Königsberg Castle, Kaliningrad

Formerly the capital of East Prussia, Königsberg (literally King’s Mountain) became part of the Soviet Union and changed its name to Kaliningrad in 1945, at the end of World War II. Founded by the Teutonic Order, the settlement grew around Königsberg Castle, which over the centuries became the key landmark of the city. This majestic Gothic fortress featured a church and a hospital within its walls and was the venue of the crowning of two Prussian kings.

Although the castle suffered significant damage during World War II, its thick walls remained intact. The ruins stood for twenty more years when in 1968, the Soviet authorities made a decision to demolish the castle, claiming to “rid the city from a reminder of Prussian aggression.” 

The Dormition Church, Kondopoga, Republic of Karelia

Wooden architecture is a calling card of the Russian North. The main threat to this fragile beauty is fire, which has already razed about 15 wooden churches over the last eight years. One of the greatest losses was the 18th-century temple in Kondopoga that burnt down in 2018. At 42 meters high, this architectural wonder was one of the tallest wooden buildings in Russia. Nevertheless, It took only three hours for the church to burn to the ground. Together with the temple, the fire destroyed the iconostasis and the unique painted ceiling.

Sukharev Tower, Moscow

A gem of the 17th century Moscow Baroque, the Sukharev Tower was the symbol of young Peter the Great’s rescue from Princess Sophia, who wished to overthrow her younger brother but failed thanks to commander Lavrentiy Sukharev, whose regiment of streltsy had supported the future emperor.

The 60-meters tall building originally hosted the Moscow School of Mathematics and Navigation, and, what’s more, was a source of some of the city's spookiest stories. One of them was about the tower’s resident, Peter the Great’s associate Jacob Bruce. Legend says, Bruce had his own human-headed iron bird to carry him to the tsar, and had a mute servant girl that would meet his guests and turn into flowers at night. Thought as a sorcerer, astrologist, and the master of the mysterious tower, he actually was an astronomer, physicist, and chemist.

The building was destroyed in 1934 to pave the way for the city’s growing transport infrastructure. Over its history, the tower also served as a water storage and was the home of the Moscow Municipal Museum.

Bonus gem: Plastic House, St. Petersburg (Leningrad)

The Soviet era was a time for experiments in urban planning. In 1961, engineers from Leningrad devised a unique house made completely from plastic. The two-story building looked very futuristic: it consisted of a single-room apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, small terrace, and huge panoramic plexiglass windows. In fact, no one has ever lived there: the very idea of an individual house contradicted the communist ideology, and, what’s more important, it was just an experimental laboratory to test plastic as a viable material for future construction. The study lasted for three years and turned out a success – in the mid-60s, the first plastic-based houses began construction in Moscow. When the experiment finished, the building was abandoned and became a target for vandals until its remains were finally disassembled.

Dive deeper into the world of local architectural wonders with our stories on never-implemented Soviet projects and inspiring and sometimes bizarre buildings all over Russia.