Patarei Prison: Tour Through An Abandoned Soviet Gulag

In our never-ending mission to find strange and less traveled locations, we found Tallinn’s Patarei prison. Just on the outskirts of town, the abandoned Patarei prison is one of the strangest museums we’ve ever been to. It’s complete with execution room, medical ward and a ghostly feeling to it. The best way to describe the experience would be as a sort of ‘shock tourism’ and exactly what we love to see.

Patarei Prison enterance sign

Patarei prison entrance sign

A little history lesson about Estonian occupation and Patarei prison

Patarei prison hasn’t always been a prison. Originally it was built as a sea fortress to protect the sailing routes of the Russian empire back in the 1800’s. It wasn’t until 1919 when the country had almost no prisons left standing after WWI that it was converted into a prison.

It was as normal and happy as a prison could be, with around 500 prisoners, a few of which even had a lovely view of the sea from their cells.

Then the Soviets took over – welcome back ruthless KGB

Then, in 1940, the Soviets took over the country and the prison changed completely.

It quickly went from 500 to 3,000 prisoners and even 5,000 at its peak. Most of them were held here as political prisoners because they spoke up against the communist regime.

Related post: Is visiting the Chernobyl nuclear plant safe?

Rumors have it that the KGB loved these prisoners so much they tried many things to keep them inside, even going as far as to inject them with hallucinogenic drugs. This made them seem constantly crazy which would justify why they were locked away.

Patarei Prison medical ward

I can’t even comprehend what could have gone on in this chair

Patarei Prison medical ward

The surgery room of the prison with most of the medical equipment left behind

Patarei Prison Hospital bed

Hospital bed left behind in the medical ward of the prison

This all kept going on in Patarei until the soviets were kicked out of the country in 1991. It was then turned back into a normal-ish prison, until it was finally closed in 2004 when Estonia joined the EU.

Patarei prison nowadays

The building then sat empty, apart from the occasional underground rave, for a couple of years. Then in 2007, it became a ‘cultural park’ or a nice way of saying that nobody actually wants to deal with it.

The government doesn’t want it in its current state but has no money to fix it or get rid of it. The public doesn’t want it, but the private sector doesn’t want to shell out the cash either.

Related post: Backpackers guide to 48 hours in Riga

So, it’s just sitting there as a sort-of museum come abandoned building with little to no upkeep. This, though is what gave it that scary ‘shock’ factor you don’t normally get.

There is no sign that it’s a museum apart from the ticket booth and the only information sign in the whole place is for the hanging room. Otherwise you and your imagination are left to run wild!

The enterance to the prison

The entrance to the prison

Inside the gulag

Patarei Prison hallway

One could only imagine what is behind these bars

Patarei Prison Hallway Chair

Everything has just been abandoned

Patarei Prison pornography

I didn’t want to touch anything after imagining the amount of wanking that would have happened here

Patarei Prison russian trash

Type writer and rubbish left behind by the Russians

Patarei Prison Cell Door

A prison cell door

Cell Room Patarei Prison

And I thought some of my hostel dorm rooms were shit

The hanging room

Executions were common in the prison and were either by a shot to the back of the head or hanging. Both would result in your body being dragged through the grounds and tossed over a cliff into the sea. Even Estonia’s head of state in 1941, Jaan Tõnisson, was rumored to have been executed in Patarei. These executions happened until as late as 1991.

Hanging room sign

The only sign in the museum

Patarei Prison Hanging Room

This is where the prisoners would be hung when executed in the prison

Patarei Prison Cell Door

Why aren’t soviet police & KGB not brought to the Hague….

Cell Room Patarei Prison

Anyone lose their shoe?

Patarei Prison Library

Paper and books of what could have been the prison library

Patarei Prison exercise yard

Hallway to the prisons exercise yards

Patarei Prison exercise yard

The view from above the exercise yards in the prison

Patarei Prison exercise yard guard tower

The guard tower that overlooks the prison exercise yards

Sort-of art gallery

Artists have taken over at some point and left all sorts of art exhibitions and graffiti throughout the grounds.

Related post: Backpacker guide to 48 hours in Vilnius

Patarei Prison Go fuck your selfie

Strong words

Patarei Prison Enterance Graffitti

Nice paste up in the entrance to the prison

Patarei Prison Graffitti

This is the basement and what we though was a kitchen

Patarei Prison Graffitti

Art work in the prison exercise yard

Patarei Prison Graffitti

More graffiti in the yard

Patarei Prison Graffitti

And more…

So, if you’re in Tallinn and want to get away from all of the medieval re-enactments and hipster cafes, this is where you need to go. Easily one of the best ways to see what went on behind the ‘iron curtain’ and get a feeling for how bad times were not so long ago.

Related post: Soviet time capsule train ride through Eastern Europe

Everything you need to know before you go

If you want to get the most out of this place we would highly recommend taking the tour or buying the brochure at the least. Since there are no signs a lot could be lost on you if you don’t do some research.

€3 (adults)/€2 (students) €5 for the brochure
€8 each for a minimum of 10 people
There are tours run throughout the summer and by appointment in winter.

Check before you go at: http://patarei.org/en/

 

Further Reading

From Sand to Surf A Moroccan Photo Essay Before going to Morocco we knew almost nothing about the country. All we wanted was to get away from winter in Europe and travel somewhere cheap!  Wel...
What To Do With 48 Hours In Tallinn Nabbed some cheap flights? Bashing your way through the Baltics? Only have a few days and need to get the most out of every second? We've got you cove...
The 7 Best Hostels In Tallinn – The Quirky Capital Of Estonia We’ve made a list of all the best hostels in Tallinn so you can rest your pretty head in the city’s most awesome beds. You’re welcome! O...
The Bizarre World Of Iran’s Bazaars – Photo Gallery To help inspire you for your trip to Iran, we've put together a photo gallery of the best bazaars to visit in Iran from the Grand Bazaar in Tehran to ...
36 Photos From The Cuban Time Machine Over our time in Cuba, the biggest takeaway for us wasn't the beauty of the countryside or the amazing car museum that is Havana, but the divide betwe...
6 Best Hostels In Riga, Latvia We've made a list of all the best hostels in Riga so you can rest your pretty head in the city's most awesome beds. You're welcome! In many ...
By |2017-01-11T16:10:27+00:00July 17th, 2016|Categories: Baltics, Estonia, Photo Journal|Tags: , |0 Comments

About the Author:

A twenty-something x engineer who loves eating strange things, jumping off things, can be a little OCD about most things and loves trying to make his travels as cheap as possible!

Leave A Comment