Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790)


Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790)

The Russo-Swedish War of 1788–90, known as "Gustav III's Russian War" in Sweden, "Gustav III's War" in Finland and "Catherine II's Swedish War" in Russia, was fought between Sweden and Russia from June 1788 to August 1790.

Background

The conflict was initiated by King Gustav III of Sweden for domestic political reasons, as he believed that a short war would leave the opposition with no recourse but to support him. Despite establishing himself an autocrat in a bloodless "coup d'état" that ended parliamentary rule in 1772, his political powers did not give him the right to start a war.

The Western powers — such as Great Britain, Netherlands, and Prussia — were alarmed by a string of Russian victories in the Russo–Turkish War (1787–1792) and lobbied for the war in the north, which would have diverted the attention of Catherine II of Russia from the Southern theatre. It was at their instigation that Gustav concluded an alliance with Turkey in summer 1788.

In 1788, a head tailor of the Royal Swedish Opera received an order to sew a number of Russian military uniforms that later were used in an exchange of gunfire at Puumala, a Swedish outpost on the Russo-Swedish border, on June 27, 1788. The staged attack which caused an outrage in Stockholm, was to convince the Riksdag of the Estates and to provide Gustav with an excuse to declare war on Russia.

Before the grand opening of the Riksdag in 1789, King Gustav III had the Riksdag Music commissioned. The Parliament then decided on the creation of a National Debt Office to raise funds and finance the war, a move that gave rise to a wave of inflation of the Swedish Riksdaler.

The war

The Swedes initially planned a naval assault on St. Petersburg. One Swedish army was to advance through Finland; a second army, accompanied by the Swedish coastal flotilla, was to advance along the Finnish coast into the Gulf of Finland; while a third army sailed with the Swedish battlefleet in order to land at Oranienbaum to advance on St. Petersburg.

The Russian battlefleet under Samuel Greig met the Swedish fleet off Hogland Island in the Gulf of Finland on July 17, 1788, at the Battle of Hogland. The battle was tactically indecisive, but the Russians did enough to prevent the Swedish landing. As the war was deeply unpopular in Sweden and the Finnish officers were mutinous, news of the failure at Hogland triggered a revolt among some of the noble army officers, known as the League of Anjala.

The Swedish attack on Russia caused Denmark-Norway to declare war on Sweden in August in accordance with its treaty obligations to Russia. A Norwegian army briefly invaded Sweden and won the Battle of Kvistrum Bridge, before peace was signed on July 9 1789 following the diplomatic intervention of Great Britain and Prussia. Under their pressure, Denmark-Norway declared itself neutral to the conflict, bringing this Lingonberry War to an end.

At sea, the two evenly matched battlefleets met again at the Battle of Öland on 25 July 1789, which was indecisive. A month later, on August 24, the Russian Vice-Admiral Nassau-Siegen decisively defeated the Swedish coastal flotilla at the First Battle of Svensksund. In 1790, King Gustav revived the plan for a landing close to St. Petersburg, this time near Vyborg. But the plan foundered in a disastrous attack on the Russian fleet at the Battle of Reval on May 13. A further attack on the Russian fleet off Kronstadt at the beginning of June also failed and the Swedish battlefleet and galley flotilla both retired to Vyborg Bay, where the combined Swedish fleets of some 400 vessels were blockaded by Vasily Chichagov's Baltic Fleet for a month. On July 3, the Swedes forced their way out in the costly Battle of Vyborg Bay, losing six battleships and four frigates as a result.

The Swedish battlefleet retired to Sveaborg for repairs while the Swedish galley flotilla made for a strong defensive position at Svensksund. An impetuous Russian attack on the Swedish galley flotilla on July 9 at the Second Battle of Svensksund resulted in disaster for the Russians who lost some 9,500 out of 14,000 men and about one third of their flotilla. It was the greatest naval victory ever gained by Sweden and helped to pave the way for peace.

The Russian Vice-Chancellor Bezborodko immediately agreed to negotiations, and the war was ended by the Treaty of Värälä on August 14.

Aftermath

The Russo-Swedish War of 1788–1790 was, overall, mostly insignificant for the parties involved. Catherine II regarded the war against her Swedish cousin as a minor distraction, as her land troops were tied up in the war against Turkey and she was likewise concerned with revolutionary events unfolding in Poland and in France.

The war solved Gustav III's domestic problems only briefly, as he was assassinated at the Opera in Stockholm, in 1792. After defeat in the Finnish War and the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in 1809, where Sweden ceded Finland to Russia, Sweden underwent major reforms.

References

*Bruckner A.G. "The War between Russia and Sweden in 1788–1790". SPb, 1869.
*Головачев В.Ф. "Действия русского флота во время войны России со Швецией в 1788—1790. Кампания 1788." СПБ, 1870.
* [http://www.zum.de/whkmla/military/18cen/russwed178890.html The Swedish-Russian War of 1788–1790]
*ru icon [http://militera.lib.ru/h/shirokorad1/index.html The Swedish-Russian War of 1788–1790]


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