Those, who ever visited Vladivostok, had surely noticed some concrete structures on the hilltops and in the basement of mountains, in the seaside and along local roads. The travelers entering the city by car can also see fortification lines on the hills of the Sedanka River vicinity. All together these structures are called the Fortress of Vladivostok.
|The outpost of Vladivostok has instituted the reign of Russia over this maritime territory. From its origin on it protected the Russian possessions in the Far East. The name "Vladivostok" means "to rule the East". Incredible it is, but a foreign cruiser intruded the harbor the same year the outpost was set up.|
In 1897 a new plan was developed by
K.S. Chernoknizhnikov. It included forts "South-Estern","Northern", and
"North-Western" on the hills south off the Rivers Vtoraya Rechka and Sedanka
protecting the city from land, and the construction of fort "Southern"
on Russky Island was already in process . Wood-and-soil coastal batteries
were changed for concrete buildings. The central route inaccessible to
firing from both adjacent gulfs was constructed. Unfortunately, in 1899
by the order of Minister of Defense, General-Major F.N. Kuropatkin the
construction of ground forts was stopped due to the budget cuts and reduction
of fortress garrison. Defense line was moved closer to the city and the
port to occupy the hilltops northwest and southeast off the Pervaya Rechka
valley. New fortifications were erected under the command of Colonel K
I. Velichko who ranked among the world's best fortification engineers.
He came to Vladivostok in 1899. The city was increasingly fortified. The
was named after Muraviev-Amursky on the Kholodilnik Hill, which is still
well seen from the Balyaev Square and Vtoraya Rechka road, and Suvorov
in Zelenii Ugol, were added with fortifications 1, 2, and 3, redoubts 4
and 5, several ground batteries, and a continuous obstacle consisting of
a trench and a soil barrage (survived only the fortifications in the vicinity
of Dneprovskaya Street). The Fort of Russians and temporary fortification
4 consequently developed into the Fort of Pospelov (Russky Island) had
been erected together with 23 coastal batteries. By
the beginning of the Russian-Japanese War (1904) the complex, except
some coastal batteries, had been nearly completed. Important of Vladivostok
Fortress is that all its structures, like the ones in Port-Author, had
0.8 m in the arch, and were invulnerable to 152 m caliber cannons, that
prevented Japanese to extend hostilities for Primor'ye. However, in February
1904 Vladivostok was attacked from behind the cape of Basargin by the squadron
of Japanese cruisers under the command of Admiral Kamimura. Their fire
was not responded, as the coastal batteries along Ussuri Gulf were not
completed. The same year this omission had been corrected, coastal batteries
were erected along Ussuri Gulf and the Russky Island perimeter. In August
1904 it was decided to move the line of ground defense to not finished
fortifications of K.S. Chernoknizhnikov and to extend it for the southern
edge of the Sedanka River valley until Amursky Gulf.
After the war a number-one task was the erection of barracks for the growing Vladivostok garrison added with another shooting division and one infantry brigade, three artillery battalions grew into four regiments. In the Russian-Japanese War Russia had lost Port-Author, the Fortress of Vladivostok immediately grew ultimately important, and Russian authorities used all urgent efforts to construct new fortification lines and to mobilize the existing ones.
In 1910 under the command of General-Lieutenant C.K. Vernander a new plan was developed. It included seven forts (1-7) on the Muraviev-Amursky Peninsula, eight (marked by letters A-K) intermediate strongholds on the southern hills around the Sedanka valley, four forts (9-12) along the south-eastern and southern coasts of Russky Island, reconstruction of the existing coastal batteries and erection of another thirty reinforced concrete batteries, as well as twenty-five coastal cannon-holds. Besides, the plan envisaged an underground meat cold store and 13 tunnel powder magazines. Ground forts were made of 2.5m concrete, outside reinforced by a rock face, inside - by an anti-debris immured armature or a compact shell of steel channels filled with asphalt-concrete. These forts stood up three direct hits of 429mm shells in the same spot.
The amazing thickness of fort structures is justified, as during the war the Port-Author Commander-in-Chief, Kondratenko, was killed together with all staff officers by only one direct hit in the headquarters casemate.
Casemates, trenches, cannon galleries, tunnel and casemate barracks, rear and intermediate strongholds had been connected by underground passages, so called "drafts". Moreover, each fort had a secret home front passage about 800m long. To be protected from mine attacks the forts were provided with anti-mine galleries. Average length of underground structures at each fort made about 1 km, at Fort 2 it was over 3 km.
Unlike pre-war fortifications well seen on the hilltops as horizontal echelones and casemates, the forts designed in 1910 accounted the features of each particular location and did not change its original topography. This hampered distant assessment of fortress characteristics, and created essential difficulties for an enemy in zeroing-in his artillery. The forts of Vladivostok fortress had no analogue in the world. All fortifications were connected with each other and the central structures by radial-circular roads.
Besides numbers, the forts were individually named. Thus the forts of Russky Island were named after the princes of Kiev Russ' and Moscovia, the northern forts 1-7 after the tsars and emperors of the Romanovs.
Post-war fortifications were erected under the command of General-Major A.P. Shoshin, who applied the latest technique and machinery, mechanic perforators, electric concrete mixers, and portable narrow-gauge railways. To deliver tons of cement, gravel and sand on hilltops a cable-way was constructed, it connected the northern sector of the fortress with the railway extended into the Vtoraya Rechka valley, another cable-way was made in Russky Island. Over eight thousand workers were brought to Vladivostok from the central Russia. Chinese workers were not allowed into the fortress.
By 1914 about two thirds of all works had been completed, the garrison grew up to eighty thousands, only coastal batteries had over 200 cannons of 120-280mm caliber. The best were 152mm "Kane" guns and 254 mm cannons of 1895. At that time the Fortress of Vladivostok ranked among the world's best maritime structures.
In 1914 the First World War began, the 4-th Siberian Army Corps was moved to the western front as well as a major part of coastal artillery.
During the Civil War of 1918-1922 the forts and batteries were used in turns by both hostile parties, the Whites and the Reds. In late twenties due to a tense international situation in the region several coastal batteries were restored and attached to the Far Eastern Independent Army. Soon the Pacific Fleet was organized and coastal defense was given under its supervision. New batteries, Voroshilovskaya inclusive, armed with major and medium caliber cannons were erected in Islands Russky, Popov, Askold, and in the cape of Gamov.
Yu. BERSENYEV , expert, Duma of Primor'ye