The Latvian coastline has been the site of many fierce battles. The Russian Tsar Alexander III founded this military town that was named Karosta. This is the southern fortress, built by Alexander III to protect Liepāja and Karosta from enemies.
Alexander III of Russia – The Peacemaker
Although tsar Alexander III was called the “Peacemaker”, he made sure to invest heavily in military fortifications. The nickname “Peacemaker” got Alexander III because during his rule there were no major wars that Russia was involved in.
The Southern Fortress
The images in this article are from the southern fort. Construction began in the late 1800s. The first period was marked by several years of peace. This came later to change and fierce fighting during the two world wars was fought here.
World War I
In 1914 Liepaja was invaded by troops from the German Empire. Liepaja had until then experienced 100 years of peace. While the German siege lasted, the city had the name Libau. The whole town was fortified and was an important part of the German defense, and heavy fighting took place at the former Tsar’s fortification.
In 1915 Liepaja fell into Russian hands, but soon after they returned the area to Latvian authorities, around 1919.
World War II
Liepaja continued to be an important place from a military standpoint. In 1940, the Red Army had 15,000 troops stationed here. Meanwhile, the German army thundered forward. In June 1944 was 2000 inhabitants deported to Siberia, because of accusations of disloyalty to the Soviet Union.
On 29th June 1941 the town was occupied by German troops and had until May 9, 1945, the name Libau again.
The southern fortress was defended frantically 1941 by Soviet troops during the German attack. When the town fell into German hands they further developed the area as part of “Festung Libau”. They built anti-aircraft guns and a variety of other protection since the port was of great military importance.
The roles were changed in 1945. Then it was instead German soldiers who defended the southern fortress against the Soviet soldiers. In 1945, the southern fortress experiencing the fiercest battles ever.
The Soviet army made a great effort to conquer Libau, which was protected by Heeresgruppe Kurland.
The South Fortress today
When we arrive at the area we immediately see a visible amount of concrete bunkers and complexes. It is visible in the construction art that it’s derived from the 1800s, although the exterior is damaged in many places. Even graffiti painters have appreciated some walls. The farther into the tunnel system you go, it will, however, reduce the numbers of ugly painting.
Time has been hard on the walls of concrete and rebar. However, you can still see some beautiful patterns on the walls of the tunnels.
Underground in the fortress, there is a very large culvert system that connects different bunkers and protects against attacks. We have been warned about how easy it is to get lost in the tunnels, and deep down in stone and concrete underground no cell phones works.
This day you don’t need to splash into the water. The conditions here must be anything but comfortable during wartime. Plenty of rats were probably also a big problem.