OR 2014

Friday Excursion: Suomenlinna Fortress, the Queen of Sea [fully booked]

Suomenlinna fortifications

A bastion in Suomenlinna

“Looks out o’er sea its granite eye
And spacious land-locked bay.
Gustavus’ sword it lifts on high
And dares: advance who may!
Nor need it fall to strike the rash—
It withers with its lightning flash.”

Planning your trip to the Open Repositories 2014 Conference, you really should allow time for the excursion to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress on Friday evening, June 13th. The fortress (called Sveaborg in Swedish) was built in 18th century and occupies a number of small islands guarding the entrance to Helsinki harbour. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist attraction – but also a home for a few hundred inhabitants.

Our excursion will include the boat rides, a guided tour, and a light dinner. There will be a limited number of places available.

Sweden started to build Suomenlinna in 1740s. It was meant to support Swedish Navy in protecting the eastern areas of the realm. It was a huge undertaking: the population of the fortress dwarfed Helsinki which in those days was a rather unimportant provincial town.

Suomenlinna saw little action during the 18th century as a Swedish fortress. When it would have been mostly needed, in the war of 1808-1809 between Sweden and Russia, its commander decided to surrender, referring to lack of supplies. (We will not disclose his name, as asked by the poet.) The Fall of Suomenlinna sealed the transfer of Finland from Sweden to Russia.


Inside the fortifications

“Call him alone by traitor’s name—
Appointed Finland’s stay—
Incarnate crime, disgrace, and shame,
Yea, all that shuns the day—
Only as such of him to speak,
And spare the hearer’s reddening cheek.”



The fortress gained international name during the Crimean war, as Finland by then was part of Russia and therefore subject to British and French attacks. The bombardment of Suomenlinna in 1855, by the enemy navies, did not lead to landing, after all. In the propaganda of the day the magnificence of the fortress grew to mythic proportions.


The Bombardment of Sveaborg / John Wilson Carmichael

“Beware to rashly near the isle,
When war has loosed its reins;
Nor dare disturb the Sea Queen while
The fight her wrath unchains:
Her thousand guns with fiery breath
Hurl forth the messenger of death.”

Today Suomenlinna is a unique, authentic monument of military architecture. It houses museums, art galleries, artisans’ workshops, and meeting facilities. It also has a shop, a school, and a municipal library. It is a popular destination for walks, swimming and picnics. You might want to visit the web pages: http://www.suomenlinna.fi/en

(Verses are excerpts from Johan Ludvig Runebergs “Sveaborg”, from 1848. The translation from Swedish is by Montague Donner, and was published in the New York Times in 1899. Those fluent in Scandinavian languages find the original text here. Translation to Finnish here.)



Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Uncategorized