Patarei prison, Tallinn
UPDATE January 2020: The site has passed into new ownership and at least part of the former prison is set to re-open to the public, with an all new exhibition, and there are big plans for more in the future. (I plan to go and check out the first installment myself soon.) This is the new info I was sent by the project manager:
"The building was recently sold and will be redeveloped into apartments, offices etc. Thus far, the east wing of Patarei has been managed by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory and this will continue. It is possible to visit the exhibition area (1200m2) of in the east wing of the prison created by the institute. The exhibition is the first stage of establishing the International Museum for the Victims of Communism and research centre that will be built in the coming years. The authentic prison interior in the east wing will be preserved.
This season, the exhibition will reopen on 2 May.
The opening hours for this season:
May to September Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 18:00 (last admission 17.15).
Ticket prices: adults 8€, concessions 5€
Private tour: 35€ per group + 5€ entry fee per person
The concept of the exhibition is to introduce the nature of communist ideology and the crimes of its implementers in different countries, the stories of the victims of communism and Nazism, and the eventful history of Patarei since its construction as a naval fortress in the 19th century. The exhibition warns against the dangers of such ideas and reminds us of the value of human dignity and freedom.
The exhibition area consists of the preserved prisoners’ walkways in the courtyard, the solitary cells' building, the cells of the main building, the washroom and corridors, the administrative rooms, the execution chamber with an anteroom, where the death sentence was read out to the victim, and other rooms.
The exhibition is in English and Estonian.
More information can be found here: https://patareiprison.org/ "
A prime dark site in Estonia
's capital city Tallinn
, namely a disused prison from the 19th century that continued to be used as place of incarceration right through the Soviet
era and up to the early 2000s. It consists of a main wing that forms a semi-crescent along the coastline and a triangular block of buildings behind it.
The interior has basically been left unaltered as it was when the prison closed. Allegedly it looks like the place has only just been vacated in a hurry. In the medical station, cotton wool balls from an operation are still in place, and in some cells the inmates' reading material is said to be still there too. You can even walk on the guards' walkway above the open-air cage “cells”. Overall, it is frequently described as an extremely eerie, gloomy, even scary place.
Alas, I was not able to check this place out myself when I was in Tallinn in spring 2014. The prison would only have been open to the public again for guided tours from mid-May. I was there too early. I tried to negotiate, but they insisted that the only way they'd let me in would be on a private tour for 80 EUR, i.e. ten times what the regular tour would have cost. I declined. But I still regret not having seen this – other than from the outside (see photos below). Oh well, gives me a reason to return to Tallinn
UPDATE: please note that after a period of closure the site will reopen in May 2020. And: I've already made arrangements to go back to Tallinn at the end of that month and finally go to see the inside of Patarei prison and the new exhibition. So watch this space. I'll put up a full report when I'm back and have found the time to write it up. Please bear with me.
UPDATE May 2020: I had indeed booked a return trip to Tallinn in order to see this place (and a few others where changes have taken place, but, as you can guess, I had to cancel that trip too due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully I can do this trip before too long once travel as normal is possible again.
right next door to the Seaplane Harbour Museum
along the “cultural kilometre” that leads along the former military area on the harbour shoreline all the way to Linnahall just outside the northern end of Tallinn
's Old Town, from where it is a ca. 15-20 minutes' walk.
- Patarei prison 1 - front facing the sea
- Patarei prison 2 - rear
- Patarei prison 3 - watchtower
- Patarei prison 4 - plaques on the wall
- Patarei prison 5 - northern wing
- Patarei prison 6 - main entrance
- Patarei prison 7 - schematic plan
- Patarei prison 8 - harbour view
- Patarei prison 9 - Seaplane Harbour next door to the prison