Finland Odds and Ends: Southeasternmost Finland; Moronvuori at Valkmusa
Ruotsinpyhtää: The Ironworks
Ruotsinpyhtää: Kukuljärvi Trail
Loviisa: The Town
Loviisa: Svartholm Fortress
Loviisa: Coastal Fortress
Loviisa (Swedish spelling: Lovisa) is a Finnish town in the east of the capital region, 90 km east of Helsinki, on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, about halfway between Helsinki and Russian border; a rather small one, with the population of about 15,000. Of the four cities along the National Road 7, commonly passed by Russian tourists (including myself) on their way to Helsinki, Loviisa is the smallest, and likely the least often visited. For me it was the closest Finnish town where I had never been before, so that’s why I decided to choose this destination in first place.
Loviisa was founded in 1748, soon after the Russo-Swedish War of Hats (1741-1743). In the period between the Great Northern War (1700-1721) and the War of Hats Sweden, for some reason, mostly ignored the question of defense of its Finnish territory, despite having just lost a good chunk of it (including Vyborg) to Russia. The War of Hats was revanchist in nature, and apparently Sweden assumed it would generally be on the offensive side in that war. Well, they were mistaken, and another chunk of Finnish land, including fortresses of Lappeenranta, Hamina, and Savonlinna fell to Russian hands.
Thus Sweden was in a great hurry to build some new fortresses: Sveaborg and Svartholm. Sveaborg, near the (then very minor) town of Helsinki, was to be the great impregnable fleet base; it is currently also known as Suomenlinna, and is the best known attraction of Helsinki. The much smaller Svartholm was to be the new frontier fortress, replacing Hamina (Fredriskhamn) in that role. The construction of both fortresses started in 1748, under the command of Field Marshal Augustin Ehrensvärd.
Ehrensvärd actually intended to construct both sea and coastal frontier fortresses. The coastal one, intended to protect the King’s Road (main Turku — Vyborg highway of the time) and named Degerby, however was never fully completed. Sweden lacked the funds to finish all their fortresses. For that matter, the modest-sized sea fortress was also never finished, although at least it looked formidable enough.
A town naturally sprung up at Degerby together with the fortress. In 1752, the town and the fortress of Degerby were renamed to Lovisa, after Queen Louise Ulrika, wife of King Adolf Frederick. The king (actually installed at the Russian insistence in 1751, as the previous king died childless), was a nice but fairly harmless guy, and Louise Ulrika overshadowed him a lot; a powerful woman relentlessly trying to increase the royal power, as Sweden at the moment was a constitutional monarchy and the King’s powers were rather limited (a really novel idea for the time). So unlike the king she was utterly hated by pretty much anyone, but in the end her son Gustav III managed to restore absolute monarchy for some decades.
Lovisa (spelled Loviisa in Finnish) coastal fortress never saw any military action, while Svartholm served as Swedish base in Gustav III’s War of 1788-1790 which ended in a draw. In the Finnish War of 1808-1809 the unfinished and ill-equipped fortress was besieged by the Russians and quickly surrendered. The coastal fortress fell into disrepair, while Svartholm was used as a prison for a while, and then was destroyed in the Crimean War of 1854-1856 by the British fleet. Luckily enough was left that both fortresses were eventually partially restored and currently are the primary attractions of Loviisa.
Loviisa the town burned down in the great fire of 1855, as so many of the old wooden Nordic towns did. Some quarters did survive the fire though. The new town was built slightly to the southwest of the fortress.
Modern Loviisa is a nice cozy coastal town. It is very much bilingual, with 54% Finnish and 43% Swedish speakers. Not much happens here but it’s a pleasure to look at and to walk around. Probably its two biggest enterprises are the cargo port of Valko (specializing mostly in wood exports), and the nuclear power station. The fortresses are its main sights, and I visited both of them, but first let’s have a look at the town itself.
Loviisa is located in the easternmost part of Uusimaa, the capital region of Finland. Loviisa along with the city of Porvoo used to belong to Eastern Uusimaa (Itä-Uusimaa) region, which existed from 1998 to 2011, and the signs on some government buildings etc. still refer to Eastern Uusimaa. This to date has been the only major change in the Finnish region (maakunta) system since it was first formalized in 1994. (A county (lääni) system existed before, coexisting with region system for some years, and was abolished altogether since 2010.)