The excellent location of the town of Vehkalahti, now known as Hamina, provided good opportunities for trade between the east and west. In the 1600s only certain approved towns were granted permission to practice cross-boarder trade. The Great Northern War nearly destroyed the Vehkalahti town in 1712. As a result, the new border between Sweden and Russia was established only 30 km from Hamina and consequently, Vehkalahti became one of the towns allowed to engage in this kind of trade for economic reasons. Vehkalahti engaged actively in trade from Vyborg, as did the local bourgeoisie. The King’s Road, a major trade route, passed through the Vehkalahti town.

General Axel von Löwen was commissioned to design a fortress on the cape between the Eastern Gulf of Finland and The Kirkkojärvi lake to protect the new border. As a result, a star-shaped fortress with 8 bastions was built. The corners of the fortress allowed for enemy observation and served as a stronghold from attacks.

The Vehkalahti town was renamed Hamina in 1723 in honor of King Fredrikshamn of Sweden. The Russo-Swedish War postponed the building of the fortress, but it was continued again after 1743 under the supervision of the Russian general Alexandr Suvorov and later that of general Jan Peter van Suchtelen who added a large central bastion, the Hamina Bastion. The Hamina Bastion now serves as a major events arena year round. 

Hamina’s uniqueness lies in the fact that the town is built within the fortress. The Town Hall is right in the center of the town on the Town Hall Square. Two circular streets surround the Town Hall Square, from which eight streets extend outward. The only other town in the world with such a layout is Palvanova, Italy.          

Explore Hamina’s fortress history via the Walking in Old Hamina -map, the Fortress Trail or on a guided tour.    

In addition to being a fortress town, Hamina is a military town. It has housed the Imperial Cadet School and continues to offer Reserve Officer training. You can discover the history along Kadettikoulunkatu street where the Reserve Officer Main Building, the Reserve Officer Museum and the Old Veteran United Nations Peacekeeping Museum are located. The former official residence of the head of the Imperial Cadet School now serves as a restaurant. Additionally, the Kadettikoulunkatu street is the site of one of Hamina’s oldest buildings, the Hamina Town Museum. Read more about museums.

Watch an interesting video detailing the history of the Fortress in Hamina, and introducing the important role general Suvorov had in the planning of the fortress. Please change the subtitle language in the video settings to suit your preference.

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