An artistic release

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

An artistic release

  |   6 Comments

Street art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

One of the most terrifying experiences I had in Tallinn was inside the abandoned Soviet prison on the outskirts of the Old Town. Patarei Prison was used for decades and you can only imagine the horrors that took place inside. The torture, the executions, the starvation, the insanity. Walking through it and exploring with nobody else around sends shivers up your spine.

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

I have written about what it’s like to wander through Patarei Prison and see the abandoned prison complex in all its creepy authenticity. I would highly recommend you check out that post and have a look at some of the photos, if you’re interested in knowing more.

You can read my story here about visiting Patarei Prison in Tallinn

In this post, though, I want to share a more modern and creative side to this notorious compound in the capital of Estonia. Because, in some ways, what is happening at Patarei is representative of what is happening in Tallinn itself. While there are reminders of the Soviet era everywhere in the city – from the architecture to the culture – there is an emerging artistic subculture amongst the younger generation. These are the people that in some other cities might be called ‘hipsters’, although I’m not sure that would be an entirely accurate description here. But they have an interest in modern design, in tech, in cool cafes, in pop-up bars… and in art. You know the crowd I mean.

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

At some point, some of them decided that the abandoned prison just a short walk from their homes could be a canvas for their work. I’m not sure exactly when it started – it’s probably hard to pinpoint anyway. But this community followed each other and art began to appear on a compound that was a symbol of such terror and repression.

There’s now a beach bar (the prison is situated on some beautiful coastal real estate because of its original purpose as a fortress) and a cafe in the warmer months. I’ve been told there are even a few offices for small companies in one of the exterior buildings. But the thing that strikes me straight away are the artworks on the walls as you walk towards the internal entrance.

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Even once you’re inside the prison, there is one area where there is more art. Some seems to have been intentionally left there to be enjoyed. Some appears to have been left from previous pop-up exhibitions. Regardless of how it initially came to be, it all seems to fit the mood of the abandoned Soviet compound which has remained untouched for more than a decade.

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

I think the best thing for me to do is just share some photos of these artworks. Some of them tell their own story. With others, you may need to guess the intent. Whether they are related to their location or what it represents, I personally think they all tell different parts of the same narrative. On the walls of a building that once locked up people who tried to speak out, the generations that follow are able to express themselves with colour, creativity and humour.

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

Art at Patarei Prison, Tallinn, Estonia

You can find out more information here about visiting Patarei Prison
6 Comments
  • Dominique | Oct 27, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    I’m very fond of the last painting of the old man! Great pictures!
    Dominique recently posted..Kalambaka – Location, Location, LocationMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Yeah, it’s one of my favourites too! Although the second one down of the guy with the sword I think is my number one pick!

  • inka piegsa-quischotte | Nov 1, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    This is some of the best and most inspired art of this kind I have ever seen. Maybe the spirit of past horrors has fuelled creativity.
    inka piegsa-quischotte recently posted..Playing at sultana for the night in Edirne/TurkeyMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2015 at 10:50 am

      I think quite often people get inspiration and try to create something beautiful from the past – whether it’s a good or an evil past. This just shows that you can’t let an unpleasant period define anything that comes afterwards.

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | Nov 3, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    It is so interesting seeing such interesting and various artworks on the walls of an abandoned prison that houses so many painful and awful memories. The contrast between the art and the abandoned building makes for a really cool photo set.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..50 Travel Blogging Tips From Our First 5 YearsMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2015 at 10:46 am

      That’s what really struck me too. The artworks are really vibrant and cool – which is the exact opposite of how the prison was (and even how it still is today!).

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