Suomenlinna Fortress - History and Facts | History Hit

Suomenlinna Fortress

Helsinki, Southern Finland, Finland

Suomenlinna Fortress is an impressive, UNESCO-listed 18th century maritime fortification complex which has been property of the Swedish, the Russians and the Finnish.

Peta Stamper

24 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Suomenlinna Fortress

Suomenlinna Fortress is an impressive 18th century maritime fortification complex spread over eight islands in Helsinki and which has been property of the Swedish, the Russians and the Finnish. Considered an excellent example of the military architecture of the period, Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Finland.

Suomenlinna Fortress history

Begun by the Swedish in 1748, when Finland was an eastern Swedish territory, Suomenlinna Fortress was considered vital in terms of defence, especially with Sweden’s declining power and in an atmosphere of increased Russian imperialism. Named Sveaborg in 1750, Suomenlinna Fortress was also known as ‘Viapori’ – the Finnish translation – until 1918.

Having avoided military engagement in the 18th century, the next century saw Suomenlinna Fortress become the subject of an enduring Russian attack in the Russo-Finnish War, also known as the ‘War of Finland’ (1808-1809). After a three-month siege, Suomenlinna Fortress fell to the Russians.

The Russians would go on to expand and garrison Suomenlinna Fortress, yet over time, large parts of it fell into disrepair. Renovations were undertaken as the Crimean War (1853–1856) approached, but Suomenlinna Fortress would go on to suffer significant damage during a two-day Anglo-French bombardment in this conflict, but remained in Russian hands.

In 1906, Suomenlinna Fortress was the site of the Viapori rebellion, a short-lived military revolt. Then, during World War One the fortress defended St Petersburg as part of the Peter the Great Fortress. Before the war ended on 6 December 1917, Finland declared independence from Russia.

Suomenlinna Fortress today

Suomenlinna Fortress has been under the control of the Finnish government since 1918 and outside military control since 1973.

Today, this is a fascinating place to visit and a popular one, with various things to see including a series of museums as well as sites such as the King’s Gate and the Great Courtyard. Military history enthusiasts will enjoy exploring its many bastions and there are guided tours.

Getting to Suomenlinna Fortress

Suomenlinna is accessible only by water: a ferry service therefore runs from the Market Square to Suomenlinna throughout the year. During summer and autumn, a water bus service to Suomenlinna is also available.

The trip to Suomenlinna takes 15–20 minutes and offers magnificent views of Finland’s capital city Helsinki and the surroundings from the sea, especially during winter.

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