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There are many of them, but only 14 are called the Outer Islands of the Gulf of Finland.

Large and small, covered with age-old pines or smooth basalt, sandy, rocky, gently - they are very different, and sometimes it is hard to believe that they are created by nature in one corner of the planet, very close to each other. And some of them are so diverse themselves that, walking along them, you can go from "Bryansk swamps" to "Curonian dunes" in five minutes, near which you can see "Norwegian fjords" covered with "alpine meadows".


View of the southern part of the island of Hogdand from Falcon Mountain
View of the southern part of the island of Gogdand from Falcon Mountain

But the islands are remarkable not only for their pristine nature. They have an incredibly interesting, rich, but very little known story, full of secrets and mysteries. And this story really goes back to the very depths of the centuries and is a very important part of the history not only of Russia, but of the entire continent.

However, what really makes unique these Outer Islands is the fact, that being located only a few hours from St. Petersburg by water, almost no one knows anything about this place. Even St. Petersburgers (with rare exceptions) do not know in what way "runs" wedge of the islands for almost two dozen kilometers to the Gulf of Finland behind the forts of Kronstadt after the state border.

And it is this wedge that is well known to all of us from school  as "window to Europe", which "cut" Peter the Great.


Map from the archive of the Russian Geographical Society
Map from the archive of the Russian Geographical Society

So it turned out that everyone, who is asked what this "window" is, answers St. Petersburg. But looking closer again at the map of the Gulf of Finland it is possible to see a narrow bottleneck at the exit to the Baltic. It is literally covered with islands. And if they did not belong to Russia, the effect of the creation of St. Petersburg as a major commercial port and naval base would be highly questionable.

This is only a part of the unique history of the Outer islands.