From “Fort” to “Plague Research Base” to “Rave Parties”


Fort Alexander

St. Petersburg, Russia

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In the gulf of Finland rests a former military installation that has some very interesting history. Designed in an oval shape with an open court in the middle gave it great military advantage with it’s 103 cannon ports. The roofs of the fort were built to support another 34 large guns. The fort itself is 90 meters (295 ft.) x 60 meters (197 ft.) for a total of a 5400 sq. meter footprint. The construction of this fortress began in 1838 and was officially commissioned on July 27th, 1845. Though the 1,000 manned fort never got to see  action, it was used as deterrent during the Crimean War, then another confrontation with British Empire in 1863 and finally in the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).  It’s interesting to notice the similarities in today’s situation. In 1896, Fort Alexander, Fort Peter I and Fort Pavel I were decommissioned and struck from the Russian military register.

The Building

alex_1As it can be seen this is not a natural island but an artificial one, to achieve this feat it took 5,335 piles driven into the seabed 12 meters (approx. 40 ft.). When the dredging occurred they went dug below the seafloor approximately 3 meters (approx. 10 ft.) and filled it with coarse sand, above this point they poured cobblestones to a height of +3 meters above the seabed and then poured a 1. 8  meter thick  concrete slab then placed granite slabs over the top of it. This provided a basement floor that stored munitions and storage. The lid that formed the basement was covered with 189 wooden trestles and granite slabs laid over the top to form the base of the fort. On the first floor of the fort housed the kitchen, black smith shop, barracks, warehouses, and officers quarters. The floors above this housed the cannons. Erected on a very powerful foundation they began to build a brick wall. The fort walls where built to a thickness of 2.4 meters thick and lined with granite. The Casements were overlapped with brick arches, which brought the overall thickness to 2.5 meters. These were very complex masonry granite embrasures,the Stones were laid in a complex configuration. The building of these walls was a very time consuming process. But the reasons for building them way was so they could withstand the beating that the Baltic sea would give them.

Plague Research Base

During the previous centuries and even up to the beginning of the 19th century Europe had dealt with outbreaks of the plague, it’s estimated that one third of the total population of  Europe had died from the plague. Because of the isolation of the fort it made it the perfect candidate for researching and find the cure for the plague.The Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine commissioned the fort as a new research laboratory in January 1897 with the idea that it would be used for this purpose. The fort became a facility for research in the specific area of bacteriology.

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In 1897–1899, Fort Alexander was renovated for it’s new purpose, Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg, donated the funds that produced a science library, research labs including containment labs, a horse stable, cremation facility for lab animals, and other auxiliary facilities. Research mainly focused on the study of the plague and preparation of plague serum and vaccine. They used horses for this purpose which wasn’t always successful. In later research the laboratory developed serums against cholera, tetanus, typhus, scarlatina, and a series of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus infections. During the course of their research three pneumonic and bubonic plague cases appeared among the staff members resulting in two fatalities. The director of laboratory Dr. V.I.Turchaninov-Vyzhnikevich was one of the victims of the outbreaks. Due to the high risk of infecting others the bodies were cremated in the furnaces of the fort.

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Interesting side note

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It is interesting to note that in 1347 plague victims were catapulted by the Mongols over the city walls of Caffa, a town currently known as Feodosiya in present day Ukraine. It is possible that those who were infected may have fled to Italy, thus spreading the Black Death to Europe, though this is likely only one of a few routes that could have brought the Plague from the East.

And today it’s used for Rave Parties

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Excerpt from St. Petersburg Times

The massive open-air rave, held for the fourth year in a row on Saturday, July 26 on the island of Kronshtadt in the Gulf of Finland, differs from the other summertime raves that take place on the island in that it is organized by exclusive Moscow club Zeppelin. And, although last year’s FortDance was rife with organizational snafus, this year’s promises smoother sailing for the several thousand guests expected to attend.

While the site of the three earlier FortDance raves, the Alexander I fort at the historic Kronshtadt naval base, is large enough to hold 10,000 party-goers, this Saturday will see a first-ever opening of a mainland dance area in addition to the one on the island at the Alexander. On solid ground, Zeppelin introduces the Konstantin Fort, three times the size of the Alexander – and a good thing, too. Organizers are estimating crowds will reach 30,000.

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