The History of Bomarsund

The fortress of Bomarsund was once the most magnificent structure on the Åland islands. The fortress was originally constructed by the Russian military as an important outpost to the west. The fortress was destroyed during the Crimean War in 1854. Today, the ruins at Bomarsund tell of a large fortified area for which many great expectations were held.

After Finland, including Åland, had been ceded to Russia as part of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in 1809, the Russians began making plans for Bomarsund located just on the border between the main island and the northeast archipelago.



Construction of the main fortress, which was the showpiece of the fortress complex and the largest structure ever to have been built on Åland, began in 1832. The fortress complex also included three fortified towers. Apart from functioning as a defensive structure, the main fortress housed the Russian garrison of Åland as well as the commandant’s offices. Thousands of soldiers were intended to be housed here.

A townlike settlement eventually grew up around the fortress. This community, which was made up of civilian and military households alike, was called Skarpans. However, it all came to an end in August 1854 when the half-finished fortress was attacked by British and French forces.



For four days enemy ships bombarded the fortress with cannon fire. On the 16th of August the fortress commandant surrendered and some 2 000 men were brought to England and France as prisoners of war. On September 2nd the main fortress was destroyed.

Following the end of the Crimean War, the Åland islands were demilitarised in 1856. As a consequence, the fortress was never rebuilt. Today the area is a historical monument, covering some 870 hectares and easily accessible to visitors.


The pilot’s cottage on Prästö houses a small museum describing the history of the fortress.