina Fortress!

Towards the end of the 19th century, Archangel got an economic boost when a rail line to Moscow was completed. Following the Russian Revolution (1917), the city resisted Bolshevik incursion until 1920, serving as the major port of entry for the Allied Expedition: Armies from 14 allied nations flowed into Russia to support the pro-Tsarist, or "White," resistance to the communist "Reds." Fail! Everybody (except Russia) was pretty sick of war by 1920, so the allies left (except Japan, whose 70,000 troops hung around the far east of Russia for the next 5 years), and into Archangel rolled those Reds.

As unhappy with the west as they may well have been, the Soviets were perfectly happy to receive plenty of free military equipment from the Allies during the Second World War (1939-1945), shipped into Archangel.

Today, New Dvina Fortress, a lovely fortification built just at the moment that it became completely unnecessary, doesn't appear to be in use for much of anything. Thanks to the beneficial destructiveness of good ol' Joe Stalin (1878-1953), however, the fort is one of Archangel's few historical sites, as Stalin did such a great job of doing away with the many beautiful old churches of Archangel.

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Peter and Paul Fortress?
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Thanks to Google for the images!
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