The Swedes had named the fortress “Sveaborg” which soon corrupted into “Viapori” in Finnish parlance. (The designation “Suomenlinna” was adopted in 1918 after the fortress had been taken over by independent Finland). The Russians decided to retain the name “Sveaborg” but, later, they also referred to the fortress with “Krepost Sveaborg” – literally, “The Fortress of Sveaborg”. Immediately after the Finnish War between 1808 and 1809, an idea was raised to name the fortress “Aleksandria” in honour of Alexander, the Emperor.


Under the Russian rule, Viapori was not part of the Grand Duchy of Finland but remained an independent part of it.  The fortress was headed by a commandant, who was directly accountable to St. Petersburg. Helsinki became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812, which meant that administration and the university were transferred from Turku to Helsinki. Viapori’s significance was a factor in this decision.


During the Russian era, Viapori played an important role in the defense of St. Petersburg. Towards the end of the 19th century in particular, Viapori’s military significance changed. Its principal task was to maintain Russian power and presence in Helsinki and, on the other hand, protect St. Petersburg against enemy landings. Viapori was no longer regarded as a fortress but, rather, a coastal post (“positsija”).


Suomenlinna Church shapes the landscape of the sea fortress. Photo credits: Suomen ilmakuva

Suomenlinna Church was completed in 1854, and the Jetty Barracks were completed in 1870. Photo credits: The National Board of Antiquities

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The Russian Viapori online exhibition

is part of the jubilee programme for

Finland’s 100 years of independence.