“A fortress of three nations” – an exhibition of the cultural heritage of Suomenlinna

The exhibition “Viapori-Suomenlinna – A fortress of three nations”, focusing on the history of the Suomenlinna fortress, will be opened at the National Archives and the Suomenlinna Museum on 12 May 2021. The public will be admitted to the exhibition as soon as the coronavirus restrictions make it possible. The exhibition puts on display unique documents and objects related to the Suomenlinna fortress.

The exhibitions at the National Archives and the Suomenlinna Museum describe the history of the fortress during the Swedish and Russian eras and during Finland’s independence. The exhibition at the National Archives focuses on the island’s colourful history and people, while the exhibition at the Suomenlinna Museum concentrates on developments related to the archipelago fleet and shipbuilding in Suomenlinna. The exhibitions also display artefacts from other countries, such as Sweden and Russia.

The opening ceremonies can be followed online on Wednesday, 12 May at The ceremony at the Suomenlinna Museum will begin at 11 am and that at the National Archives at 3 pm.

Historic turning points at the National Archives exhibition

Suomenlinna has been involved in many of the turning points of Finnish history. The exhibition at the National Archives presents the history of Viapori-Suomenlinna from the time that Sweden fortified the islands in order to protect its navy.

On display are objects and situation maps related to the wars of Gustav III, as well as documents from the American Civil War that belonged to Carl Olof Cronstedt and Victor von Stedingk, both of whom were influential in Viapori. Objects related to the Finnish War include documents signed by Admiral Cronstedt, such as orders to defend Viapori and the agreement to hand over the fortress to the Russians.

The Russian era is represented by drawings of various groups of buildings around the fortress, dating back to the 1820s right after Helsinki had become the country’s capital, as well as news articles and paintings depicting the 1855 bombardment of Viapori. Material related to the years of independence focus on, for example, the Naval Academy, as well as the artillery and navy in Suomenlinna. The history of the Ehrensvärd Society, which celebrates its centenary this year, forms a section of its own.

Navies of three nations on display at the Suomenlinna Museum

The archipelago fleet was originally established to protect Sweden against Russia. Housed within the protective walls of Viapori, the fleet commands a central role at the exhibition at the Suomenlinna Museum. The exhibition also presents the work and activities of Fredrik Henrik af Chapman, founder of the Viapori shipyard.

On display are miniature ship models, including one of the minelayer Pohjanmaa, as well as ship drawings, photographs and weapons. The building serving as the venue is also a part of the exhibition. Designed as a warehouse by Fredrik Henrik af Chapman, it was used to store vessel equipment during the winter months.

The exhibition also has a section on maritime archaeology, with illustrative examples of what modern archaeological methods have been able to uncover about the destroyed archipelago fleet.

Additional information

Jussi Nuorteva, Director General, National Archives of Finland; Chair, Ehrensvärd Society, jussi.nuorteva(at), tel. +358 40 592 5131

Päivi Happonen, Director of Research, National Archives of Finland, paivi.happonen(at), tel. +358 50 468 8762

Information about the exhibition in Facebook: (in Finnish)