Log Fort Tower (Late 17th Century), Bel'sk, Russia


This photograph of the surviving log tower at the Bel'sk fort (Irkutsk territory, eastern Siberia) was taken in 2000 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. From the middle of the 17th century to the 19th century, Russian settlements in the vast Irkutsk territory were built almost entirely of logs. Remarkably, a few of these log structures from the 17th century have survived. Among them is this watch tower from the fort at Bel'sk, a village founded perhaps as early as 1647 on the high left bank of the Bol'shaia Belaia River, a tributary of the Angara River. In order to protect this strategic location (about 25 kilometers northwest of Irkutsk), a fort was erected in the latter part of the 17th century. This remaining structure is modest in size, but it has features typical of log fortifications, including projecting log courses for firing positions under the main roof. The tower has an additional observation platform (partially reconstructed) at the top. This rare historic monument has been placed on a concrete base in order to facilitate its preservation.

Last updated: January 11, 2016