The Myth of Hanko

18-19th century
Peter den Store

Peter the Great.

Karl XII från 1706 av David von Krafft

Charles XII from 1706. By David von Krafft.


The turn of the century marked a new era in the Russo-Swedish relationship. Charles XII (Carl of Sweden) defeated the troops of Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great) in the battle of Narva (1700), and drew his military attention exclusively on the southern parts of the Baltic Sea.


At the same time, Peter the Great could freely develop his visions of a naval Russia, for which he “crafted a window” to Europe along the coasts of the Gulf of Finland. In July 1714, the galleys of the Tsar Peter the Great circumnavigated the Hanko peninsula with almost no difficulty at all, even while the Swedish open sea navy guarded the tip of the peninsula. Had the first armament of Tulliniemi still existed, this circulation would not have succeeded. The era of the Greater Wrath began, continuing until the Treaty of Nystad (Uusikaupunki) in 1721.




Lines of defence

An essential part in a naval strategy are the so-called lines of defence. These lines are sites that are defined as ideal for naval defence, such as mouths of bays and straits. The tip of the Hanko peninsula forms such a line of defence. If the enemy manages to circumnavigate the peninsula, the next line of defence from the Swedish perspective is on the straits of the Stockholm archipelago. As peace returned, it is without doubt that if the Hanko peninsula had been fortified, it would have prevented the galley fleet of Russia from reaching the west side of the peninsula.


 The Hanko peninsula or Sveaborg
Vy över Hangö

View of Hanko.










The events of the Hats’ War (1741-1743) reheated debates in the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates concerning the coastal defence of the Gulf of Finland. As an outcome of these discussions, colonel Augustin Ehrensvärd arrived to the waters of the Hanko peninsula together with a commission on his yacht Diana.


August Ehrenswärd

Ehrensvärd found that a fort on the peninsula was necessary, but the limited resources were still directed at fortifying Sveaborg (Suomenlinna) in front of Helsinki and Degerby on the eastern border. During the summer of 1754, Ehrensvärd’s “merry society” was back on the waters of the Hanko peninsula. This excursion monuments in a funny writing on the cliff of Hauensuoli, but the Hanko peninsula remained without a fortification. The resources went instead to Sveaborg and the building of island navy.



King Charles III.

During Gustav Ill’s Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790, the Russian navy dominated the tip of the Hanko peninsula and was able to land its troops unto the peninsula. The Russians demolished Hangonkylä and houses in Täktom as well as a customs station. These events culminated in the clash of Hankoniemi between Russians and Swedes in October 1788. Afterwards, Sweden initiated a command to field fortify Hanko. The first heavy cannons arrived to Hanko already in the same month. Major Georg Hans von Kierting, assigned to implement the work of fortifying Hanko, came to town in December 1788.


Kanon vid Casinostranden med utblick mot havet

An old cannon at the beach close to the Casino.

At the front of the port of Hanko, the islands of Eldskär, Lergrundet and Dömanskobben and the peninsula of Berghamnsholmen were field fortified. These fortified sites were renamed as Gustafsvärn, Gustaf Adolf Fäste, Mejerdelftsklippan and Kuningattarenvuori. Overall, the armaments had a garrison of 500 soldiers. In the northern dale of Kuningattarenvuori, a 200-250 residents’ “fort city” emerged, called the garrison of Kuningattarenvuori.


In May 1792, it was ordered that the Hanko Peninsula was fortified permanently, because the field fortification was not thought to last forever. The building works continued led by Major Kierting and his assistant, captain Carl Nycander. The building of the permanent fortification in Hanko by 1807 may be considered captain Carl Nycander’s life work.



Gustavsvärn was constructed like a ships of the line.


Captain Nycander was also the commander of the fort of Hanko in the spring of 1808, when a Russian attack threatened Finland. The garrison in Hanko was ordered to move to Sveaborg in its entirety and demolish the Hanko fort. Nothing could be done — cannons were to be nailed shut and pushed to the sea. Otherwise, the demolition was not very efficient at all, and Russians could fix the damages relatively easily upon arriving in March 1808. On this occasion, the Russians built the field fort to Tulliniemi’s Skansholmen, situating cannons there. This armament has however vanished completely. In the hands of the Russians, the fort prevented efficiently the Swedish open-sea navy’s attempts to utilize the Hanko road stead and port in the summer of 1808.



August Ehrenswärd and his ensemble, left a message on the cliffs by Hauensuoli.



1600-1700 CENTURY

1600-1700 CENTURY

1800-1900 CENTURY

1800-1900 CENTURY