Schools in Viapori

In Viapori, as everywhere else, the church had the responsibility for popular education, with priests acting as teachers. Teaching was intended for soldiers and children in the fortress.


Russian schools in the fortress


In the early 19th century, the clergy in the fortress drew attention to the fact that soldiers normally could not read and write. A 40-seat school was established in order to improve the literacy of gunners and to teach them how to write. Boys were also taught at the same school. Teaching took account of the needs of gunners. Subjects included history, the Shorter Catechism, the explanation of the Orthodox sermon, reading, writing by dictation, gunnery and arithmetic. In addition to priests, artillery officers acted as teachers. Although teaching was intended for soldiers, the teaching was also beneficial for children’s later studies and working life.


Teaching was also provided for children from both higher and lower estates, including girls. A girls’ school was located behind the Commandant’s House, with the three daughters of officer Sudoff teaching girls languages and handicrafts. A Russian elementary school was established in Viapori in the 1880s, and a school for the children of Russian officers in 1896. A merchant named Tshernysov donated a former pharmacist’s building to the Russian Charity Association to be used as a school for children. The association run a school between 1890 and 1907. The northern end of the middle floor of the Officers’ Club housed classrooms for boys and girls, as well as the teacher’s lodgings. The school was intended for the children of the “lower ranks”. By 1886, the school moved to the Tshernysov’s wooden house.


Other schools


In 1856, the garrison parish of the fortress of Viapori established a school on the island of Vallinsaari, part of Viapori. Establishing a school on Vallinsaari was natural – after all, the majority of the permanent Finnish population in the fortress lived there. In early February 1882, two schools intended both for girls and boys were opened in Viapori; one used Finnish as a teaching language, the other, Swedish. In the early 20th century, two part-time female teachers taught at this school in addition to the other teachers. Priests taught religion at the schools in Viapori, receiving a separate remuneration for this.


Viapori was a multi-cultural community where a school of the Roman Catholic church was in operation and a Jewish cantonist school trained children and young men for service in the army.


Cabin boy school


Boys loitering in the fortress were put to the cabin boy school in order to learn discipline and order. The cabin boy school was established during the Swedish era, but continued its operation until 1826.


The requirements were kept unchanged from the Swedish era, with the boys taken to the school at the age of 12. A naval officer taught the pupils of the two highest classes history, geography, mathematics, navigation, writing and drawing. Pupils also studied the Russian, French and German languages. Cabin school students enjoyed free teaching, clothing and board. In summer, they had the same benefits as Russian seamen. Many poor boys had an opportunity to receive education, a major benefit at the time. They had the opportunity to enter service in the Russian Army or Navy. Those boys who wished so received a musician’s training, and had the opportunity to play in an orchestra.


Just before the First World War, a school for handicraftsmen was established in Viapori, only to be closed in 1918. Other Russian schools were also closed as the entire Russian garrison with their families left the fortress.

Photo credits: MV

Text: Maija-Liisa Tuomi

The Russian Viapori online exhibition

is part of the jubilee programme for

Finland’s 100 years of independence.