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History of Ladoga and Shlisselburg

The town of Shlisselburg lies on the left coast of Neva where it emerges from Lake Ladoga and is divided into two parts by the Ladoga canal. Peter the Great named the town Shlisselburg (“Key Town”) because of its strategic position for both military and trade purposes, and particularly because of the island fortress (Fort Oreshek) nearby. It has also been known as Petrokrepost (Peter’s Fortress) and Noteburg (when it was under Swedish rule).

The Ladoga Canal (begun in 1718 during the reign of Peter I and completed in 1732 under Empress Anna) originally extended 111 km. along the southern coast of the lake, from the river Volkhov up to source of the Neva. It was built because frequent storms and high waves on the lake make it treacherous for boat traffic. A system of four sluice gates kept the level of the canal two meters higher than the level of the lake, with water fed from specially constructed reservoirs.

The eighteenth-century locks at Shlisselburg

On the Ladoga Canal

The canal was in operation as many as 205 days in some years, which was a long time, considering the severe climate. It made possible a constant flow of ship timber and other goods to the factories around St. Petersburg, and it led to the growth of Shlisselburg from a small fishing village into a substantial town of over 3000 people by 1785.

An extension of the Ladoga canal opened in 1809, running an additional 11 km. and providing a connection to the Volkhov and Syas rivers. A further extension, joining the Syas to the Pasha river, 38 km. away, began operation in 1810 . A second canal, known as the New Ladoga Canal, was constructed in the middle of the nineteenth century. It runs parallel to the Old Canal, but closer to the lake. It has no sluice gates, and its water level is the same as that of the lake. One visitor to the area in 1838 described several rows of horse-drawn barges moving in both directions along the canal and small settlements “in a friendly chain” all along the shore.

With political stability in the region the importance of the nearby fortress declined in the 18th century in favor of Shlisselburg's imortance as a shipping and shipbuilding center.


Shisselburg shipbuilding factory -

(Below) Map of Old and New Ladoga Canals

Further topics and interdisciplinary essays
Shlisselburg History Oreshek History
Ladoga Geography
Ladoga Ecology

References and links

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