Russo-Swedish Wars of the 18th and 19th Centuries

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Russo-Swedish Wars of the 18th and 19th Centuries


wars waged for the Baltic region and Finland and for domination on the Baltic Sea.

The first Russo-Swedish war was from 1700 to 1721 (seeNORTHERN WAR OF 1700–21).

The Russo-Swedish War of 1741–43 was caused by revanch-ist claims of the Swedish aristocratic leadership to the territory Sweden had lost in the Northern War of 1700–21. Although unprepared, Sweden declared war on Russia on July 24 (August 4), 1741. In August small numbers of Swedish and Finnish troops (8,000 men) were deployed in two groups near Villmanstrand (now Lappeenranta) and Fredrikshamn. Russian forces numbering approximately 20,000 under the command of Field Marshal P. P. Lasi were concentrated at Vyborg. On August 23 (September 3) Russian forces took Villmanstrand. In September the Swedish Army commanded by C. E. Loewen-haupt was strengthened to a force of 17,000 men. In June 1742 the Russian forces, numbering 35,000, passed to the offensive and took Fredrikshamn, and the Swedish Army of approximately 20,000 hastily retreated toward Helsingfors (Helsinki). Pursuing the retreating enemy, Lasi occupied Borgå and Nys-lott (now Savonlinna) during August and surrounded the Swedish Army in the Helsingfors region, where the Swedes surrendered on August 24 (September 4). Åbo was then captured and peace negotiations were begun there.

In the spring of 1743 military actions were resumed. In May a detachment of Russian rowing flotilla defeated the Swedish rowing flotilla near the island of Korpo. In June, Lasi’s landing detachment with a number of galleys and a sailing fleet left Kronstadt to put a landing party ashore in Sweden; however, while en route, Lasi received news that the preliminary conditions of the Åbo Peace Treaty of 1743, which was concluded August 7(18), had been signed, ceding the part of Finland up to the Kymmene (Kymi) River to Russia.

The Russo-Swedish war of 1788–90 began as a result of Sweden’s desire to regain territory lost in previous wars. King Gustavus III of Sweden, supported by Great Britain, Holland, and Prussia, entered into an alliance with Turkey in the summer of 1788 and decided to attack Russia, whose main forces were engaged in the Russo-Turkish war of 1787–91. On June 21 (July 2), without the consent of the Riksdag, the Swedish King began military actions. He personally led the Swedish Army of 38,000 against Fredrikshamn, Villmanstrand, and Nyslott, while the Swedish Navy, commanded by the Duke Charles of Söderman-land, the king’s brother, was to attack the Russian Navy at Kronstadt and, if successful, seize St. Petersburg with a landing force. The Russian Guard and hurriedly assembled units (approximately 19,000 men), commanded by General V. P. Mu-sin-Pushkin, were rushed to the border. As a result of the vigorous actions of the Russian squadron of Admiral S. K. Greig in the battle of Gogland (1788), the Swedish Navy on July 6 (17) was forced to stop offensive actions and depart to Sveaborg (now Suomenlinna).

The war was unpopular in Sweden and disturbances began in the army. The Finnish units refused to fight, and Finnish officers formed the Anjala League, demanding that the Riksdag be convoked and a peace treaty concluded with Russia. In late 1788, Swedish forces withdrew from Fredrikshamn and Nyslott. In August 1788, Denmark entered the war against Sweden, but by September 28 (October 9), under pressure from Great Britain and Holland, it concluded a separate peace. In the period 1789–90 combat operations took place only at sea. After a battle near Oland Island in July 1789, the Russian fleet, commanded by Admiral V. Ia. Chichagov, forced the Swedish fleet to depart to Karlskrona. In August 1789 the Russian galley fleet, commanded by Admiral C. Nassau-Siegen, defeated the Swedish galley fleet at Rochensalm. In May 1790 the Russian squadrons of Chichagov and Vice Admiral A. I. Kruz, after repulsing attacks against Revel’ (now Tallinn) and near Krasnaia Gorka (on the south shore of the Gulf of Finland), blockaded the Swedish fleet in Vyborg Bay. During the sea battle of Vyborg on June 22 (July 3), 1790, the Swedish fleet broke through the blockade, sustaining great losses. The defeats at sea and the unfavorable situation within the country forced the Swedish government to sign the Peace Treaty of Värälä on Aug. 3 (14), 1790, which reaffirmed Russia’s territorial acquisitions gained in earlier peace treaties.

The Russo-Swedish war of 1808–09 was caused by Russia’s desire during the war against Great Britain, begun in 1807, to establish full control over the gulfs of Finland and Bothnia, thus ensuring the security of St. Petersburg. The 1807 Treaty of Tilsit posed Sweden with a dilemma: join the continental blockade with Russia, thereby subjecting Sweden’s own maritime trade to attacks by the British Navy and renouncing the English market, or maintain the traditional alliance with Great Britain and enter into conflict with Russia. King Gustavus IV Adolphus chose to break with Russia, although Sweden was not prepared for war.

Sweden’s military forces were scattered over Finland and numbered about 19,000 men. On Feb. 9 (21), 1808, Russian forces, numbering 24,000, under the command of General F. F. Buksgevden, crossed the border, took Tavastehus (now Hä-meenlinna) in February, and laid siege to Sveaborg, which surrendered on April 21 (May 3). In March they occupied Kuopio, Tammerfors (now Tampere), the coast between Åbo and Vaa-sa, the Aland Islands, Jakobstad, and Gamlakarleby (now Kokkola). In April the Swedish forces, commanded by Field Marshal M. Klingspor, passed to the counteroffensive from the vicinity of Uleåborg (now Oulu) and defeated the weakened Russian forces at Revolaksa and Pulkkila. The Finnish population began a partisan movement in the Russian rear, and Russian forces were forced to abandon the northern and central parts of Finland, the Aland Islands, and Gotland.

Withdrawing to a line running from Björneborg (now Pori) through Tammerfors to Sankt Michel (now Mikkeli), the Russian forces received reinforcements; they now numbered 55,000, against 35,000 Swedes. General M. M. Kamenskii was appointed commander of the central group, which was operating in the main axis in the Tammerfors region, and assigned to smash the enemy by vigorous operations. On August 2(14), Ka-menskii’s force of 11,000 passed to the offensive, and the main forces of the Swedes were defeated in battles at Kuortane and Salmi on August 20 and 21 (September 1 and 2) and Oravais on September 2(14). Attempts by the Swedish Navy to land forces in the vicinity of Åbo were repulsed by the detachment of P. I. Bagration. The Swedish forces withdrew from Finland and the Finns ceased military actions.

In September 1808 an armistice was concluded, but Alexander I, spurred on by Napoleon and hoping to crush Sweden completely, did not ratify the armistice. Instead, he ordered his new (as of December) commander in chief, General B. F. Knor-ring, to invade Sweden in the wintertime. The plan for the offensive was worked out by Kamenskii and envisioned movement by three corps—one by land across Tornio, another across the ice of the Gulf of Bothnia from Vaasa to Umeå, and the third from Åbo across the ice to the Aland Islands and thence to the region north of Stockholm. Knorring considered this plan unrealistic and delayed its execution. Alexander I came to the army and ordered the offensive. On March 5 (17), Bagra-tion’s corps of 17,000 occupied the Aland Islands, and on March 7 (19) a detachment led by Major General Ia. P. Kul’nev reached the Swedish coast and occupied Grisslehamn. On March 4(16), General M. B. Barclay de Tolly with 5,000 men left Vaasa, crossed Norra Kvarken with great difficulty, and took Umeå on March 12 (24). General E. A. Shuvalov’s corps of 4,000 men, advancing in bitterly cold weather across Tornio, caught the Swedish forces at Kalix and forced them to surrender on March 13 (25).

Meanwhile, in Sweden, the king was deposed as a result of a coup d’etat, and the Duke of Södermanland (subsequently, Charles XIII) became regent and proposed the beginning of peace negotiations. Knorring, who was in the Aland Islands, concluded an armistice on March 7(19) and recalled Kul’nev’s detachment and Barclay de Tolly’s corps from Sweden. But on March 19 (31), Alexander I revoked the armistice and replaced Knorring with Barclay de Tolly. In Åpril Shuvalov’s corps launched an offensive and occupied Umeå in May, after which command was transferred to Kamenskii. Swedish troops tried to delay the Russian forces with a landing party in the Russian rear, but the party was wiped out by Kamenskii. Peace negotiations began in August and ended with the conclusion of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in 1809, by which Finland was ceded to Russia.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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