This is the second part of the entry concerning the abandoned Patarei prison in Tallinn, Estonia (for the first part, click here.) After roaming around the more or less empty and desolate building and its endless corridors, I’m going to take a look inside the rooms and the cells.
Patarei was originally a sea fortress built by Russia at the 1840s. At that point Estonia was part of the Russian empire, and its capital Tallinn was important port at the coast of the Baltic Sea. Patarei served as a fortress and cannon battery until the Russian revolution & the birth of the Soviet Union. During the 1920s it was converted into a prison, which duty it served until the 21st century. Now it stands at the Tallinn waterfront as an unofficial memorial for those times, and carries the stories from its past around its discarded body – outside and inside.
The labyrinths of the former fortress had their own atmosphere with their architectural details and echoes that seemed to resonate through the lost decades, but the rooms and especially the small artefacts strewn around the cells were even more intriguing. Normal everyday objects and texts scraped on the walls had profounder meaning when one knew that they had been there all the time, seen everything that took place inside the prison and stood there now as testimonials to otherwise neglected history. The sink was like a small poem.
Even banal things like an empty jar of pickles meant something as it made one think how somebody had relished its contents in the cell, maybe the only delicacy available in long time.
There were surprisingly lot of miscellanious stuff at the cells & rooms. Some places were almost intact, but others had been ransacked. The scales were probably from the prison kitchen.
Even some persihable memories like old flowers with dried leaves were still in their right place.
But the one thing that really made the place real and gave one an opportunity to peek into the private lives of the prisoners in Patarei at the late Soviet times and the early phase of Estonian independence were the pictures and posters that hung at the dilapidated walls of the cells.
Most of the posters on the cold concrete depicted girls, which is natural considering the circumstances.
There was also an old Russian-language newspaper on the floor, analyzing striptease as voyerism.
Official documents had drifted here & there around the prison. And for me as an writer the saddest thing was probably the discarded library with books thrown around & rotting on the shelves.
The autumn sun was pouring in, but paradoxically it made the place look even more bleak when you thought that the prisoners had been sitting there, guilty or innocent, and could just dream of getting out into the sunshine. Maybe the books were only escape from the harsh reality.
A typewriter was lying on a small stool as if someone had thrown it there in the middle of writing his memoirs when the Patarei prison was finally closed and left to the dogs (and to the pigeons.)
At the hospital ward and in the many storerooms there were still jars & bottles full on God knows what potions & liniments. They didn’t look too healthy but gave again the feeling of reality.
Now the place was empty, and it seemed as if the soldiers from the fortress and prisoners from the cells had just left, leaving behind all their earthly belongings. The dead lamp of the hospital ward was as black as the life in a Soviet prison, but it still reflected the light of the sky.