Baltiysk - Pillau
A Prussian fishing village sprang up on the coast at some point in the 13th century, taking its name
from pils, the Old Prussian word for "fort".
A great tempest created the navigable lagoon in front of the village on 10 September 1510.
This fostered the growth of Pillau into an important port of the Duchy of Prussia. A blockhouse was constructed in 1537,
followed by a system of storehouses in 1543 and the earliest fortifications in 1550.
During the Thirty Years' War, the Swedes occupied the harbour in the aftermath of their victory over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
King Gustavus Adolphus landed there with his rein-forcements in May 1626. After the ceasefire of Altmark (1629) the Swedes retained Pillau and set out upgrading its fortifications. They constructed a star fort which remains one of the town's landmarks.
By the end of the 17th century, the town had expanded considerably. A lighthouse and a stone church were built. Peter the Great of Russia visited Pillau on three occasions, the first being in 1697, in connection with his Great Embassy to Western Europe. There is a statue of the Tsar next to the lighthouse.
After Pillau was granted Magdeburg rights in 1725, the town hall was constructed. This Baroque edifice, inaugurated in May 1745, was destroyed at the end of World War II.
Russian forces occupied the town during the Seven Years' War and built a small Orthodox church there. The event is commemorated by the equestrian statue of Empress Elizabeth (2004).
In June 1807 Pillau was stormed by Napoleon's Grand Army. No outstanding events took place during the rest of the 19th century. Records of a Scottish "Colony" established here in 1815 ap-peared in a 1890 Publication, although their authenticity is questionable.
The lighthouse was built up to a height of 31,38 meters, and the entire fortress was updated and rebuilt by the Prussians in 1871.
On 15 November 1901 the Königsberg Canal was opened between Pillau and Königsberg. Constructed at a staggering cost of 13 million marks, the waterway allowed vessels of a 21 foot draught to moor alongside the city or to sail to the capital of East Prussia without stopping at Pillau. This dealt a serious blow to the town's economy.
During World War II, Pillau had a U-boat training facility.
On 16 April 1945, the U-78 was sunk by Soviet artillery fire while she was docked near the electricity supply pier in the German port.
As the Red Army entered East Prussia, more than 450,000 refugees were ferried from Pillau to central and western Germany. Pillau was eventually captured by the Soviet Army on April 25, 1945.
After the war, this part of East Prussia passed to the Soviet Union, and the German inhabitants were expelled. The town's name was changed to Baltiysk in 1946.
In 1952, the Soviet authorities inaugurated a naval base of the Baltic Fleet at Baltiysk. As a result, it became a closed town: access was forbidden to foreigners or those without a permit.
During the Cold War it was served by the Baltiysk air base. The town, along with Kaliningrad, remains one of only two year-round, ice-free ports along the Baltic Sea coastline available to Russia.
Historical buildings in and around the town include the pentagonal Pillau Citadel, founded by the Swedes in 1626, completed by the Prussians in 1670, renovated in 1870 and currently holding a naval museum; the ruins of the 13th-century Lochstadt Castle; a maze of 19th-century naval fortifications; the Naval Cathedral of St. George (1866); the 32-metre Expressionist observation tower (1932); the Gothic Revival building of the Baltic Fleet Museum (1903); and an elegant lighthouse, dating from 1813. A stone cross, erected in 1830 to commemorate the supposed spot of St. Adalbert of Prague's martyrdom, was destroyed by the Soviets and restored a millennium after the event, in 1997.
This town was an important navy base under the Germans and has retained this role under
the Soviet and now Russian authorities. It is now the most Western point in Russia.
It is normally possible to take pictures within the town. At the harbor, most of the German archi-tecture has survived, including the lighthouse, the court and the secondary school. Looking across the canal on a clear day, it is possible to make out a Teutonic Castle slowing slipping into the sea.
Foreign tourists must have special permits from authorities to visit Baltiysk.
They need to be arranged in advance. That is why if you decide to visit Baltiysk, you will have to email us copies of
your passports approx. 2 weeks before visiting.
Given the sensitivity of the area, visitors must accept sudden changes in the itinerary which
may be imposed without warning.