Northern Fortress - Lappeenranta

Villmanstrand - Lappeenranta history

The crash is heard in Villmanstrand,
And shine of bloody swords is seen.
<...>
The Swedes are beaten and try to fled
The Russian horsemen rush to them
Through bloodless heaps of foe's corps
In ditch of fortress Villmanstrand
They trample the countless Swede's heads...

M. Lomonosov, "Loyal occasional ode", 1741.

First settlements appeared here just after the  Ice Age. There was well known trade place Lapvesi at the cape were now the fortress is.

The city charter was signed by Sweden Queen Christina in 1649. There were only 200 residents in the town at that time. Governor Count Peter Brahe was initiator of that. New city got the name Villmanstrand (Wild man coast) and municipal arms with wild looking unshaved man with a big cudgel.

In 1701-21 big Sweden-Russian war -  North War or "Great Wrath" broke out.  The Vyborg was seized by Russians in 1710 and Villmanstrand was evacuated in the same year. Since 1721 the Villmanstrand become important Sweden border  fortress. German engineer Iogan Faber made a first blueprint of the town's fortifications. Bastion's front was built in 1720-th. The city was populated with 300 residents and hundred soldiers. In 1730-th the gates were built and new bulwarks were made.

In 1741 new war with Russia begun - so called "Lesser Wrath" or "Hat's War". There were near to 600 residents in the city at that time. In the war's eve colonel Gustav von Villebrant with infantry regiment and artillery company arrived to the city. August 22 corps under command of major-general Vrangel (3000 men) marched from Tavetti area. They come into position on surround Myllymaki hill just before the main bulk of Russian army under  Field Marshal Peter de Lassi (near to 10000 men) appeared on the scene.

Russians attacked at once but got an envelope fire form Myllymaki hill and from the town's bastions and were forced to retreat with considerable loss. They understood where the key point of the defence was, attacked the Myllymaki positions and after three hours fight whipped Swedes out form the hill and seized their guns. After that attack to the town was resumed. Swedes Commander-in-Chief Wrangel was wounded in that fight. New commander colonel Willebrant gave an order to surrender the fortress, but Russian officers with flag of truce were shot near to the fortress gates. New fierce storm begun and bloody massacre was made by Russians  after that so few Swedes soldiers and civilians could fled away through the Saima lake.

General Wrangel was captured and after return to Stockholm was rewarded, but colonel Willebrant was condemn and executed. Villmanstrand was ruined and all its survivors were deported to Russia.

Since 1743 Villmanstrand become border city of Russian Empire. New residents were transferred from Vyborg vicinities. In 1740-th Nikolaevsky redoubt was erected upon Myllymaki hill. Town's fortifications were renovated and new bulwarks were built at the south part of the fortress. There was a border strong point and Saimaa fleet naval base.

In 1791 famous Russian  general  Alexander Suvorov lived in Villmanstrand few months while superintended it's fortification's construction. Emperor Alexander I visited the town in 1803. There was a considerable fortress at that times with numerous garrison's buildings inside of bastion's line. All civilians were evicted from the fortress to the forstadt at the south side of the fortress's cape.

After the war of 1808-1809 all the Finland was included into the Russian Empire for the "perdurable term" and the fortress has lost it's military value. There was the small garrison still. In 1885 and 1891 Emperor Alexander III visited the fortress.

In 1819 the female prison was established in the fortress. It's convicts were condemned for infanticide mostly. In 1881  the female prison was transferred to Hamenlinna and male prison was established in newbuild three-floor brick corps. The prison zone was enclosed by high wooden fence. "Reds" Finns were enclosed here after the Civil War in Finland in 1918. Some of them were executed on the north slopes of the fortress cape and there is a monument near to the South Karelia Museum's building. In 1950-th prison's building was dismantled during the city reconstruction.

Lappeenranta - Villmanstrand was heavily  pounded by Soviet aviation during the Winter War (Talvisota) and Continuation War (Jatkasota) but fortress was not affected.

Impressions

This is,  in a manner of speaking,  a classic bastion's fortress of northern style (northern fortress). I even did not notice it at first. There are numerous history landmarks, but they not strike the eye. You need to be calm and pacificated and do not hurry up. Latest evening or even white summer night could be best time for the visit.  Do not forget to possess one-two bottles of  Lapin Kulta beer. It will be need for your farewell meditation at the splendid Saima lake beach, at the time when the gold northern sun dives to the still lilac Saima's water...

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