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Vyborg’s archeological sensations



Vyborg. St. Petersburg’s Scandinavian neighbor. The town which combines the history of three states at once – Sweden, Finland and Russia. Peter the Great was only considering a settlement at the swampy banks of Neva, while life was already bustling at these 160 square kilometers. In the streets, at the castle and even underneath the castle.

The tower in which you have to descend into – not ascend. 1935, the Finns blocked this entrance. Restoration workers had to guess where it was – until they finally found it.

Alexander Smirnov, deputy head of Vyborg Museum: “We started work with this tower. And went that deep in just two weeks. When we got here, we were at this level. Scrap metal and junk covered it. And we still have just about as much ahead of us”.

Tons of earth, spade after spade, going up. Among all this soil you can find pieces of tiles, pre-war batteries, roof tiles. This huge well has already generated a legend – there was an underwater and underground passage between the castle and the town. In reality, it’s merely a tunnel built in the 16th century – which allowed passage on top of the walls, to the cannons.

Excavation engulfs the entire territory of the castle. Nobody knows what the next layer may reveal. Another engraved brick or an underground pathway? The latter did not have any mentions or spots on maps, unlike the tower itself. Seven and a half meters. Where does it lead? When was it built and what for? A wine cellar, a fridge or an escape route? It’s unclear. Specialists have designed a 3D model, but the archeologists’ main tool is not a computer – it is still a spade.

Maxim Oblender, reporter: “The findings are very different. Small and huge – like that one. Just 150 years ago, there was a paved road here. But after the war several families moved into the castle and they didn’t have enough grounds. So they planted potatoes here, put soil over the cobblestones – but now the paved road resurfaced again, literally from underneath the ground.”

A brick with this depiction was also unearthed. The entertaining past-time of both the ordinary folk and of the kings – “Windmill”. The game can be bought even today, even as a computer version.

But you won’t get to play on a pitch like that. Judging by the block’s size and make – it belongs to the 16th century. The pitch was made into wet clay, only then it was put through the oven. A similar game was discovered in Staraya Ladoga, but that one was wooden - here it’s a brick.

Alexander Smirnov, deputy head of Vyborg Museum: “The brick was covered by a layer of construction waste. There are traces of solution on the sides – maybe it was used for the foundation later. It is actually a small game pitch – may have been made by children”.

The Monrepo Park also looks like a construction site today. Two massive digs by the shore. A horseman’s house used to stand here, where boat items were stored. And during the summer archeologists also found a banya nearby. Approximate construction date – brink of 18th and 19th centuries. The construction was wooden, two rooms – one of which had a stove. The exit lead to the water, and it’s clear without the archeologists – even in the 18th century people liked to jump into the water after the steam room.

Svetlana Podzorova, deputy head on restoration and preservation of cultural heritage: “Archeologists have discovered a fragment of a cast-iron stove here. Only after it is properly registered in all respective bodies, we’ll be able to get it at the museum and display it to the public”.

Maxim Oblender, reporter: “Monrepo has a thin layer of soil. Only half-a-meter. And then its solid rock. Buildings here were put directly on top of the rocks. And thanks to that rock we can now determine what the building looked like. The main room was here – and two additional rooms were here”.

The foundations are likely to be left in this way. Information placards will possibly be installed next to it. But these discoveries cannot be restored – it’s both expensive and too late. They’ve decayed underground for too long.

Maxim Oblender, reporter: “And that is yet another one of Vyborg’s puzzles – how long would these discoveries have stayed underground if not for the excavation and restoration? How many more treasures are hidden within the numerous derelict buildings – which have been waiting for restoration for so long that it would make sense to bury time capsules in them, with a message to the future generations”.