Gustav III's Russian War

From Academic Kids

Gustav III's Russian War, also known as the Russo-Swedish War, was fought between Sweden and Russia from June 1788 to August 1790.



The conflict was initiated by King Gustav III of Sweden for domestic political reasons, where he believed that a short war would leave the opposition no recourse but to support him. Despite establishing himself an autocrat in bloodless coup d'etat that ended parliamentary rule in 1772, his political powers did not give him the right to start a war. In 1788 the head tailor of the Royal Swedish Opera received an order to sow a number of Russian military uniforms. Dresses 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. The declaration also caused Denmark-Norway, an ally to Russia, to declare war on Sweden in August. The Norwegian army briefly invaded Sweden and won the battle of Kvistrum bridge, before peace was signed on July 9, 1789.

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. The Battle of Hogland, on July 17, 1788, was indecisive, as was the Battle of Öland only nine days later, on July 26.

On May 22, 1790, the Swedish Navy of around four hundred ships found itself trapped in the Viborg Bay, as the exit was blocked by one hundred and fifty Russian vessels. On July 3 the Swedes forced their way out in the so-called Gauntlet of Viborg Bay in which both sides combined lost fifty ships. On July 9 and 10, the Swedish Navy won the Second Battle of Svensksund in the Baltic Sea, in which the Russians lost 9 500 out of 14 000 men and had one third of their fleet captured, in what was the greatest naval victory ever gained by Sweden. The Russian vice-chancellor Bezborodko immediately agreed to negotiations, and the war was ended by the Treaty of Värälää on August 14.



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.

The Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790 was over all mostly insignificant for the parties involved. Russia regarded the Swedish war as a minor distraction, as they were more concerned about events in Poland and in France. Denmark-Norway had declared itself neutral to the conflict on July 9, 1789.

See also



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