It was first mentioned in a Novgorodian chronicle of 1143 as Korela. Indeed, archeological digs have revealed a layer belonging to the 12th century. Swedish chronicles first reported of the settlement of Keksholm in 1294. Until the 16th century, the fortress belonged to the Novgorod Republic, followed by Muscovy. Novgorodians built the current stone bastions and towers in 1364 after a fire destroyed the original wooden fortress.
Soon after their seizure of Korela in 1580, the Swedes rebuilt the fortress following a Western European pattern of bastion fortifications. During the Time of Troubles, Korela was a prize promised by Vasily IV of Russia to Jacob De la Gardie for helping him fight the Poles. As a result, the fortress remained with Sweden for 100 years, until Peter the Great recaptured it during the Great Northern War.