Bomarsund Fortress

Bomarsund Fortress on Åland, is not only an impressive architectural structure but also an important chapter in Nordic and European history. Its location, history and the role it played during the Crimean War mark it as one of the most significant historical sites in the region.

Geographical and geopolitical background

Åland, an archipelago between Sweden and Finland, has always had a strategic position in the Baltic Sea. This archipelago has served as a crossroads for both trade and war, making it a coveted location for regional powers. Åland became part of the Russian Empire in 1809 when Sweden lost Finland to Russia after the Finnish War.

Bomarsund’s birth and construction

After the annexation of Åland, Russia felt the need to strengthen its defense in the region. The plans for Bomarsund’s fortress were drawn up and work began in 1832. Inspired by the classic star fortress design, Bomarsund was intended to become a powerful symbol of the strength of the Russian Empire.

Under the direction of engineers and architects, who were imported from central parts of Russia, local labor and specialized builders were employed to construct this masterpiece of military architecture. The fortress spanned a large area, with thick walls and strategic artillery positions.

Despite the impressive exterior, the interior of the fortress was even more impressive. It was designed to house a garrison of over 2,000 men with supplies, housing, a chapel, and other necessary facilities to be a self-sufficient unit. Bomarsund was intended to be an important part of a larger defensive line, a barrier to protect St. Petersburg from potential threats from the West.

The shadow play of the great powers and the Crimean War

cAs Russia strengthened its defenses, other European powers observed with growing concern. Britain and France, who at the time were in an alliance, saw the construction of the fortress as a sign of Russian expansionism.

The Crimean War of the 1850s was not just a conflict over the Crimean Peninsula. It was also a power struggle between Russia and a combination of great powers, namely Great Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire. Åland and Bomarsund’s fortress became a central place in this shadow play of geopolitics.

In 1854, a combined British-French fleet attacked Bomarsund. With modern cannons and well-trained troops, the Allied forces challenged the fortress’s defenses. Despite the impressive construction and the valiant defense of its crew, the fortress could not withstand the combined firepower and tactics of the Allied forces. After two weeks of intense siege, the fortress capitulated.

This event was not only a military victory for the Allies but also a great propaganda success. News of the fortress’ fall spread quickly and had a demoralizing effect on the Russian Empire.

After the Crimean War: An Island of Peace

After the war, the leaders of the major European powers gathered in Paris to renegotiate the borders and determine the terms of peace. During this congress it was decided that Åland would be demilitarized, meaning that no military activity would be allowed on the islands.

This provision was intended to prevent further conflicts in the region and ensure the peace of the Baltic Sea. The ruins of Bomarsund became a symbol of this desire for peace and cooperation in Europe.

© Björn PetterssonBomarsund today: A memorial and tourist attraction

In modern times, Bomarsund’s fortress has gone from being a symbol of war and conflict to becoming a place for reflection, learning and tourism. The ruins attract thousands of visitors each year, all eager to learn more about the region’s rich history.

Museums and information boards have been set up at the site to give visitors a deeper understanding of the history of the fortress, its construction and the role it played in European geopolitics during the 19th century.

BomarsundConclusion

Bomarsund Fortress on Åland is a reminder of the changing dynamics of European history. From its origins as a symbol of Russian power, to its fall during the Crimean War, to its current status as a historical memorial, Bomarsund has been a central player in the history of the Baltic Sea and Europe.

While this overview provides a comprehensive insight into Bomarsund’s importance, there are still many aspects of its history waiting to be explored. Future research and conservation efforts are sure to shed more light on this fascinating site and its place in world history.

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Bomarsund

The song “The Åland War”

Yes, that war was lovely on the shores of Åland,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
When with three hundred ships to our fatherland,
Came the English fleet with murder and with fire.
Sing faralalala, sing faralalala,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
Of course it was beautiful to look at from above,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
When three hundred ships clawed the billow the blue,
When three hundred ships clawed the billow the blue,
Sing faralalala, sing faralalala,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
For the enemy had that meaning,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
To raze the whole fortress,
And capture the crew.
Sing faralalala, sing faralalala,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
But ours they gave them a welcome salute,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
So the sky was shrouded in clouds of gunpowder,
And the earth was shaking every single minute.
Sing faralalala, sing faralalala,
Hurray hurray Hurray!
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