Suomenlinna, an island off Helsinki, is a sea fortress. Construction began in 1748, when Finland was still part of Sweden. Named Sveaborg, the fortress surrendered in May 1808 to Russian forces and was transferred, along with its ships and fortifications, to Imperial Russia. The period of Russian control of the fortress lasted until 1918. What was Russian Sveaborg – Krepost Sveaborg – like?
RUSSIAN SVEABORG – KREPOST SVEABORG
In 1809, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy under Russia’s control, but Viapori remained a military base subject to Russian administration. The Russians prepared extensive plans for the fortress. The fortification zone was extended, and the defensive system and naval port was refurbished. New barracks and hospital buildings were added to Sveaborg, and it was developed as a garrison.
During the Swedish era, Viapori had been under construction for decades but was still incomplete when it was transferred to Russia. After the Crimean War, which broke out in 1854 and resulted in Russia’s defeat, embankments covered with earth were built in Viapori, and part of its artillery was modernised. Viapori was part of a coastal defensive system along the Gulf of Finland, constructed to defend St. Petersburg. In the early 1900s, the Viapori naval port became an important base for Russia’s Baltic Fleet.
DEVELOPMENTS IN TECHONOLGY
Developments in military technology were reflected in the construction of Viapori in the 19th century. In the design and construction of barracks, an efficient and economical construction method was the preferred solution. Viapori’s defence was based on earthworks skirting the shores and artillery pieces placed behind them. The Viapori dock was damaged in the early phases of the Russian era, and the basins were filled with water for much of the 19th century. The Russian navy was a pioneer in naval mine warfare, and also stored mines in Viapori, on the island of Lonna.
The planning and construction of fortifications in Viapori was the responsibility of the Command of Engineers. The planning of barracks and hospital building followed the principles of hygiene that were known at the time. The hospitals in Viapori were separate from the other barracks, on the island of Pikku-Mustasaari. This was called Ostrov Gospitalnyi, the Hospital Island.
DAILY LIFE IN BARRACKS
In addition to barracks and military buildings, the fortress contained private houses occupied by officers and officials of the Engineering Administration. Several Russian merchants did business in Viapori. Suomelinna still has a quarter of wooden buildings consisting of old merchants’ houses, known as the Merchants’ Quarter. In 1854, the construction of an impressive church dedicated to Holy Alexander Nevsky was completed.
During the Russian era, Viapori saw several turning points linked to the political events of the their time. The surrender of Viapori to the Russian forces in 1808 marked the beginning of the Russian era in the history of the fortress. In accordance with the peace treaty signed in March 1918, Russia’s Baltic Fleet left Helsinki. On 12 May 1918, the lion flag of the Republic of Finland was hoisted in the fortress of Kustaanmiekka. and the name of the fortress was officially changed to Suomenlinna.
The Russian Viapori online exhibition
is part of the jubilee programme for
Finland’s 100 years of independence.