Friday, 2 March 2012

Suomenlinna Island Fortress, Finland.

Just back from a trip to Helsinki where I visited both the Suomenlinna Island Fortress and the Helsinki Military Museum (for which I'll make another post). The fortress is a must see for any military enthusiast visting the country. We jumped on a harbour ferry (around 2-3 euros for a 15 minute trip) which operates from the Market Square. As you can see, February saw the region reach twice its average snowfall for that time of year! However, the bonus being that the island wasn't crowded with its usual flocks of tourists.

The fortress was started in 1748 under the Swedish who hoped to fortify their frontier against Russia and protect shipping channels in the area. Lieutenant-Colonel Augustin Ehrensvard (1710-1772) was given responsibility for overseeing the construction and became its first commander.In 1808 under an agreement between Alexander I and Napoleon, the ussians occupied Finland and ended Swedish rule. At the time it garrisoned 12,000 troops along with families and support personnel. Then in 1854-56 during the Crimean War the island was shelled by an Anglo-French fleet which damaged the fortress. During WW1 it was restored and used as a defensive work to protect approaches to St. Petersburg.

Later it was used as a prison camp during the Finnish Civil War where many communist prisoners died of starvation and disease. It was still used as a closed military zone until 1948 but then placed under civilian administration in 1973. Also featured on the island is the Finnish U-Boat "Vesikko", which patrolled the Gulf of Finland during WW2. In summer months the U Boat and surrounding museums are open to the public.

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