Sinebrychoff and the merchants in Viapori
Starting from the 1810s, several Russian merchants set up shop in Viapori, selling foodstuffs, spirits and beer to the army, and contracting various construction projects for the navy and the army, such as barracks, casemates, various storages, residential buildings and commercial premises.
Kiseleffs, Sinebrychoffs and Uschakoffs
During the Finnish War and immediately after it, Russian merchants, many of which had been serfs, moved into the occupied Finland. They had arrived in the south-eastern province of Kymeenlaakso in the 1790s, at a time when the Russians were building an extensive fortification system in the province in order to protect their then north-western border.
The most well-known merchant families were the Kiseleffs, Sinebrychoffs, Uschakoffs, Dementjeffs and Jablokoffs, which had extensive business activities in the various sections of the fortress. Merchants had no right to engage in trade, set up a craftsman’s shop or establish taverns in the City of Helsinki, as the Magistrate had not granted them burgher rights or the right to engage in craftsmanship. From the perspective of Russian merchants, this was initially not a problem, as their business operations were focused on Viapori which was not part of the Grand Duchy of Finland. Later, merchants attempted to integrate into the bourgeoisie in Helsinki.
A sketch of the Sinebrychoff restaurant. The rooftop of the restaurant is adorned with Russian horse heads, believed to bring good luck. Photo credits: KA
Sinebrychoffs’ business operations
Nicholas Sinebrychoff arrived in Viapori from Ruotsinsalmi, the present day Kotka, in 1810. He established a tavern in the fortress, set up a foodstuff shop, and began contracting construction projects, accumulating a considerable property over time. Sinebrychoff lived in a small house on the island of Länsi-Mustasaari, in addition to which he had five shops in various parts of the fortress, which sold spirits, beer, foodstuffs and knick-knacks. He also had several canteens on the islands of Susisaari and Iso-Mustasaari, and had rented a dozen casemates from the army and the navy, using them as storages. In 1819, Sinebrychoff established his later-famous brewery in Hietalahti on the mainland.
After Nicholas Sinebrychoff died in 1848, his business operations were continued by Paul Sinebrychoff Senior, his brother. In 1868, he built a new and impressive spirits office on the island of Iso-Mustasaari, the crest of which sported flèches in the shape of a horse head, protecting the building from evil spirits. The building which had fallen into disrepair was demolished at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s.
Nikolai Sinebrychoff. Photo credits: Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Text: Jyrki Paaskoski
The Russian Viapori online exhibition
is part of the jubilee programme for
Finland’s 100 years of independence.