Military History of Finland

What was Finnish War (1808-1809)


Finnish War (Suomen Sota in Finnish) was a war between Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire. Although it is called a Finnish War, Finland had little to do with the reasons of the war. But since Finland was part of Sweden at the time, Finland was drawn into the war.

Finland Between European Superpowers

The two European superpowers, the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire, were regularly at war with each other from the 16th century to the 18th century. And because Finland was located between these two countries, Finland was often the battlefield. This was the case also in the Finnish War.

Time of the Napoleonic Wars

At the beginning of the 19th century, Europe was in turmoil due to the Napoleonic wars. At that time, Napoleon’s biggest enemy was Britain. To wear Britain down, Napoleon’s plan was to cut off British trade by setting a European-wide blockade against Britain.

Sweden wasn’t part of the blockade, because King of Sweden, Gustav IV Adolf saw France as an enemy and Britain as his best ally, as Sweden itself was preparing for a war against Denmark.

So Napoleon needed helps from Russia. At the meeting in Tilsit, the Russian Emperor Alexander I agreed with Napoleon that he would force Sweden to join the blockade against Britain.

Emperor sends an Ultimatum

The Russian Emperor Alexander informed the king of Sweden, that if Sweden wanted to keep peaceful relations with the Russia, Sweden was required to follow the Continental Blockade. The king refused, but didn’t expect Russia to attack.

when the Finnish War Started?

Finnish War started in 1808, when Russian forces crossed the border on February 21.

Russian Forces Advance in Finland

At the beginnig of the war, the Swedish troops were forced to withdraw while waiting for the reinforcements to arrive. In summer of 1808, Sweden gained some victories on the battlefield, but eventually had to retreat towards Sweden.

Fighting in Finland ended in the Autumn of 1808. in 1809 there were some battles were fought still in Sweden and on the Åland Islands.

Russia Captures Finland

Conquering Finland may not have been Alexander’s original goal, but thanks to a successful war, he decides to make Finland a part of Russia.

Why Sweden Lost the War

There are many reasons why Sweden lost the war. For one, Russia had a stronger, more experienced army. And more importantly, the Sweden wasn’t prepared for the war with Russian. Sweden’s main forces were in southern Sweden preparing for a war with Denmark.

When the Finnish War Ended?

The war ended in a peace treaty between Sweden and Russia on September 17, 1809.

Finland Became the Grand Duchy of Finland

When Finland was joined to Russia in 1809, the Russian Emperor Alexander I decided to give Finland extensive autonomy. Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy. Alexander I announced that “Finland had been raised to the status of a nation among nations”. This was an important step in Finland’s journey towards independence.

This is Finland
Finnish War Information Center
Image by Finnish National Gallery, painting by Albert Edelfelt