Karosta as an independent city area originated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1890 to the north of Liepāja city the massive construction of fortifications and a military camp was begun. The official order to start building was given by Russian Tsar Alexander III. His son, Tsar Nicholas II, named the new base Port of Alexander III. But during the time of the first Latvian independence this place was more and more often referred to as the Kara Osta (War Port). The port of Alexander III was a fully autonomous, populated area with its own infrastructure, electricity power plant, sewage system, church and schools.
During the Soviet time Karosta was a closed and covert zone with no admission even for the citizens of Liepāja.
Karosta is a northern neighbourhood which occupies one third of Liepāja city. It is a spectacular, paradoxical and unique site not only in Latvia but also in the world’s history and architecture. Its environment reflects the interaction of tsarist Russia military elegance and Soviet militarism. Karosta today is a special neighbourhood. It is not anymore a closed area of a military base but a tourism site with an inspiring environment for creative people as well.
You can reach Karosta by public buses No 3, 4, 7 and 8 or public mini-buses No 1 and 3.
The St. Nicholas Orthodox Maritime Cathedral
Katedrāles iela 7, Karosta, Liepāja
The St.Nicholas Cathedral is the visual and spiritual dominant of the whole Karosta area. The Cathedral has been designed and erected in the style of the 17th century Russian orthodox churches with central and four side cupolas symbolising Christ and four Apostles.
Erection of the Cathedral began in 1901. That same year the Russian Tsar Nicholas II with his family members, courtiers and supreme officers took part in the solemn ceremony of consecration of the foundation stone of the Cathedral. The first service in St.Nicholas Cathedral and its consecration took place in 1903. The Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family and courtiers also took part in this ceremony.
On the outbreak of World War I, numerous items were evacuated to Russia including the bells and icons, and the valuables that had were left were pillaged by the German occupiers. During the 1920s and 1930s, under the Latvian government, the Church was adapted to the needs of the Liepāja garrison’s Lutherans.
Finally, upon the conclusion of the Second World War, the Soviet Navy base in Liepāja was made a secret territory and was closed to public. So they established a sports hall, a cinema and the so-called “red corner” (a recreation and entertainment room) here in the former Cathedral for the needs of sailors and soldiers. It was then that the sphere of the central cupola was bricked up, to destroy its great acoustics and allow the naval personnel to hear their films.
Invalīdu iela 4, Karosta, Liepāja
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The garrison prison of Liepāja’s Karosta was built at the beginning of the 20th century as a Navy hospital but has never been used as a hospital. In all times it has been used as a short term disciplinary penalty place for navy sailors and non – commissioned officers since the beginning of the 20th century.
Garrison sailors, who participated in the events of the revolution in 1905, served their sentence in the prison.
The building has been used as a short term disciplinary penalty place for sailors and non-commissioned officers by both the Soviet and Latvian Navy. The last of the convicts have scratched calendars, drawings, slogans, catchwords and messages on the walls of the cells just a short time ago, in 1997.
Today you have the possibility to go on an excursion in Karosta Prison, to participate in the reality show “Behind the bars” or even to overnight in a prison cell.
The Kalpaks Bridge
O. Kalpaka iela, Liepāja
The swing bridge in Karosta, one of the oldest in Liepāja and Latvia, is a prominent example of engineering. The design of the bridge was after French engineer Alexander Gustav Eifel (1832 -1923) drawings.
The bridge has two similar girders which are parted by 90°. It takes about 4-5 minutes to apply the operation by means of an electric motor or a windlass.
The bridge has been damaged several times. In 2006 the northern part of the bridge was damaged by the tanker ship “Anna”, sailing under Georgian flag.
Currently the bridge is not operating because of the renovation.
Zemgales iela, Karosta, Liepāja
The building was erected in 1903-1904. The building had a light roof of riveted metal and a tin-plated lining. To let the light into the large hall, windows were installed and glass tiles built into in the roof ceiling.
Before World War I, performances of cavalry and artillery horses, as well as of the sports horses of the senior officers were arranged; also competitions in the nimbleness of the horsemen took place. During the weeks, the hall was adapted to the sailors’ needs for gymnastics exercises.
As the hall could hold more than 4000 people, the official receptions and festive meals for the garrison’s sailors were hosted here, too.
The Water Tower
Ģen.Baloža iela, Karosta, Liepāja
The water tower was built in 1905. The tower supplied the entire naval port with drinking water. The old pumps have survived to the present day. The tower is not accessible to the public.
The Station of Homing Pigeons
Pulkveža Brieža iela 6, Karosta, Liepāja
It is well known that already in ancient times the pigeon’s sense of orientation was observed. When the bird is released the instinct takes it back to its cage. If the wind is right they can fly at a speed of nearly 100 kilometres per hour. In modern history the pigeons were used mainly during the war, even during the World War II they were used for sending correspondence.
The carrier pigeon station was built for 450 pigeons. The building was rebuilt a lot of times, and nowadays it is a residential home.
The Baltic States Divers Training Center
Atmodas bulvāris 1, Karosta, Liepāja
It is located near the Kalpak’s bridge. The Training Center is a military institution. Divers and sappers not only from the Baltic States but also from the other states are trained there.
This hydro technical construction is closely connected with building of Liepāja’s Navy fortress and Naval Port construction, and it is a very significant part of it.
It is 1800 meters long and 7.35 meters wide.
The Northern breakwater was built at the end of 19th century.
The Northern Forts
Jātnieku iela, Karosta, Liepāja
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The Northern Forts are a part of Liepāja’s fortress. The fortress was built at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of 20th century to provide the protection of Liepāja’s naval base in case of enemy attack. The line of the outer fortification system surrounded the whole city.
In November of 1908, Tsar Nicholas II approved a decision to shut down the sea fortress in Liepāja. Some of the cannons were dismounted and brought to the Kaunas fortress in Lithuania, others were melted. There was an attempt to blow up the gun batteries, the underground structures and the gunpowder depots but this did not prove effective. So nowadays we can still see the remains of the newest and the most up-to-date fortress of the Tsar’s Russia.
You have the possibility to visit the Northern forts on a guided tour.
You can participate in a game “Escape from the USSR”. The aim of the game is to act as a team in order to find a friend who has been taken as a prisoner by soviet border guards and to take him safely to the submarine.