Estonia and Russia. Narva and Ivangorod. Narva Castle and Ivangorod Castle. All of that can be seen in one place, which has been crucial for European history. Two fortresses that are situated right at the Russian-Estonian border, have been changing their owners during the course of history – Denmark, Sweden, Livonian Order, Germany, USSR, Russia and Estonia. Military conflicts, political prisoners, devastating damages and reconstructions, both of these brother-castles have played a key role in European history.
The foundation of the Narva Castle (a.k.a. Hermann Castle) has been laid in the 13th century when the Danes have built wooden fortifications. The construction has been gradually improved and empowered, which led to the creation of the city of Narva (name of the river, near which the castle was built).
Later, the castle has become the property of the Livonian Order that has started building the castle’s most notable site – the Hermann Tower (jokingly called the Long Hermann). Numerous reconstructions have been undertaken during its existence, despite the constant owner swapping – after the Order, it was taken by Russians and then Swedes, who, under the supervision of the legendary engineer Erik Dahlbergh, have substantially increased the fortification’s and castle’s territory.
Ironically, Russian Emperor Peter the Great, from whom the newly built improvements were destined to be protected, has conquered the castle during the Northern War. Upon being in the arms of Russia and, later, Estonia, the Castle was heavily damaged after the World War II, which has led to numerous renovations that still take place to this day.
This castle has been built on the opposite side of river Narva – directly facing the Estonian neighbour. It has been the center of military conflict right from the beginning, as it has been constantly swapped between Russians and Swedes. Similar to the closest fortress, Ivangorod castle has been rebuilt, enlarged and enhanced – three towers were built, including the biggest one, the Provision Tower, and the Virgin’s Dominion church inside the castle. Having become the property of the Swedish monarch, for almost 100 years, the fortress at one point served as a prison of Jacob Kettler, the Duke of Courland (Western Latvia), one of the most outstanding rulers in the Baltic region of all time, who was captured by the Swedes along with his family.
Just like the Narva Castle, this one was captured by Peter the Great and has later become the property of the independent Estonia 200 years after, before once more falling into the possession of Russia.
In spite of standing on the different sides of the border and representing mortal enemies, they have a lot more in common than one might think: both – fortresses that have been rebuilt on multiple occasions, constantly changed its owners and both represent two different countries and two different worlds. Not surprisingly, the “Friendship Bridge” was built between them, right across the border, with the intention to connect Russia with Estonia in particular, and Russia with Europe in general.
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