Pillau Citadel
Baltiysk, Russia

Pillau Citadel at Baltiysk guards the way to Kaliningrad, a city that was Prussian, then German, then Soviet, and now Russian, despite the fact that it is physically removed from the actual land of Russia. Kaliningrad Oblast is, today, a small-nation-sized outpost of Russia that nestles comfortably betwixt Lithuania and Poland, on the Baltic Sea.

The Prussians first settled at what is now Baltiysk sometime in the 13th century. They named their fishing village Pils, which happens to be the old Prussian word for fort...so maybe there was a naturally-occurring starfort already at this location when the Prussians got there?

Possibly, but it seems more likely that some sort of ramshackle wood-and-earth thing was constructed for the protection of recently-caught fish.

A "great tempest" on September 10, 1510 blasted a hole through the strip of land separating the Vistula Lagoon from the Baltic Sea...right there at Pillau! Convenient! This quite suddenly made the sleepy fishing village an important spot indeed, as it now sat next to a ways by which Konigsberg, already a huge and important Prussian port city across the lagoon from Pillau, could more easily access the Baltic. A blockhouse was built to protect the inlet in 1537, and construction of more proper fortifications started in 1550.

The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) brought the Swedes to Pillau. After the Treaty of Altmark (1629) ended the Polish-Swedish part of that conflict, the Swedes set about constructing the lovely starfort that we see there today, which was completed by the Prussians in 1670.

Russia occupied Pillau during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), and French troops took the town and fort in June of 1807, during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). Were there any guns in this beautiful starfort?!

The Pillau Citadel as it lies
Prussia updated Pillau Citadel in 1871, assumedly realizing that a few cannon might improve its defensive capacity.

The Konigsburg Canal was completed on November 15, 1901. This allowed most ships that had previously had to stop and unload at Pillau (for their loads to be ferried to Konigsberg in smaller ships) to sail right on past Pillau, straight to Konigsberg. This naturally lessened Pillau's importance in the scheme of things.

The depressing German free-for-all that followed the First World War (1914-1918) saw what was Prussia become part of Germany, which meant the nazis were right there at Pillau during the Second World War (1939-1945), operating a U-boat training facility.

The rampaging Soviet horde occupied what had been Eastern Prussia by the end of the war, slavically overjoyed at their obtainment of ports on the Baltic that weren't frozen over for most of the year, as is Saint Petersburg. They immediately began "Russification," a pleasant process that included violently ejecting all non-Russians and renaming everything: Such as Pillau, which was renamed Baltiysk, and Konigsberg, which was renamed Kaliningrad, after the recently-deceased Mikhail Kalinin (1875-1946), Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and one of the original Bolsheviks.

The Soviets built a naval base for their Baltic Fleet at Baltiysk in 1952, and an air base shortly thereafter. Baltiysk became a closed town, with no access whatsoever granted to visitors of any sort, a restriction which wasn't lifted until 2009. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Kaliningrad Oblast became a Russian exclave, physically removed from, but still part of Russia: Russia had no intention of letting go of its only year-round, ice-free port on the Baltic. Although I'm sure what they really wanted to keep was the awesome starfort.

Today, Pillau Citadel houses a Russian Naval Museum, and is open to visitors.

Many thanks to Mikko Hakkinen, a starfort watcher in Finland who was kind enough to alert us to this gorgeous example of starfortery!