To our own surprise, we decided to visit the Patarey Sea Fortress in Tallinn. Though I understand that accidents are not accidental...
That was my idea to visit the Patarey Sea Fortress instead of a sightseeing tour of the Tallinn's Old Town. I read on the Internet a brief history of this, perhaps, the most unusual building of the Estonian capital. It was hard to stop me. I wanted to see different 200 years of Estonian history.
Despite some special popularity among tourists, there's not a lot of information on this building's history. Almost all the Internet sources give the same facts. It seems that you won't find out more information even during paid tours. There's almost no reference to the Patarei Prison even in the almighty Wikipedia. I didn't manage to find historical pictures so there's almost nothing to tell about its history.
Briefly, it goes like this:
The fortress was built in 1840 in the form of a covered gun battery, but after 25 years it was converted into military barracks. It became Tallinn Central Prison in 1920 and served in this way until 1991 almost without interruptions. Before the prison was given to new Estonian authorities, all files with any important documents were taken away in Moscow.
It seems, this is the secret of the paucity of information on the Patarei Prison.
Then there was a pretrial detention center until 2002. Since 2007, the prison being already closed has been tried to put in the face of Tallinn as a tourist attraction. This appeared to be not very successful. Tourists come here, but the picture they see here hardly fits into the standard image of Tallinn. They tried to create here a museum, concert hall, entertainment center. However nothing managed to survive. The object is huge and requires a tremendous investment. In fact it has remained without any major changes for more than 20 years. Prison's heavy spirit has not disappeared from here and we experienced this on our own.
You can get in the prison as a part of the organized tour or independently by paying a couple of Euros for a ticket at the entrance. However, visitors are allowed to explore only several buildings and a courtyard with closed boxes, which previously was used as a place for prisoners' walks. However, you need more than an hour to get around this area.
You can see a true scale of the Patarei Prison only from above. This huge complex of buildings has a shape of some mysterious hieroglyph. Prison and administration buildings connected together overgrown with manufacturing workshops, warehouses and outbuildings over time.
In Soviet times, the whole territory was a closed area under strict control. A military base was located nearby. There's no information on prison breaches in those days. The 90s of the last century were marked by a number of successful attempts. However, escaped prisoners were caught later.
It is also known that the most dangerous criminals from all over the USSR were held here. Suiciders, conflict convicts, criminals together with drug addicts and tubercular patients - the contingent was very hot. It also served as a place of the death penalties for a long time.
Are you already afraid? Then let's take a walk through its territory.
Out of ignorance, at first we came to the prison-fortress from the wrong side. There is a memorial stone to the only reliably known victims of this prison - 207 Jews that were shot in the basement. Nobody knows how many prisoners were shot here, died of disease and numerous suicides. Except, perhaps, the archivists in Moscow.
Then we went reading the signs, some of which indicated the close proximity of an alternative cafe somewhere on the sand by the sea. We got there later.
We paid a modest sum for the tickets and got inside the prison. There were many signs in English for foreign tourists. However, it was easy to guess the purpose of many premises even without them.
They tried to correct pretty heavy inside atmosphere with the help of numerous installations and rainbow patterns on the peeling and moldy walls of the former casemates cameras.
They didn't manage to do that. Although, on the other hand, such attempts covered the terrible inner devastation and atmosphere filled with destruction.
I constantly experienced a painful feeling of someone's misfortune and suffering. I intentionally made a part of pictures to be almost black and white.
It seemed that I was constantly able to see the past of this place in numerous details. These touches painted a picture of the past life in this prison. It had no color.
Grayness, brokenness, despair, hopelessness, and, as a result, indifference to the world around them. This system was created to break down any strong healthy man, turning him into a moral cripple, faceless mass without his own opinion and aspirations.
Look, how everyday prison life looked like.
Here are wards. It seems that 30-40 people languished here just yesterday, in the musty smelly past.
This is the baths looking more like a barn.
Prisoners steamed and washed in these terrible wooden boxes, pushing and hating each other.
Here are hospital beds, standing in a heap in hallways. Mental patients-prisoners broken by life used to lay here.
Just look at the operating and waiting rooms!
Looking at the terrible machines of the past, it's hard to believe that they tried to cure someone here. Rather on the contrary - they killed everything left inside!