About Izborsk Fortress
Izborsk Fortress is a ruined medieval fortress and settlement in western Russia with a history dating back to the 7th century.
History of Izborsk Fortress
It was the Slavic Krivich tribe which founded Izborsk, then a modest settlement, yet it was in the 10th century that the first wooden version of Izborsk Fortress was built. A stone incarnation of the fortress took its place in the 11th century. The current Izborsk Fortress dates mostly from the 14th century, when it was relocated a few hundred metres away from its initial site.
Supposedly impregnable, the fortress was seized by a small Lithuanian regiment in 1569, much to the shock of the Russian army – and particularly Ivan the Terrible. This feat was only managed because of a Russian turncoat, and once the fortress was retaken, Ivan had many of the senior figures associated with Izborks and the fortress executed because he was worried other disaffected cities and men would follow the example set at Izborsk unless those on the ground faced serious retribution.
The fortress gradually lost importance and status due to changing borders, and was eventually abandoned in the 18th century. Unsurprisingly, it quickly began to deteriorate, until Tsar Nicholas I implemented a regime of repairs.
More recently, a 2012 restoration of Izborsk Fortress was accompanied by a major scandal over embezzlement of funds intended for arts projects: 60 million rubles were unaccounted for in the project, and the deputy minister of culture was implemented in the scandal.
Izborsk Fortress today
The fortress is primarily comprised of ruins today: it’s still undeniably impressive, and normally relatively quiet. Audio guides are available for hire by the entrance – expect to spend half a day exploring here fully as there’s plenty to see. Be sure to climb the stone tower for great views over the surrounding countryside. Some of the fresh pierogi sold on the walk to the fortress are delicious – the whole town of Izborsk is a peek into a slower, rural pace of Russian life.
Getting to Izborsk Fortress
The fortress is located on a ridge above the town of Izborsk. The town of Izborsk itself is on the A-212/E77, about 30km east of the Russia-Estonia border. Buses run regularly from Pskov to the old town of Iskov, and take about 40 minutes. Once you’re there, everything can be accessed by foot.
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