Revitalising the Dutch earthen fortification in Rostov Veliky, Russia

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Map of the old town of Rostov with its fortifications (mid-18th century)

Since 2013, the earthen fortification in Rostov built in 1632-1634 by Jan Cornelisz. van Rodenburg, a Dutch military engineer, has been the subject of a shared heritage project. The layout of the fortification shows a striking resemblance to forts in the Netherlands of the time. The earthen ramparts were surrounded by a canal that also served to drain the city area. Perhaps because little attention had been given to the Rostov ramparts in the past, most parts of the structure are still in good shape. The nearly ‘pristine’ condition of the Dutch fortress makes it by all accounts unique, certainly for Russia. Improving the visibility and accessibility of the fortification will help to give it the appreciation it deserves. It is also expected to contribute to the social-economic development of the inner city.

A successful and lively workshop led by Dutch experts Jon van Rooijen and Ben Verfürden was held in Rostov on 12 November. Some 35 urban development professionals from Rostov, Yaroslavl and Moscow, divided in four groups, brainstormed about a concrete action plan for developing the fortification. The World Bank is expected to finance a project in Rostov, which includes a plan to make a tourist walking route along the ramparts. One more challenge is the historical canal around the fortress, which has silted up over the past centuries, causing waterlogging in the inner city. The municipality is considering re-digging the canal, possibly with the help of Dutch expertise. See photos of the workshop here.

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