Baltic Trafalgar: How Russia Fought Sweden

The idea of ​​the wars of Russia and Sweden for most of our fellow citizens is exhausted by the struggle of the titans in the era of Peter I. In fact, the “Swedish great-power” did not stop after the Peace of Nishtad, and the end of the confrontation was already in the time of Alexander I.

The clashes between Russia and Sweden went all the XVIII century, especially since St. Petersburg was literally under the nose of the heirs of Charles XII, whose statue still points from the center of Stockholm towards Russia. Sweden tried unsuccessfully, but stubbornly, to restore the influence on Peter the Baltic, destroyed by Peter. For the security of Russia, the issue of the borders of Sweden was also acute: the capital of the empire was too close to foreign borders, and the cannonade was sometimes heard in the Winter Palace. It was during these unknown campaigns that the Russian fleet won one of its biggest victories. In Sweden, the events of those times are known under the not-so-inspiring title “Vyborg Gauntlets”.

By 1788, Russia was firmly bogged down in its confrontation with Turkey. Meanwhile, the Swedish king Gustav III solved his own problems. He inherited from his father an unstable state with a weak royal power. The Riksdag (parliament) was almost openly divided into French and Russian parties. Gustav brilliantly carried out a bloodless coup, forcing the Riksdag to expand the powers of the monarch. However, he needed to strengthen his own authority, for which a small victorious war was excellently suited. In 1788, Catherine II received an ultimatum demanding the transfer of Karelia, the Russian part of Finland, as well as withdrawal from the war with Turkey. He, of course, could not be accepted, but in Stockholm this was not expected. Gustav III wanted to strengthen his position and eventually become personally famous. Catherine II herself declared the conflict “stupid”, and the Swedish sovereign “crazy”.


On land, things went sour from the very beginning. Major battles were few, the troops trampled on the spot. Much more interesting events developed at sea. The Swedes rashly started the war before the large Russian fleet left for the Mediterranean, and now the ships that were preparing for operations against Turkey turned against the Swedes. The Russian fleet was commanded by Samuel Greig, the most experienced admiral, a veteran of the victory at Chesme. Greig immediately led several successful battles. But on October 15 1788, he died, and the fleet in the Baltic headed by Vasily Chichagov, a much more cautious naval commander. However, the war developed as a whole successfully. Two Russian squadrons successfully resisted the attacks of the Swedes. Those, however, did not give up hopes to land troops near the capital, on the Karelian Isthmus. By the 1790 campaign of the year, the Swedes had prepared an impressive fleet capable of carrying troops of up to 15 thousands.

At the end of May, the squadron of the Russian admiral Cruise withstood a tough battle in the Kronstadt area. However, Cruz not only managed to fight back, but also pushed the Swedes. Here intrigue ensued. The Swedes, having escaped from Cruise, tried to break through to their largest base, Sveaborg, but found the Russian squadron of Chichagov that was looking for them. They did not dare to go in sight of the Russians and moved towards the Vyborg gulf. So by the end of May 1790, huge forces gathered near the Bay of Vyborg.

Computer visualization of a fragment of the Vyborg battle of the 1790 of the year built on the basis of the historical map

In a mousetrap

The Russians had a tangible advantage: 27 battleships, 11 frigates, 73 galleys against the 21 battleship, and 8 frigates of Swedes. But, besides fighting, the Swedes had a lot of small auxiliary ships.

The Russians blocked both entrances to the gulf. The Swedes were well aware that to remain here meant to die sooner or later. Therefore, they were preparing for a breakthrough and were waiting for the east wind to break through the Russian order. For their part, the Russians did not have the opportunity to enter the Vyborg Bay and burn down the Swedish fleet. Chichagov was not very well aware of the state of the rich in a variety of surprises area. Stranded and pitfalls make maneuvers difficult. An attempt to advance several miles in depth of the bay ended with the four ships stranded. They managed to remove, but the incident did not add enthusiasm. Chichagov limited blockade. But the attempts of the Swedes from the outside to give aid to the blocked squadron also failed. Formed in the Swedish Pomeranian squadron stumbled upon the barriers and returned. Meanwhile, the position of the Swedes was getting worse by the day. Soldiers and sailors had to be transferred to a third of the diet, water supplies were coming to an end. The Swedes tried to look for sources on the shore, but there were waiting for them ambushes of infantry and Cossacks. The indefatigable Gustav offered to land all forces on the shore, to break through to St. Petersburg at any cost, and in case of failure to burn the ships and save themselves by land. This plan gave not even a gamble, but madness, and the admirals convinced the monarch to resort to a more traditional sea breakthrough. This operation has developed a nineteen-year lieutenant Gustav Klint. The rowing fleet was supposed to pass only about 15 km towards the skerries, and the ship fleet - to break through the big water and go at full speed to the west, to Sveaborg.

Night break

21 June, the Russian galley fleet under the command of Prince Nassau-Siegen began to press the Swedes at the eastern exit of the bay - in the Bjorkesund Strait. The battle ended in an uncertain result, but the continuation threatened to seal the Swedes even more densely in the depths of the bay. However, in the evening 21 June, the long-awaited Nord-Ost, saving for the Swedes, blew out. Gradually, the direction changed to the stop. In the evening, the enemy prepared for a breakthrough.

At about three in the morning, the Swedish squadron, in total darkness, began to advance towards the mouth of the bay. The sky was overcast, the moon barely shone through. Perfect weather for a dash. Chichagov arranged his forces in line against the exit from the gulf. Unfortunately, the Russian admiral did not have a plan that would be better than just standing by a wall in the path of the enemy. Therefore, the Swedes could act actively, imposing a fight on their own terms.

The battle began Swedish rowing flotilla, attacking Russian galleys. Her main task was to cover the deployment of the Swedish squadron and divert the attention of the Russians. Due to the cyclopical size of the Swedish fleet, it took many hours simply to line up in battle order. Here, the Swedes began to bear the first loss. The battleship "Finland" billows on the bank. The treacherous bay in itself represented a danger to the parties almost more than the enemy. Therefore, Chichagov ordered to anchor and get ready for a linear battle on the spot: otherwise he risked losing some of the ships on the shoals.

The Swedes decided to make their way very close to Cape Kruseurort in the western side of the bay. There only a small detachment of Rear Admiral Povalishin could oppose them — five battleships and a bombing ship. Of course, there was an element of luck here: only slightly to the east of the Swedes, the main forces of Chichagov lay in wait. Be that as it may, the Scandinavians guessed. However, this did not mean that the breakthrough would be easy, although the Swedes did not need any difficult maneuvers or a long time to pass the sweep zone.

Smoke on the water

Those besieged in full sail swept forward, showered with cores and canister. The distance was sometimes shortened to almost zero, at this distance even solid oak hulls were crushing down the cores. Swedish ships one after another broke into the sea - with broken masts, in holes. The site of the battle sucked in the thick powder smoke, which prevented the aimed fire.

For some time Chichagov did not react at all to the battle that was developing on the left flank. Later there were even rumors about his bribing by the Swedes. Only around 8: 30 in the morning two battleships, Konstantin and 12 Apostles, a huge battleship with 108 guns, went to help Povalishin. The crews cut the ropes and hurried to the battlefield, but they had to first go around a large jar of Repee. At that moment, waves of Swedish ships rolled over the Povalyshyn and Khanykov detachments. The enemy's masts were damaged, so there was no talk of difficult maneuvers. The Swedes were trapped in a narrow space in poor visibility conditions. Unimaginable chaos reigned. One of the last Swedish Enykheten, who was walking, tried to launch firefighters. However, the skipper of the suicide ship used for more courage, and the brander left straight with the rope tied to Eniketen. He set all the sails and strongly pulled the brander. Because of this, the tied “instigator” picked up even greater speed and drove in exactly under the stern of its own battleship. The ship flared up from the stern to the bow, lost control and crashed into a passing frigate, which also caught fire. The flames got to the deck of cameras, the gunpowder detonated with a deafening roar. Luckily, the Russian ships did not hurt this explosion, although they were bombarded by burning debris.

The Swedes escaped to the big water, but Chichagov finally rushed in pursuit. At about seven o'clock in the evening the Russians reached Gogland and there they found a battleship moving slowly to the west. Due to damage to rigging, he could not lift all the sails and soon threw the white flag. The remaining battleships managed to escape.

Catch up with the king

Meanwhile, for the Swedes, the story is not over. On this day, in fact, there were two battles: one led the open sea fleets, the other - rowing. It was with a light fleet of the Swedes that King Gustav made his way to freedom. Here he was nearly captured. Captain Crone on three frigates and a pair of cutters broke into the middle of the Swedish line. The frigate can hardly withstand the battleship, but among the rowing ships, he made a real devastation and after a while he only set up prize teams in the Swedish galleys. However, in the midst of this mass capture, the captain received an order from Chichagov to join the main forces. Crown could not ignore him, so much of the Swedish ships was able to leave, including the royal yacht. Gustav passed from ship to ship - and almost got captured by going to the attacked ship. Nevertheless, he managed to safely reach the shore. Even in old age, Crone could not forgive Chichagov for this maneuver and claimed that they had taken away the victory. The pure truth: one of the prisoners, handing the sword to the captain, said that the king had left, passing close to the Russian frigates. Many Swedish light vessels could not be captured simply because the Russians did not even have time to send at least one officer to take a sword from the captain.

In total, under Vyborg on the Swedish side there were 400 pennants with 40 thousands of people. At the bottom of the bay, the Swedes left 60 ships, including 7 battleships

However, for Captain Crone, the defeat of the Swedish light forces was not the last success of the day. Crown, already approaching the Russian fleet, found near the Sveaborg fortress two dozen Swedish ships who did not have time to hide in the skerries. Crown decided to capture or destroy at least part of the enemy squadron and began to attack the nearest ship. It turned out to be a battleship. Crone took the Swede by surprise with a romping maneuver - he "cut" the enemy by stepping out on his nose and pressing him against the skerries. The battleship could neither turn around for a side salvo, nor escape from the blow, so he did the most reasonable thing: lowered the flag. It is curious that the frigate, on which Crown himself was, was also a trophy, taken from the Swedes earlier. The final maneuver became a real cherry on the cake: with minimal losses, the frigate managed to capture the battleship. This success crowned the Vyborg naval battle.

In total, the Swedes left in the Vyborg Bay 60 ships, including seven ships of the line, and 6 thousand people, mostly prisoners. Among the prisoners were one admiral and the main forces of the royal guard. On the Russian side, only 147 people died. However, according to the results of the battle about the flotation qualities of Chichagov, it is difficult to say something flattering. Only a small part of the Russian squadron took part in the battle, while the bulk of the battleships maneuvered to no avail, and did not enter the battle. The heroes of the day were Povalishin and Crown. A detachment of Russian battleships that had sustained a battle with a huge squadron with 1734 guns on board had only 372 guns and nevertheless managed to drive the Swedes through the gauntlets, collecting a bloody tribute.

The Vyborg victory remained completely unknown to the modern Russian reader. Meanwhile, the Baltic Trafalgar was not only one of the biggest victories of the Russian fleet, but also a success that seriously brought the end of an unnecessary war to an end.



Yevgeny Norin

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