Places of battle along the Kymijoki River

After the Turku peace treaty concluded in 1743, the Kymijoki River served as the border between the states of Sweden and Russia. Because friends and relatives lived on both sides of the river, there was much crossing of the border. Guards and customs officers had neither ability nor desire to prevent interaction.

The Russians built a fortress at the village of Ruotsula to protect the important crossing point over the Kymijoki River. The Swedes didn’t stand around watching and built the Keltti Fortress on the opposite bank.

The Ruotsula Fortress was completed in many stages. It reached its final form in 1791 – 92 as part of the Suhorovi fortification work. It was quadrangular. Its entrenchments were reinforced with stone walls. Inside them were buildings and outside, an army camp field.

The remains of the fortress, used as a guard station until the Finnish War (1808–1809), are still visible by the river.

King Gustav’s river crossings

The war of King Gustav III, which lasted from June 1788 until August 1790, also took place around the Kymijoki River. The war began in the province Savo, but the King initiated his own attack by crossing the river at Anjala. His troops got to the Russian side using a pontoon bridge.

The following summer, the King chose the village of Värälä as his crossing point. 

There his attack was aided by a floating bridge almost 100 metres long, which was pushed into position as the attack began. The bridge was able to bear the weight, not only of the soldiers, but also of the horses and artillery. The storming over the bridge was a complete success.

The King became a legendary figure in Kouvola. Close to Valkeala Church lies ”kuninkaan kivi” (the King’s rock), behind which Gustav followed the course of the Battle of Valkeala.

The peace treaty was signed at Värälä, and the peace rock along the road from Koria to Anjala is a monument to this event. The actual place where the treaty was signed, however, was about 1 km from the rock in the direction of the river.

The wonder of Koria Bridge

In the Finnish War, the Russians easily crossed Kymijoki River. Withdrawal lay at the core of the Swedish tactics. Smallpox and dysentery were more destructive than weapons.

When the railway track between Riihimäki and St Petersburg was being completed, a railway bridge was built over the Kymijoki at Koria. 

In the Civil War (1918), the explosives unit of the Whites succeeded in damaging the bridge. Their motive for this was to slow down the progress of a weapons train coming from St Petersburg to support the Reds. The bridge is also renowned for the fact that, during the war, the Reds executed White soldiers on it.

During the Winter War (Nov. 1939 to March 1940), Koria Bridge became the target of aerial bombing by the Soviet Union. The only damage, however, was the breaking of the bridge railings and light damage to the tracks. During the Continuation War (June 1941 to Sept. 1944), attempts were again made to destroy the bridge but without success.

One reason for this miracle is considered to be the fact that the Soviet pilots oriented themselves according to landmarks like the river and the railway track. Before the bridge, the track sweeps around and, if approaching from along the river, hitting the narrow bridge was not easy. Air defence and downright good luck may also have had an impact. In any case, the river itself mainly bore the brunt of the bombing.

You can see sites of military history around the Kymijoki River on KymiSun’s guided boat and walking tours.

Source: Pentti Airio’s and Sakari Viinikainen’s book Etulinjassa itään ja länteen (on the front line to the east and the west) (University of Helsinki, Centre for Continuing Education Palmenia, 2011).

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