Scattered across Vladivostok’s coastal slopes in quite a few places one can see the metal and concrete remains of the old coastal batteries built to defend the city in years past. Most of the emplacements are just curios–disused relics that add a little extra spice to an already flavorful city. But near the old city center, one of the old batteries has been turned into a museum filled with some of the fascinating military history of the Far East region.
The Vladivostok Fortress Museum is conveniently located Batareynaya Ulitsa by the waterfront, about a five minute walk from the football stadium. The cost for entry is 600 Rubles.
The first things you see walking up the stairs to the museum are two large guns stationed behind a thick wall of concrete. Although trees now somewhat obscure the view, it’s easy to see how these guns used to have a commanding field of fire across the Amur Bay. Next, the museum itself has been built inside the old casemate. The museum’s contents span from armor and weapons used at the time of the Mongols, to letters and documents from the area’s early Russian history, all the way to the final Soviet modernization of the city defenses in the late 1960s. The museum really does have a lot of pieces on display. Dioramas and maps give good insight into how the city and area have changed and it’s actually surprising how many pistols, rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank weapons they managed to fit into such a small space. It actually makes the space feel slightly cluttered.
The space around the museum casemate is also filled with old weapons and vehicles. Torpedoes, rockets, flak guns, anti-tank guns, more coastal defense guns, and armored cars are all open to inspection. Finally, you can even climb up to the roof of the encasement to get a better view of the bay.
Construction of Vladivostok’s coastal defense system began in 1862, when several wooden emplacements were built to house smoothbore guns. It wasn’t until 1899 that the defenses were upgraded to more resilient concrete emplacements. They have been put to the test only one time, in 1904, when the Japanese bombarded Vladivostok during the Russo-Japanese War. Although it was a relatively minor engagement, it did reveal some weaknesses in the city’s bulwark, and so the defense system was redesigned. Prior to the beginning of World War I, gun emplacements were built further out from the city defending the mouth of Ussuri Bay where the impressive Russian Island Bridge now stands. Throughout the Soviet period, the emplacements around Vladivostok were maintained and sometimes upgraded. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the defenses fell out of use altogether until the location that I visited was turned into a museum in 1996.
The Fortress Museum’s website can be found at: Vladfort.ru