Daugavpils Fortress (Cetatea Daugavpils)

Daugavpils Fortress, which also goes under the name of Dinaburg Fortress, is located in Latvia. The edifice dates from the 19th century, but the plan for the structure was developed in the 18th century.

In 1772, the Russian Tsar Alexander I passed a decree which attested that the fortification had to be constructed. But it was not until 1810, when Napoleon Bonaparte attacked the Russian Empire, that the actual construction work was initiated.

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But the project took a long time to be completed, more exactly since 1878, due to a multitude of factors such as several delays in construction and the slow pace with which the progress of the building took place, not to mention that the construction site was inundated several times.

But irrespective of the obstacles encountered in its path, the fortress was finished and even more, it endured the inflictions of time on its walls with “dignity”, as it is the only citadel of its kind on the European continent to have remained almost unaltered to this day.

The Daugavpils Fortress is reminiscent of the glorious historical past of Imperial Russia. But the citadel should not be associated only to the wars it has been a part of.  For exampple, the Arsenal Building within the fortress shelters a valuable collection of Mark Rothko’s works of art (Impressionist paintings).

Tsar Alexander I was intent in constructing a fortified edifice which could hold 4.500 soldiers within its walls. More so, the structure had to be equipped with 595 cannons. The new edifice was inaugurated on the 21st of May 1833 when an official ceremony was organized. But the fortress was far from being completed.

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The fortification work for the outer walls went on even after the official inauguration. In order to impede the floods to take hold of the city, a dam was erected. This had 7 km in length and was finished in 1841.

Daugavpils Fortress had witnessed quite a few events, all related to wartime. Just to name a few, people considered “enemies of the state” were incarcerated in this fortress – after the Decembrists Revolt in 1825. Likewise, during WWII, the Nazis conquered the citadel and transformed part of it into a concentration camp where Russian hostages were incarcerated – the camp was named “Stalag 340”.

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After the war, from 1948 until 1993, the citadel was transformed into a School of Military Aircraft Engineering.

A decisive step was taken back in 2004 when the Latvia’s Ministers decided that the fortress had to be sold – either to be sectioned and sold fragment by fragment or to be traded in its entirety. So the future of the citadel is shrouded in uncertainty.