The Fortress of Nove Zamky was built from 1573 to 1581, in what is today southern Slovakia, as a Habsburgian bastion against the ever-threatening Ottoman Horde. Nove Zamky was a state-of-the-art facility, its walls thick and its star tips pointy, but the Ottoman Turks simply couldn't stand it existing in what they considered their personal stomping grounds, so they threw themselves at the fortress for years and years until 1663, when they finally overcame the fort's garrison. The Turks then used Nove Zamky for their own purposes, which primarily consisted of ruling over the region. Nove Zamky was razed by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740) in 1725, to do away with the many anti-Habsburgian revolts that sprouted in the region. It's not there any more: I checked.

The Habsburgs tried their luck again west of Nove Zamky. Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705) directed the construction of another state-of-the-art fort, to be named, naturally, after himself. Leopoldov was constructed from 1665 to 1669. The urban area that grew alongside the fort as it was constructed was given city rights in 1668, and has been known variously as Leopold, Leopoldstadt and Lipotvar, depending on who was in charge at any given moment.

Leopoldov obviously did something that scared the Turks, because they never attacked the fort. By the reign of Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780), Leopoldov was off the front lines and being used as a military warehouse. In 1855, at the order of Franz Joseph I (1830-1916), the last of the Habsburg rulers, the fortress was made into a prison, a function it still fulfills today. The prison was made to house 1000 inmates, which made it the largest prison in Austria-Hungary at the time.

When Czechoslovakia sprang into being as a communist state in 1945, Leopoldov fit nicely into the overall scheme of repression and downright meanness at which Communism seems to excel. Conditions in the prison were predictably harsh and overcrowded. Gustav Husak (1913-1991), who would go on to be Czechoslovakia's president from 1969 to 1987, spent six years at Leopoldov as an inmate (1954-1960). The prison was modernized in the latter half of the 20th century, and by 1989, 2600 prisoners were thoroughly enjoying this modernization.

Perhaps inspired by the winds of change blowing through the USSR and her satellites but more likely just tired of being beaten and starved, inmates at Leopoldov Prison staged a two-week riot in March of 1990, fending off the authorities with gasoline bombs and "flamethrowers." Enough damage was done to the prison as to render it unuseable, but Czechoslovakia kept using it anyway. The Slovak National Council voted to close the prison down in 1990, but this decision was reversed in 1993. Today, Leopoldov remains in operation as a medium- and high-security prison with around 1500 inmates.

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