Military Review

The last campaign of Gustav III. The defeat of the Russian army in the battle of Kernikoski

The last campaign of Gustav III. The defeat of the Russian army in the battle of Kernikoski

Fight at Valkial

Russian-Swedish War 1788 — 1790 230 years ago, in April 1790, the Swedish army defeated Russian troops in the battle of Kernikoski. The land campaign of 1790 was conducted on Swedish territory, still passively. Everything was limited to a few hassles. The outcome of the war was decided at sea.

The general situation. Preparing for a new campaign

The 20-strong Russian army under the command of Musin-Pushnik acted indecisively in the campaign of 1789. The land war was limited to a few skirmishes, which generally ended in favor of the Russian troops. Petersburg was happy with that. On the one hand, the main forces of the army were connected by the war with Turkey, on the other, the threat of war with Prussia arose. The decisive defeat of the Swedes in Finland could prompt the Prussian king Frederick William II to attack Russia. Therefore, Catherine II was such a fuss with the Swedish king Gustav III.

For the winter, Russian troops were located on the border. Part of the army observed the border from Neyshlot to the Kumen River, the second part - from Kumen and the coast of the Gulf of Finland to Vyborg. At the beginning of 1790, Catherine the Great replaced Musin-Pushkin with Count Ivan Saltykov (son of the famous Russian commander P. S. Saltykov). Saltykov was personally brave, but he did not have special military talents. Therefore, during the campaign of 1790 the general situation did not change. Both sides acted indecisively; there was not a single major battle with a decisive outcome. Russians and Swedes trampled in the region of about 100 miles long and as wide.

Obviously, this was due to big European politics. The war with the Turks continued. Russian victories on land and sea inspired the Russian empress. She considered bold projects on the restoration of Greece, the occupation of Constantinople and the straits. But Russian victories in the war with Turkey troubled the West. There was a threat of war with Prussia. The Swedes and Poles asked for help from Berlin. An alarming situation was in Poland. England supported Porto, therefore did not want peace between Russians and Swedes. In France, a revolution took place that attracted the attention of leading powers. Russia did not have strong allies in Europe: Austria was tied by its problems, Denmark was weak. Thus, Catherine was connected with other more important issues, Gustav was not interested in her. But the Swedish High Command could not really organize anything. The outcome of the war was decided at sea.

As a result, the Prussian threat disappeared, and Russia was able to end the war with Sweden and Turkey. Berlin decided to participate in the section of the Commonwealth. In addition, the Berlin courtyard (like other European capitals) was increasingly distracted by events in France from the Middle East and Baltic. Sweden was left without military support.


The Swedish king Gustav III did not abandon the idea of ​​victory over Russia with the goal of revenge for previous defeats. The Swedish monarch conducted active negotiations with Poland, Prussia, Turkey, England and the Netherlands about military support (Berlin and Warsaw), about financial assistance in the war with the Russians. But he did not achieve much success. In Stockholm and Sweden continued military preparations. Actively built ships for the galley fleet, for the campaign of 1790 prepared several new battleships. Old ships were being repaired at shipyards. In coastal cities, fearing the Russian fleet, they were preparing a militia. In the Swedish capital were ready to raise 10 thousand citizens, they were armed with guns and sabers. A voluntary set of funds was made to strengthen the capital. Back in the fall of 1789, a new recruitment was made into the army. The northern Swedish provinces also prepared for war. In the province of Westerbotten, 5 thousand people recruited police. More stocks were sent to Finland weapons and uniforms.

In general, war was not popular in Swedish society. Only in 1789 Gustav was able to suppress the Anyala confederation, which the officers created. Their main demand was peace with Russia. The military court sentenced the arrested officers to death, but the king did not dare to enforce the sentence (only one person was executed). It was already obvious that there would be no brilliant victory. A protracted war was waged, which led to casualties and financial problems. An epidemic was raging in the Finnish army, killing more lives than fighting. Entire battalions consisted of recruits. The king went into great debt. Trade and industry were in danger of total ruin. Therefore, in the kingdom of constant rumors circulated about the imminent conclusion of peace.

Monument to King Gustav III of Sweden (Stockholm) (foto Oleg Yunakov)

Campaign start

Neither Russia (connected by other directions) nor Sweden had a noticeable advantage at the front. However, the Swedish high command wanted to seize the initiative in the war and be the first to open the campaign. Winter 1789-1790 was warm, so the Swedish fleet was able to perform earlier than usual. The king did everything possible to expedite the outbreak of hostilities. He feared a Russian attack on Sveaborg. Already in March 1790, Gustav left the capital and arrived in Finland. General von Stedingk (Steedink) suggested that the king attack Wilmanstrand, considering it the central stronghold of the Russian army. The blow was supposed to strike from two directions: from the side of the river. Kumeni and from Pumala.

Even before the opening of hostilities on land, the Swedes struck on the coast of Estonia. Swedish ships attacked the Baltic port at Revel. The crews of the Swedish frigates burned the fort and its supplies, riveted several guns, and took from the local residents a contribution of 4 thousand rubles. In essence, it was an ordinary pirate raid that had no influence on the development of the war.

Swedish statesman and military leader Gustav Moritz Armfelt

Fights near Kernikoski, Pardakoski and Valkiala

In March 1790, the first skirmishes took place in Savolaks and on the southwestern border of Finland. The Swedes lost about 200 people killed. In April, the Swedish king himself led the army and led the offensive, trying to break into Russian Finland from the side of Savolaks. April 4 (15) there was a battle near Kernikoski and Pardakoski. The Swedes pushed the advanced Russian forces, captured about 40 people, captured 2 guns, stocks and the treasury of 12 thousand rubles. The Russians retreated to Savitaypale. April 8 (19) a new skirmish took place at Valkial, in the area of ​​the river. Kumeni. Gustav again led the troops and was slightly injured. The Swedes again pushed back the Russian troops and seized supplies of provisions. The terrain was difficult to supply troops, so food production was considered a success.

The Russian command ordered the return of positions at Kernikoski and Pardakoski. April 19 (30), 1790, General Osip Igelstrom (Igelstrom) with 4 thousand detachment went on the attack and pressed the Swedes. The Swedish squad was led by the king's favorite, General Gustav Armfelt. But the attempt of the Prince of Anhalt of Bernburg to take Kernikoski did not lead to success. The Swedes received strong reinforcements and launched a counterattack. Prince of Anhalt of Bernburg did not wait for help, and because of a strong Swedish counterattack, Russian troops were forced to retreat. The prince himself was seriously injured and soon died. At the same time, a convoy of brigadier Vasily Baykov led an attack on the island of Lapensali. Having seized the island, Baykov’s detachment attacked the battery at Pardakask. The battle went on for several hours, the Baykov convoy almost reached the location of the battery and retranscements, however, here too, the Swedish reinforcements by superior forces went over to the counterattack. Baykov was seriously injured and died. The troops of Major General Berhman and the Brigadier Prince Meshchersky were to bypass the Swedes and attack them from the rear. But they could not do this - on the way to the place there was a lake and the ice turned out to be unreliable, I had to look for a new road. As a result, the reinforcements did not arrive on time and also retreated. Our losses - about 500 people killed and wounded, Swedish - more than 200 people.

This failure of the Russian army did not become an important matter. Almost at the same time (April 21), Russian troops successfully attacked the Swedish forces, led by Gustav himself, on the Kumen River. Two days later, Russian troops under the command of General Fedor Numsen again attacked the enemy and forced the Swedes to retreat behind Kumen. The Russians pursued the enemy, took 12 guns and the settlement of Anyala, where for several days they restrained the attacks of the Swedes.

Further fighting

After an unsuccessful offensive on land, King Gustav decided to go to the galley fleet and attack the Friedrichsham area. At the same time, ground forces under the command of Generals Armfelt and Steedinck were supposed to operate north-east of Friedrichsham. Indeed, on April 23 (May 4), the troops of Steadinck took up in another skirmish. The Russian side reported 200 killed Swedes and 42 Russians. The Swedes reported 30 dead and 100 wounded, 46 dead Russians were found.

Thus, Gustav planned a threat from the sea in the Friedrichsgam region to force the Russians to concentrate troops here. Thus, to divert the attention of the Russians from the troops of Generals Armfelt and Stedinok, who were supposed to deeply invade Russian Finland. Further, the Swedish naval and ground forces were to unite in the Vyborg region, creating a threat to the Russian capital. The Swedish monarch hoped to force the Russian government to peace on favorable terms.

The king himself managed to defeat the Russian galley fleet at Friedrichsgam, the Swedish naval fleet gave battle at Revel and Krasnaya Gorka. The Swedes were preparing a landing near Petersburg. However, on land, the Swedish army had no success. Armfelt's squad was defeated at Savitaypale. The general himself was wounded. Steadinck and Armfelt did not have the strength for a decisive offensive. The general, simultaneous and systematic action of the Swedish fleet and army did not work. Either the calculations turned out to be incorrect, then the weather interfered, then the slowness of the troops and command errors, then the movements of the Russian forces. As a result, the largest battles took place at sea, not on land.
Photos used:
Articles from this series:
Russian-Swedish War 1788 — 1790

230 years ago, the "Swedish king Swedish" attacked Russia
Strategic victory of the Russian fleet in the battle of Gogland
Åland Sea Battle
Glorious victory of the Russian fleet at Rochensalm

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  1. cost
    cost April 21 2020 05: 35
    All of Europe giggled over the fascination of Gustav III with occultism. After Gustav publicly announced that he had managed to communicate with the spirit of Jesus Christ that appeared at his call, Catherine II wrote to Baron Grim: “If I could get acquainted with this Jew - since, of course, the role of Christ was played by a Jew - I I’d enrich him, but on the condition that on the second meeting he beat him [Gustav] with a stick on my behalf. ”
    The king’s struggle with coffee, popular among his subjects, caused some gossip, which for some reason he considered terribly poisonous. To prove his innocence, the king pardoned two sentenced to death for the murder of twins who were in full dawn. The prerequisite for pardon was the participation of the brothers in a strange experiment: one of the criminals had to drink three coffee pots every day, and the second - three teapots. The king expected that in the near future the coffee consumer would die in terrible agony. Doctors carefully watched the experiment. The idea ended in embarrassment, which Gustav, however, did not recognize: both criminals survived the doctors and the king himself. After his death, no one bothered to stop the experiment, and he continued for a long time. The tea consumer died at the age of 83, and his coffee brother held out for some more time.
    In his personal life, Gustav ceased to be shy of anything. The Minister of Justice, Engestrem, was indignant that the king had spread in Sweden "the sin of sodomy, which until now has been almost unknown in these parts." For the first time, Gustav went into the bedroom of his wife only in 1775, on the tenth year of a happy marriage. Three years later, the queen gave birth to an heir, but even Gustav’s mother said that the true father of the child was Count Adolf Frederic Munch, who helped Sofia Magdalena brighten up lonely days and nights.
    1. voyaka uh
      voyaka uh April 21 2020 21: 01
      About tea and coffee - a super story. good good
      Probably no one has done such a great
      coffee ads like this extravagant king!
  2. cost
    cost April 21 2020 05: 37
    The popularity rating of Gustav III among his subjects fell sharply, and in order to strengthen him, the king decided to start a small victorious war. He hoped that the return of the Finnish lands "selected" by Russia as a result of the Northern War, and the rhetoric about getting Sweden off its knees would arouse revanchist sentiments in subjects and restore the monarch to its former popularity. It has long been pushing for a clash with Russia, not only France, but also England and Prussia, who promised Sweden all kinds of help. Unfortunately, even a rooted constitution did not allow the king of his own free will to attack the neighboring state, and then Gustav undertook a provocation. The dresser of the Stockholm opera sewed several dozen sets of Russian military uniforms. On June 27, 1788, a disguised Swedish squad attacked its own bivouac near the town of Puumala near the Finnish border. When the news of the treacherous aggression of the treacherous Russians reached Stockholm, an explosion of patriotism followed.
    The Swedish army and navy were pulled in advance to the alleged battle sites. Ground forces besieged two Russian border fortresses two hundred kilometers from St. Petersburg, but they, to the surprise of the Swedes, did not even think of giving up. With the war, a general oversight came to sea. In July, the Russian fleet was about to depart from Kronstadt to the Mediterranean Sea for a war with Turkey. If Gustav suffered two or three weeks, he would find St. Petersburg almost defenseless. Instead, he met in the Gulf of Finland a powerful squadron fully equipped for a long passage and sea battles. Russian ships immediately made it clear who was the master in the Baltic. The first clash of the fleets ended in a military draw, but it became clear to everyone that the Swedish blitzkrieg had failed.
    Sweden was not ready for a protracted war. From the complete and quick defeat, her army was saved only by the fact that Russia at the same time waged a war in the south, and her best troops and the most famous commanders at that time fought with the Turks. But the troops remaining in the north-west of Russia were enough not to let the enemy into the capital. The Swedish army was supplied with extremely poor supplies, and its soldiers died mostly not from Russian bullets, but from hunger and disease.
    The year 1789 came, but the situation did not change. Gustav did not wait for the promised help from the European powers. In summer, a revolution broke out in Paris, and the European powers were not at all up to the distant Baltic affairs. The Swedish budget was tearing apart. The patriotic upsurge in the people was replaced by a dull irritation.
    Sweden was saved by a miracle from the final defeat. In July 1790, Russian ships drove the Swedish fleet, commanded by Gustav III himself, to the Rochensalm fortress. Admiral Nassau-Siegen really wanted to make a gift to Catherine II on the anniversary of her accession to the throne and, without a proper reconnaissance, made an attempt to destroy the Swedes. The result was crushing. On July 9, Russian ships came under the crossfire of the Rochensalm fortress guns and naval guns. In the crush and panic in the raid, Russian ships broke down and crushed each other. Frigates flew into the galleys and shebeks, drowning and burning them. Some teams had to throw their ships onto coastal stones in order to escape. In one night, the Swedes lost six ships, and the Russians, according to various estimates, from 50 to 80 ships.

    The naval victory did not bring Sweden joy. She only gave her the opportunity to offer peace not on the most shameful conditions. Russia did not need this strange war, and a peace treaty was signed very quickly. Sweden lost more than twenty thousand soldiers in the war with Russia, which did not bring any benefit to it, which was a huge loss for a three-million-strong country. Gustav's general discontent was compounded. The Riksdag went into direct opposition to the king and ceased to approve the laws he proposed.
    In this explosive atmosphere, Gustav did not find anything better than to announce the start of a holy campaign against revolutionary France. Naturally, the Riksdag opposed this adventure, as well as the king's plans to engage in the colonization of Australia. There were rumors that Gustav had conceived a new coup, after which he would declare himself an autocrat, not constrained by any constitutions. A plot was quickly organized against Gustav, the veteran officers of the recent war with Russia being the soul of it.

    On March 16, 1792, a carnival was celebrated at the Royal Swedish Opera. Gustav was wearing a mask, but everyone easily recognized him by his orderly star in a fancy dress. One of the conspirators turned to him: "Hello, beautiful mask." At that moment, Jacob Johan Ankarström shot a pistol in the back of the king, loaded with buckshot and six bent nails. A terrible wound was fatal. After 13 days of torment, the king passed away. While the agony lasted, Ankarström was whipped in prison, trying out the names of accomplices. And without having unleashed the killer’s tongue, he was beheaded on a scaffold.
    After the death of his father, his son ascended the throne, 14-year-old Gustav IV, the regent of whom was the Duke of Södermanland. The new king and his regent did not allow themselves any folly, and life in Sweden gradually settled down. The eccentric, bright and non-standard Gustav III remained in the memory of his descendants as the last great Swedish king.
  3. cost
    cost April 21 2020 05: 46
    With this long-awaited article, Samsonov Alexander continues his cycle about the Russian-Swedish wars. Thanks to the author. Special thanks for the attached cards.
    1. Storekeeper
      Storekeeper April 21 2020 09: 12
      Dear Rich, when will you finally make your article? Your comments about the size of an article are often no less interesting to read than the articles they go to! You have a lot of knowledge, comment a lot! Let’s finally swipe at the article!
      The author is well done thank you! I always thought that they only fought with the Swedes under Peter I, but it turns out they could not calm down after a long time!
      1. cost
        cost April 21 2020 10: 18
        Greetings, Pavel hi
        My grandfather was a disabled war. The blind Homeworker. He made brushes. Thus, the society of the blind gave out tape recorders for free and attached them to the library of books on tape. He just loved the story. And absolutely unsystematic. And the artistic and scientific works, the benefit of the VOS library was huge, and the attitude towards the blind in the USSR was completely different than now. Order any book, not at the local branch - they will voice and send from the central library named after Lenin. Grandfather listened to them from morning to night. So I picked up the tops from him. So my knowledge is mostly superficial, although I am also not indifferent to history.
        Best regards
        1. AK1972
          AK1972 April 21 2020 14: 08
          Dear Dmitry! I join Paul’s wish. Your comments are often more interesting and informative than the article itself. Write easily, read in one go. Please us with a debut as an author.
      2. Mikhail Ezhikov
        Mikhail Ezhikov April 30 2020 16: 01
        We fought with the Swedes since the time of Veliky Novgorod since the 10th century, this is the most warring country with us!
  4. Olgovich
    Olgovich April 21 2020 07: 59
    The king himself managed to defeat the Russian galley fleet at Friedrichsham

    Nothing, very soon, the Treaty concluded in this Friedrichsham will FOREVER take away the passion for war from Sweden and annex several Swedish provinces to Russia (the future Principality of Finland)
    1. Deniska999
      Deniska999 April 21 2020 08: 09
      Are you really serious? We still lacked revanchists.
      1. Olgovich
        Olgovich April 21 2020 09: 37
        Quote: Deniska999
        Are you really serious? We still lacked revanchists.

        belay request

        Are you seriously ?

        September 5 (17), 1809 in the city of Friedrichsgame (now Hamina, Finland) a peace treaty was signed between Russia and Sweden
        1. Deniska999
          Deniska999 April 21 2020 11: 27
          I apologize, I did not interpret your comment in the right way.