The Brest Fortress is situated at the confluence of the Mukhavets River and the Bug River, where the Slavs in ancient times founded a settlement, which was called Berestye, first mentioned in the Russian Primary Chronicle in 1019.
During the centuries of its history, Berestye repeatedly was a scene of discord among princes of Kiev, Turov, Galicia, Volhynia, Lithuania and Polish kings. Many times the land of Berestye, on passing from hands to hands, was incorporated with different states. That was why the name of the city changed: Berestye, Brest-Litovsk, Brest-on-Bug and Brest.
After the third partition of Rzeczpospolita in 1795, Brest-Litovsk became a part of the Russian Empire that was eager to strengthen the new western frontiers. Therefore, it was decided to build a series of fortresses in this area.
In 1830, a plan was approved for the construction of the Brest-Litovsk Fortress, which was created by Russian military engineers. In accordance with it, the fortress was to be built at the site of the old city of Brest-Litovsk. In the course of the fortress construction the old buildings of the city were demolished. A new city Brest-Litovsk was built 1.5-2 kilometres east of the fortress wall.
In 1833, earthworks started. On June 1, 1836, the foundations to nelaying ceremony was held. A bronze plate and a box with coins commemorating the beginning of the construction were bricked up into the foundation of the future barracks. On April 26, 1842, the Brest-Litovsk Fortress was commissioned and joined the other first-class fortresses of the Russian Empire.
The fortress consisted of the central island (the Citadel) and three vast fortifications protecting it from all sides:
Volhyn Fortification (from the south), Terespol Fortification (from the west) and Kobrin Fortification (from the east and north). The outside of the fortress was protected by a curtain (an earthwork with brick casemates inside) - 10 metres high and 6.4 kilometres long - and a bypass moat filled with water. The total area of the fortress was 4 square kilometres (400 hectares).
1864 saw the modernization of the fortress according to the plan proposed by the well-known Russian fortification engineer Adjutant-General E.I. Totleben. The construction of some powerful defensive fortifications (forts) was started in order to stop a probable advance of the enemy towards Brest-Litovsk.
The further development of the artillery, in particular, the advent of high-explosive shells in the mid-eighties of the 19th century sped up the reconstruction of fortifications. At that time, the Russian army still considered the city of Brest-Litovsk and its fortress as important strategic points with a vast network of railways, leading out to Grodno, Warsaw, Kholm, Kiev and Moscow.
In 1912, the Committee of the General Staff approved another reconstruction plan, according to which the perimeter of the fortress was enlarged up to 45 kilometres. They intended to build a new line of forts 6-7 kilometres from the centre of the fortress. By the end of 1914, there were 14 forts, 21 intermediate footholds, 5 defensive barracks, 7 gunpowder magazines and 38 artillery batteries on the outside line of the Brest Fortress defence.