City map
(From the encyclopaedia
"Russian Towns and Cities")


Vyborg -

district center of Leningrad region, 130 km North-West of Saint-Petersburg. A resort. The town is situated at the Isthmus of Karelia, on the coast (peninsulas and islands) of the Gulf of Vyborg (Baltic Sea), next to the entrance to Saimensky canal.

Major attractions: unique monuments of military architecture dating from 13th to 18th century, the authentic medieval spirit of the Old Town, magnificent landscape park Montrepos with a 19th century estate.

How to get there

From Saint-Petersburg (Finlyandskii vokzal - Finland train station) a suburban train, 2h 30 minutes.

General information

Vyborg is one of the biggest and the most beautiful towns of Leningrad region. It is situated in the North-Western part of the Isthmus of Karelia, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 130 km North-West of Saint-Petersburg. The main part of the town occupies a peninsula which is cut by deep bays, the rest is on several small islands. The landscape is very rough, the highest point of the town (at 33m above the sea level) is on Batareynaya Gora (Battery Hill). Vyborg attracts many tourists by its scenic surroundings, remarkable architectural monuments, including, among others, remaining old fortifications closely related to many centuries of the town's history. Vyborg is an important transport hub, connected by the railroad network to Saint-Petersburg, Moscow, Karelia, and Finland. The town lies on the international highway E-18 which runs from Helsinki to Saint-Petersburg. Vyborg has a commercial sea port and a shipyard. Proximity to richer Finland creates in this poor provincial town a certain atmosphere: names of many shops, bars, banks and restaurants are bilingual - in Finnish and Russian.

After Baltic states with their beautiful medieval towns have separated from Soviet Union, Vyborg became a unique place in Russia. It is now the only fully European town on the Russian territory. Sure, the outskirts of Vyborg consist of samples of socialist times architecture, but the center! The castle on the island, the tower of the City Hall, Kruglaya (Round) and Chasovaya (Clock) towers, Anna's fortifications, stone-paved roads, medieval buildings of the Old Town, magnificent landscape park Montrepos with a 19th century estate - all this invites a comparison of Vyborg to an open-air museum.

In the surroundings of Vyborg there are many conifer forests, cut by numerous rivers and lakes. In the district many Soviet and Finnish military fortifications dating from the last war survived.


Vyborg Castle

The history of Vyborg starts in 11th century, when a small settlement appeared at the place occupied now by Park Montrepos. The inhabitants were hunters, fishermen, and peasants; they also traded with the countries at the Baltic coast. Karels, who were the majority of the population, for a long time had good relations with Novgorod Slavs, who, in their turn, were trading with German and Swedish towns via the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea.

Sweden tried to conquer these lands already in the middle of 12th century, and in 1293 the ruler of Sweden, Torkel Knutson, lead a huge army into Karelia. To keep important strategic positions, Swedes built in the same year 1293 a stone castle on a small island Linnan-Saari (Castle Island). Novgorod tried to take the lands several times, and even succeeded in 1318, however, only for a short period. In 1323 Russian-Swedish peace treaty was signed in the fortress Oreshek. The treaty set Russian-Swedish border along River Sestra. Novgorod ceded to Sweden a part of the Isthmus of Karelia which included Vyborg, some lands beyond River Vuoksa, and lands around Lake Saima. The Eastern part of the Isthmus of Karelia remained in the possession of Novgorod. In the following years, the Swedish owners of Vyborg and their Southern neighbours from Novgorod continued to live side by side peacefully like brothers. In 1351, and again in 1411, the Southern brothers strongly damaged the town, and in 1475 the Northern brothers for whatever reason started to build a wall around the town, and were, according to some historians, in a big hurry.

Meanwhile, some changes have happened at the Russian territory. In particular, the title of the biggest, strongest, and the most peaceful city was awarded to Moscow, which, in these respects, has become a successor of Novgorod. In the end of 15th century it was ruled by Ivan the Third, who became famous, as well as the majority of the following princes and some of the princes preceding him, for gathering Russian lands. At the time, nobody really knew what lands have to be gathered, and what lands are truly "native" Russian, and they were collecting everything from the Arctic Sea and the Urals down to Chernigov and the Baltic sea. In particular, it was decided to conquer Vyborg. In 1495 a big detachment of liberators arrived to the town and almost encircled it. For ten weeks starting from October the army of Ivan the Third kept the siege, however without success. Swedes also were getting in troubles: once a wall broke down under the fire of Russian cannons, once naval ships sent to help the town were stopped by stormy weather, once supplies were almost over. Nevertheless, after an especially unsuccessful attack, the Ivan's army left Vyborg, leaving it for the time being (more than 200 years) in the Swedish possession.

Fortifications on
Batareynaya Gora
(Battery Hill).
19th century

In 1703 Peter the Great founded the new capital of the Russian Empire - Saint-Petersburg - on the islands in the mouth of River Neva. To ensure its safety, Peter now had to conquer the Isthmus of Karelia and Vyborg - the main Swedish fortress at the Northern shore of the Baltic sea and the Gulf of Finland. In 1706 he attempted to attack Vyborg from the land, but Swedish fortifications remained undamaged. Only after the success in Poltava battle, in the Spring of 1710, Peter performed a march to Vyborg. 13 thousands of Russian troops and artillery under the command of admiral-general Apraksin crossed the Gulf of Finland on the ice from the island Kotlin and started the siege of the town. In April Peter brought through the icy gulf to Vyborg the navy of 250 sail and row ships to help the land troops. On June 12, 1710, the Swedish garrison of Vyborg surrendered - justice triumphed. Praising the importance of conquering the fortress of Vyborg, Peter said that "the capturing of this town finally provided the safety for Saint-Petersburg". The Nystad peace treaty with Sweden recognized Russian access to the Baltic Sea. Between 1710 and 1811 Vyborg and surrounding lands were part of Russia. During this time Vyborg became a sea port used for trading with Western countries (Great Britain and Holland).

The last Russian-Swedish war in 1808-1809 decided the fate of Finland, which turned from a province of Sweden into the Special Great Principality with its own constitution and parliament and became a part of Russia. In 1811 Vyborg Governorship was administratively incorporated into the Great Principality of Finland. These events caused certain changes in political and economical life of Vyborg and the whole governorship. After the Saimensky Canal was built in 1856, a huge influx of cargo went to the terminals of the Vyborg sea port. In 1870 a railroad was constructed which connected Vyborg with Helsingfors and Saint-Petersburg, and later with other cities. Trade became even more intense, factories and plants grew, new banks appeared. In 1912 the population of Vyborg reached 32000.

Anna's fortifications.
18th century

Vyborg was naturally affected by the revolutionary events of 1917 as it happened to be very close to the "Cradle of the Revolution", Petrograd. The leader of the revolution, Vladimir Lenin, visited Vyborg on several occasions in 1906-1907 and in 1917. Starting from September, 17 he was staying in the working suburb Talikkala (currently Village named after Lenin) at 15, Aleksandrovskaya ulitsa (street), now Rubezhnaya ulitsa. Here, in 15, Rubezhnaya ulitsa, in 1958 a memorial museum was opened.

On December 18, 1917, in Smol'ny Palace Lenin handed to the head of Finnish delegation a decree of Soviet of People's Commissars which recognized Finland as an independent state. In March 1918 they even withdrew Russian troops from Finland. Subsequent operations intended to overthrow Finnish government and support of anti-government gangs failed to open a new victorious page in the history of new Soviet state - Finland remained independent.

For the sake of the truth, we must note that Finland, which at the time included Vyborg, did not appreciate the friendship with the Eastern neighbour - Soviet Union. Together with other aggressive militarists - Great Britain, Belgium, and France - Finns dug all over the Isthmus of Karelia, creating the line of so-called defence. Later it became known as "The Mannerheim Line". The construction took twelve years which were spent to create more than two thousands of gunfire points and other fortifications. The construction spanned over 135 kilometers along the front line (between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga), and as far as 95 kilometers away from the front into the Finnish territory. The line consisted of several strips: first, the security strip which included fortified positions, fences, and obstacles; the main defence strip with 22 resistance areas followed. There were also the second defence strip, the rear strip, and Vyborg fortifications proper. It is not clear from whom the Finns were going to "defend" themselves at the Soviet border. Meanwhile, in the end of 1939, USSR proposed new peace initiatives. Their essense was that Finland must peacefully cede to Soviet Union a large piece of its territory close to Petersburg. On November 30, 1939, about a million of Soviet soldiers, supported by about 2000 tanks and 1000 military planes started to convince Finns to solve the problem peacefully. There were three directions of convincing: one - in the Isthmus of Karelia, another one - North-East of Lake Ladoga, and the third one - at the coast of the Arctic Sea. Despite the fact that the Finnish army had 60 tanks, 115 military planes, and little more than 300 thousands troops, on March 13 the war ended. The border was moved, and Vyborg was included into Soviet Union.

In 1941 the Finns decided to use the opportunity and turn the history back. They managed to occupy quickly the lands which belonged to them before the war and reach the abolished border along River Sestra. Vyborg was taken by the repatriating enemy on August 21, 1941. As a result of advance of the Leningrad Front at the Isthmus of Karelia, on June 20, 1944, the town was taken again, this time by Soviet troops. Finland was forced to quit the war, and on September 19, 1944, as a result of the cease-fire, Vyborg and the Isthmus of Karelia rejoined Russia (then Soviet Union). Vyborg was designated to be one of 15 cities which had to be restored with the first priority. By 1948 all industrial enterprises were restored, new factories were under construction, multi-storey residential and office buildings were being constructed. The role of Vyborg as a railway and a sea port terminal, and as a cultural and tourist center, increased.


This tower is
48.6 meters high

Attractions and architectural monuments of Vyborg are closely connected with its history. Thus, from the period when the town was under Swedish administration, we have, first of all, the Vyborg Castle, built in 1293. The castle stands in the middle of a straight on a small rocky island about 1700 meters long and 122 meters wide. Over the centuries the castle was reconstructed several times and acquired additional buildings. Thus, between 1561 and 1564 the Olaf's tower was rebuilt. The walls became thicker, the height was reduced, and one got a mighty seven-storey tower. In 1856 as a result of fireworks celebrating the opening of the Saimensky Canal, the castle was seriously damaged by fire, and after the restoration in 1891-1898 it assumed the current form. The tower with the dome is 48.6 meters tall, the maximal width of the walls is 5 meters, and there is a panoramic point on the top of the tower, where one enjoys a wonderful view of Vyborg. Currently the castle hosts a museum.

In the end of 15th century the settlement, with the exception of the Castle on the Island, was surrounded by a fortress wall with towers, of which Bashnya Ratushi (City Hall Tower - Vyborgskaya ulitsa) survived till our days. In 1490 Chasovaya Bashnya (Clock Tower) was built - the bell-tower of the local Cathedral (Krepostnaya ulitsa, 5 - in the inner yard). It has got a name of Clock Tower in 1753, when the clock was mounted. For a long time the Clock Tower served as a fire observation point, and after the fire of 1793 Catherine the Great gave the town a bell with a royal inscription. The bell is still on the Clock Tower, producing a music already for over two centuries.

Close to the Ulitsa Vodnoi Zastavy there is one more architectural monument of 16th century - Hyacinth Catholic Church. Between Vyborgskaya and Storozhevaya streets one can see a building from 14th century - House of the Merchant Guild. Of the fortress wall, built by the Swedes in 1550, one tower survived - the mighty Kruglaya Bashnya (Round Tower), which is now in the center of Rynochnaya Ploshchad' (Market Square), next to the building of the market, built in 1905. In 1564 construction of Rogataya Krepost' (Fortress with Horns), as it was known then, started. Its only preserved part is Pancerlaks bastion (Shell of the Gulf in Swedish), which is on the corner of Vyborgskaya ulitsa and Leningradsky prospect. The medieval house on 13, Krepostnaya ulitsa (entrance from ulitsa Krasina), is from 16th century; it is built of big stones and resembles the tower of the fortress wall. Close to it there are interesting old buildings along Progonnaya ulitsa (means Drive Street), which ends at the gulf and keeps its name from the times when herds were driven here to pastures.

Pancerlaks bastion.
16th century

Just next to the gulf on Progonnaya ulitsa stands a two-storey white house with a balcony. On a rounded corner, there is a memorial board. In 1829 in this house, then the hotel owned by Motti, stayed a famous composer, Mikhail Glinka, with friends, among whom was Anna Kern - four years before Pushkin wrote to her one of his most famous poems. Memories of breathtaking beauty of Northern landscapes, of a road between rocks, lakes, and woods, of songs of a Finnish coachman inspired the composer to write "The Finnish Song" and the ballad of Finn in the opera "Ruslan and Ludmila".

Prior to the beginning of 17th century Vyborg did not have a general development plan. After big fires of 1638 the first general plan was produced - the town was divided into rectangular quarters. The fortress square, which started right behind the bridge, in the Middle Ages was an administrative and a trade center. In the middle of the square there is a remarkable four-storey building, which was constructed in 1643 for the town hall. At the time, it had only two floors, and got another two later - in 19th century. At the same square there is a low-height building of the town gate guard from 18th century.

Vyborg preserved one of the few examples of a bastion fortress of 18th century survived to our days - Annenkron (St. Anna's Crown). Anna's fortifications were started under Peter the Great, and finished in 1740s during the reign of his niece empress Anna Ioannovna. The contest for the best project of fortifications received applications from many respectable fortification engineers of the time, including General Gannibal (known as "The Arab of Peter the Great", since he was brought as a child from Ethiopia), and was won by General de Coulomb. This fortification line contained four gates, but only Friedrichshan gate is well-preserved. It is still used for communication between the two parts of the town.

Ulitsa Yuzhnogo Vala
(South Rampart Street)

A part of the old town, sharply carved into the gulf as a cape, is enclosed by two beautiful streets - ulitsa Severnogo Vala and ulitsa Yuzhnogo Vala (North and South Rampart Streets). Not far from them, in the old town, two churches are built: Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Transfiguration of Our Saviour (architects L'vov and Brockmann, 1787) and Evangelic (Lutheran) Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral (architects Brockmann and Foelten, 1799). At the corner of Krepostnaya ulitsa and Sovetskaya ulitsa there is a building constructed in 1895 for Vyborg Governorship Administration, currently hosting Vyborg Municipal Council. Opposite to it stands a splendid two-storey building constructed in 1891 (project of architect Arenberg) to host the Vyborg governor residence; now it is the Administration of the town and the district.

One of the numerous Vyborg attractions is Park Montrepos at a picturesque island 2 km from the town. This is one of the biggest estate ensembles from 18-19th centuries preserved in the North of Leningrad region.

Of interesting buildings from the beginning of 20th century, one can mention Construction Bank (1910, prospekt Lenina, 2), building of the post office (1912-1914, the corner of Krepostnaya ulitsa and Sovetskaya ulitsa), and the building of former girls lyceum (1916, Shkol'naya Ploshchad').

Of important buildings dating from 1930s we should mention the building of the Archive (1933, architect Ullberg), and definitely the building of the Central Municipal Library, designed by the prominent Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 1935. It is situated in a beautiful park, running along prospekt Lenina. The park was founded in 1862 at the place of demolished ramparts and bastions of Rogataya krepost'. Alleys of the park are a good place for walking tours, there are two remarkable brass sculptures "A forest boy" (1932) and "A moose" (1924).

Vyborg branch of
Construction Bank.

The central avenue of the town is prospekt Lenina, which up to Krasnaya Ploshchad' (Red square) passes through the area with houses mostly from 1860s - this is a very picturesque part of the town. Currently, the avenue is built all the way to Batareynaya gora (Battery Hill), which provides a panoramic view of the town. At this place, in 1863-1864 East-Vyborg fortifications were constructed. The longest avenue of the town - Leningradskoe shosse (Leningrad Road) - passes Batareynaya gora. This road is a part of the international highway E-18 Helsinki - Saint-Petersburg - Moscow. More recently, the town received the buildings of the railway station, the bus terminal, and the sea passenger port, new bridges, and many other modern residential and municipal buildings.

In 1910, when 200 years from the day Vyborg was returned to Russia were celebrated, on the historical St. Peter's Hill a monument to Peter the Great was opened. Sculptor Bernstam portrayed Peter leaning on a cannon, the tsar's figure is majestic, he is looking at the fortress. Wild granite rocks at the gulf coast, water up to the horizon, centuries-old lime-trees and silver-leafed poplars - a beautiful view of the town opens from this place to the eyes of an amazed traveller...


Entrance to the castle
Fortress wall
Bashnya Ratushi
(City Hall Tower)
Chasovaya bashnya
(Clock Tower)
Kruglaya bashnya
(Round Tower)
A medieval house
Friedrich Gate
of Anna's fortifications
to Peter the Great
Ulitsa Vodnoy Zastavy
(Watergate Street)
in the old part of the town
New bridge
over the Fortress Straight.
Ulitsa Severnogo Vala
(North Rampart Street)
from the side of the Fortress Straight