Walls at Suomenlinna
These are some of the walls at Suomenlinna, the great fortification of an entire island in the gulf of Helsinki. It’s only possible to go there by boat, but it’s definitely worth the small journey.

Sweden started the building of Suomenlinna in 1748, when Finland was still a part of the Swedish kingdom. Sweden was worried about its eastern frontier and decided to build a central fortification to prevent Russia from expanding. The small town of Helsinki and the Susiluodot islands in front of the town were chosen as the location of the fortress.

The new fortress was called Sveaborg, meaning Sweden's fortress. It was the biggest building project that Sweden had ever undertaken. The building was mainly financed by subsidies granted by France. Augustin Ehrensvärd, a lieutenant colonel who was also a clever politician, organizer and fortress planner, was appointed to supervise the construction work.

The busiest building period took 40 years. Thousands of foot soldiers built walls, fortifications, houses, and a large dry dock. The fortress grew into a city with more inhabitants than Helsinki itself. The dry dock built ships for a famous archipelago fleet at the end of the 18th century.

In 1808 the fortress surrendered to the Russians after a blockade almost without a battle. The next year Finland became a part of the Russian empire - and the fortress that had been built to guard the east was now guarding the western frontier.

The Russians ruled in Sveaborg for 110 years. Barracks, hospitals and a church were built for the needs of a big garrison. It was because of the fortress that Helsinki was chosen the new capital of Finland.

During the Crimean War in 1855 Viapori was bombarded by a large Anglo-French fleet for two days and nights.

After Finland became independent, the fortress was given in 1918 a new Finnish-language name, Suomenlinna, meaning Finland's fortress. The Finnish period had a sinister beginning, when a large prison-camp was established on the islands for the Reds, who had lost the Finnish Civil War. But soon life in the new republic quieted down, and Suomenlinna served for a long time as a Finnish garrison. In 1973 it finally received a civilian administration.