The Businessmen of Sveaborg: Civil–Military Interaction in an Atypical Eighteenth Century Nordic Military Town


  • Juha-Matti Granqvist University of Helsinki



business, commerce, conflict, economic activity, military society, Sveaborg fortress


Late eighteenth-century Helsinki was, due to the sea fortress Sveaborg, one of the most prominent Nordic military towns. At the same time, Helsinki differed from other Nordic military towns of the era because of its geography. The fortress Sveaborg, with its large military and civilian population, was built on islands unconnected to the mainland and thus was isolated from the outside world every spring and autumn due to the Nordic climate. The burghers of Helsinki, who had shops and taverns on the islands, were vital to the maintenance of the fortress. At the same time, their presence caused tension between the civil society and the military society, as the Army tried to control the burghers’ business and the burghers saw this as a violation of their economic rights. During the sixty-year period of the fortress’s construction (1748–1808), the situation evolved from an open conflict to a mutual agreement and, finally, led to the birth of a new kind of business circle that shook the borders between civil society and the military.


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