The history of military architecture is scanty at best, but the fortress of Finland, also referred to as the Suomenlinna is an outstanding representative of the fortifications done in the 18th century.
Finland was part of the Swedish realm in 1747, and thus the Diet in Stockholm decided to build a fortress to serve as the main base for the Finnish Armed Forces. For this base, a group of Finnish islands were chosen as possible places for the fort to be built, and Sveaborg was finally chosen for the Fortress of Sweden. Construction of the Fortress began in 1748 was also to serve as the protection base for the city’s harbor.
The work was done under the supervision of a Swedish Admiral Augustin Ehrensvard who was then an artillery officer from an aristocratic background. He adopted he Vauban’s theorems in the construction of the fortress. At first, the original plan was to fortify the group of islands surrounding Helsinki and then fortify the some strategic points of the town. However, upon his death, the second part of the plan was never executed. Note that the chain of fortresses are universally referred to as the Swedish Fortress.
Among the main reasons for the construction of the fortress was to curb the ambitions of a more powerful Russia that had established a military base in the Gulf of Finland under Peter the Great. Apparently, it was during the same period that the city of Petersburg was becoming the home port of a new Russian Navy that challenged the Swedish maritime power in the eastern reaches of the Baltic Sea.
Upon the death of Ehrensvard, one would have thought that the fortifications will stop but they continued – perhaps more earnestly – under the King Gustav III who had taken a keen interest in the project. Despite its reputation as being impenetrable, the fortress was occupied by the Russians after the 1808-09m war, and its name was changed to Viapori. Swedish power declined until finally the Sveaborg was surrendered to Russian Forces.
During the Crimean War, the Franco British forces bombarded the fortress but they were unable to destroy it. After Finland gained its independence in 1918, the Fortress’ name was changed to Suomenlinna, which is translated to mean ‘Fortress of Finland’.
A visit to this fortress is a quick study into 18th and 19th century military architecture. It showcases the lengths to which various world powers would go to protect their territory.
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