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Karosta was constructed in 1890-1906 as a naval base for the Russian Tsar Alexander III, and later served as a base for the Soviet Baltic Fleet (see Western Russian fortresses). Now it is a very popular place for tourists and artists, since there are unique sights and interesting places, such as the scenic seascapes with partially blasted fortresses on the Baltic shore. The K@2 Artists` center was established in 2000 and acts as a frame for many cultural activities by local and foreign artists who come to Karosta to make their projects and get inspiration from the unique feeling that only Karosta has - nature, buildings, ruins, people.
The base is of tactical importance due to its central location in the Baltic Sea and the fact that it does not ice over in winter. Built on the bare coast it consists of a large man-made harbour including a large breakwater and inland submarine warren.
The army headquarters include czar-era mansions used by admirals, a palace for the czar (reportedly only used once), an impressive Russian Orthodox naval cathedral, as well as underground bunkers and abandoned storehouses. Soviet-era buildings include many rows of block housing. At its height Karosta was home to over 20,000 people.
When the Russian army left Latvia in 1994 after Latvian independence, Karosta became largely uninhabited and most structures fell to ruin. In late 1990s, the area was troubled by high unemployment, street crime and drug problems.
Karosta military prison has now been converted into a museum (open May - September) and it is possible to spend the night in the guardhouse processed as a prisoner would have been.
In 2008 Ivory Tower Pictures produced a television documentary called Karosta: Life After the USSR directed by Peter King.
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