Sweden's Era of Liberty
Finland Swedish, 1525-1808 Russia 1725-1762
Foreign Policy

The Swedish-Russian War of 1741-1743

Also known in Sweden as the War of the Hats, in Finland as Little Discord (lilla ofreden)

A.) The Diplomatic Pre-History of the War

Sweden had been a Great Power between 1630 and 1709. In the PEACE OF NYSTAD 1721 it had to cede Livonia and Estonia, as well as the Ingermanland, on which the new Russian capital of St. Petersburg was built, to Russia.
In Sweden's RIKSDAG (parliament) the pro-Russian Cap faction lost control of the house to the pro-French Hat faction in 1738. The hats, a younger generation not recalling the disastrous defeat of Poltava and the humiliating peace, declared war on Russia in July 1741, in an effort to regain some of its lost territories. As Russia at that time was at war with the Ottoman Empire, the Swedish side believed to stand a good chance. Russia's traditional ally Austria at that time was entangled in the WAR OF AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION, facing France, Prussia, Bavaria etc.
Russia, however, quickly signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire.

B.) The Military Course of Events

Swedish forces invading Eastern Karelia were quickly defeated; Russian invaded Finland, took Helsinki and occupied all of Finland (1742). To make matters worse, a Danish attack was feared. Sweden was compelled to cede WESTERN KARELIA to Russia in the TREATY OF TURKU (Abo), signed August 7th 1743. The war had costed 11 million Daler.
The Swedish Riksdag sentenced the two Swedish generals who commanded the forces in Finland, blamed for the defeat, to death. Sweden itself experienced unrest, as 5,000 Dalekarlians marched on Stockholm in protest of the hats' policy. They were fought by royal troops on Gustav Adolfs Torg in central Stockholm; the Dalekarlians took control of the city (June 20th 1743). The event, an early popular revolution, is referred to as the "Stora Daldansen" (Great Dalekarlians' Dance).
Russian troops began evacuating Swedish territory (in Finland) in June 1744.

C.) The Legacy

In Sweden the succession to the throne was discussed, and Russia used the peace negotiations resp. the presence of Russian troops on Swedish soil (Finland) to press for the election of Count ADOLF FREDERICK OF HOLSTEIN GOTTORP, the candidate supported by the Russian Empress.
The Swedes, who for a long time had relied on their superiority on the battlefield, now realized the weakness of their defences. SVEABORG FORTRESS (Suomenlinna) was constructed to defend Helsinki (1748ff).
As in Poland, foreign powers, mostly France and Russia, came to interfere with Swedish domestic politics, the French and Russian ambassadors bribing Swedish Riksdag members in order to influence their votes. In 1772 King Gustav III., in the face of the first Polish Partition, saw the writing on the wall and staged a coup d'etat, reintroducing absolutism.
The war was not only unnecessary, but the ethnically Swedish nobility of Finland began to doubt in Stockholm's leadership - it was Finland who took the beating for Swedish adventurous policy. This sentiment against reform experiments in Stockholm's riksdag in 1788 would lead to the ANJALA CONSPIRACY, where Finlands Swedish noblemen invited a Russian army to invade, an invasion which came in 1808/09.

Eric Sederholm, In the Midst of War, 1741, from : Baltic Connections
Swedish Wars by Hans Hogman
Campaigns in the 18th Century, from Russian Navy, has paragraph on Swedish-Russian War
Organizational & Development Overview of the Imperial Russian Army in 1730-43, by Vlad Gromoboy, focussing on uniforms etc.
Constructing Suomenlinna Fortress, from Suomenlinna Pages
Alla Sveriges Krig, from SMB, in Swedish
Sverige foerklarade krig mot Rysland, from Sveriges Riksdag, on the Swedish declaration of War against Russia 1741, in Swedish
Frihetstiden, from bellman.com, in Swedish
From Danzig to Kolberg, in : History of the Russian Navy
DOCUMENTS Sermon held by Anders Rhyzelius, Bishop of Linkoeping, to Royal couple and estates, February 22nd 1741, from Text- og Diktarkivet, a political sermon, directed against the hats and their warlike attitude, in Swedish
Medal : Peace of Abo, 1743, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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