"The lakeside monument"
The "Ladoga" newspaper, 1999, ## 5, 6, 7.
Recently the "Northern Courier" newspaper published an article by Mr. V. Sudakov, "The Serdobol [Sortavala] squad", about the events of the Russian-Swedish war of 1808-1809. That called for some more material, describing those events in more detail involving Finnish sources.
Back in 1992 when reconstructing the Ruskeala-Värtsilä road, the construction workers found ruins of an old stone structure. The structure turned out to be the remains of an old monument, erected by the Pälkjärvi defence troops in 1928 in memory of the battle that took place nearby (Kurikka-Hiekka) on August 9th, 1808.
The granite plates still carried Finnish writings, worn out and somewhat destroyed by some barbarian hand. The writings said "Kurikka-Hiekka 9.02.1808. Here under major Malma's command the Savon Jaakärit squad, the Oulu regiment and the North Karelian voluntary fighters have had a victory over the Russian troops, which were twice larger in number." The two plates listed the names of those who died during the Pälkjärvi campaign (August-September 1808) and of those Finnish and Swedish soldiers and voluntary peasant fighters who were buried here - 18 men total. Here are their names: [soldiers] Alavus, Herranen, Holkala, Ruona, Ylistaro, Oravainen, Löngfors and others; [peasants] Pekki Karttunen, Paavo Lukkarinen, Antti Tirunen, Pekki Kähkonen, Juhani Lempinen, Renni Mikko and others.
For quite some time the monument ruins were left unattended. In 1994 the "Pälkjärvi" family parish and the Ruskeala village council reconstructed the monument, generally restoring its original shape of 1928. Now tourists stop here and take time to look at the plates and their old, worn-out letters "In memory of the Pälkjärvi campaign..."
Through the thick pine forest one can see the silvery smooth surface of the lake that conveys peace and calmness. A question arises: what kind of a tragedy took place in this beautiful, silent place over 190 years ago?
In the beginning of 1808 Russia and Sweden started a war for Finland, which by then had been under Swedish rule for several centuries. The events of the Russian-Swedish war of 1808-1809 are described in books by V.V. Borodkin (1909), A.K. Saarela (1932), V.A. Saloheimo and other researchers.
On February 9th, 1808 the Russian army entered the Finnish territory. The main battles first took place far from the frontier at Pälkjärvi, in the areas from Kymijoki to Sikajoki, in Savolax and so on.
The Finns had different opinions about the war. Some of them from the very beginning thought that defending themselves is a hopeless effort since the Russian army was much stronger than the small in number and poorly arme Finnish-Swedish army. But a part of the popultion, involved in the war, created guerilla troops, which met the Russian armies with strong resistance.
The most prominent figure of the guerilla warfare of 1808-1809 was Olli Tiainen. In May of 1808 a Swedish squad under colonel Sandels' command entered Savo, but, having met the strong army of the legendary Tuchkov, stopped and began to fortify in the Northern part of Kuopio, in Toivala.
That's when the Russian command center decided to hit Sandels from the rear by the forces of the additional Serdobol squad under command of general-major Ilya Ivanovich Alekseev. The squad consisted of soldiers and officers of the Belozerskiy troops, stationed in Serdobol from the beginning of the war, and a thousand dragoons, Cossacks and cavalry. Prior to moving out, Alekseev sent ahead of himself a public notice to be read in the local churhes, which stated that the peasants were to stay where they are and to maintain order while he makes a raid at Kuopio.
Sandels figured out the Russian plot and sent commanders Brandenburg and Brunoun to raise the peasants, arm them and make them defend the frontier. The few voluntary fighter groups were formed, but they did not have enough time to move out. On July 17th, 1808 general Alekseev's squad left Serdobol. Not meeting any resistance, he crossed the border at Pälkjärvi and in five days reached Joensuu, where he stopped because the bridge was destroyed by the North Karelian voluntary fighters. Sandels sent a strong squad of 200 soldiers under the command of major Karl Wilhelm Malm to meet Alekseev; the squad was to secretly go to Tuttynniemi and hit the Russians from the rear. But the clever plot failed. Alekseev learned about the plot from some peasant and hurried to retreat to Pälkjärvi, where he began to fortify his main positions. In Kurikka he left a strong troop and an advanced guard that frequently moved out up to Noittanjoki. An infantry reinforcement had arrived at Pälkjärvi from Serdobol and now the Russian army amounted to 1300 men.
Malm, having retreated to Joensuu for safety, had gathered a significant number of peasants from Liperi, Ilomantsi, Kiihtelys and Eno and now had an army of 650 men with two small cannons. Having rejuvenated, Malm went to Tohmajarvi to his initial position and on August 8th he issued an order to drive the enemy out of Pälkjärvi. According to the plan, commander Brunoun had to go to Matkaselkä through the woods and there block the road to Serdobol with his squad of 100 peasants. Commander Brandenburg with 50 soldiers and 100 peasants headed to Ristiselkä, to the Juovusenkallio height, where he was supposed to also block the road. The task of the main group of Malm's squad was to attack head-on with 160 soldiers and 200 peasants.
On August 9th all parts of the Finnish-Swedish squad started to move. Brandenburg and Brunoun separated from the main forces in Pejöniemi to arrive at the destination point through Petrovaala and Vepsa. The main group under Malm's command kept moving along the Pälkjärvi road and at 2 o'clock at night met the Russian advanced guard at Toittanjoki. The first battle started. The Russians were forced to retreat to the woods. After restoring the bridge over the river, the Swedes keep moving along the road, overcoming resistance from Russian advanced guards, and soon arrive at a place called Kurikka. Alekseev had retreated to the main positions in Pälkjärvi. The reinforcement that arrived from Serdobol, started a counterattack, trying to destroy the right wing of Malm's group from the Pälkjärvi lake side. And their mission would have been a success, if Brandenburg did not suddenly enter the battle, having arrived at Juovusenkallio and stopped the Russians moving along the road.
Alekseev sends a small reinforcement there, but it gets caught in the crossfire of the soldiers and peasants shooying from both sides of the road. Not knowing the exact situation, the general started trying to break through Juovusenkallio with the remains of his squad to a place called Hiekka. In that disgraceful battle near Pälkjärvi Alekseev miraculously esacaped captivity; his wife was killed when they were trying to break through the enemy fire in their coach.
Brunoun, having blocked the Ruskeala road and defeated a small group of Russians, approached Pälkjärvi and joined Brandenburg's group, fighting at Juovusenkallio.
General Alekseev, having incorrectly judged of the situation at hand, started to retreat with his main forces to Serdobol, where the Belozerskiy troops were stationed. All 19 cannons on the small island Kansun (in the Läppäjärvi gulf between the mainland and the Riekkalansaari island) were prepared for battle. Fearing a Swedish attack on Serdobol, Aleskseev ordered provision to be boarded on ships and started to wait.
Thus colonel Malm had won a victory over the double in size squad of general-major Alekseev. It cost the Swedes the lives of 21 soldiers (including one officer and one inferior officer) and 9 peasants. The Russian losses were significantly larger - up to 150 killed and up to 30 men captured.
The local population did not fight in the battle, trying to stay away. Only one hired farm-labourer by the name of Petrynen from the Saarenhovi court was Brandenburg's conductor, when he went from Pälksaari to Juovusenkallio. Almost all local people, having heard of the battle to come, went away to the woods, taking with them their cattle and property as much as they could. For example, Maria the daughter of one of the men, and Kaarlo Silvander, the son of a hired farm-labourer from the Kurikka village, took the parents' cows to an island in the swampy area of Hörppösienmaa, where they tied them to the trees and filled their bells with earth so that the bells would not ring. The fugitives spent 5 days there, feeding only on cow milk.
Malm, winning a victory at Pälkjärvi, still did not dare to cross the border, for the Russian forces in Serdobol were rather large and the closest Swedish army station was far away - in Toivala. He retreated to Tohmajarvi, but Sandels did not accept it and ordered him to attack Serdobol. Following the order, Malm once again gathered the peasants in Ilomantsi and moved out to Pirttipohja through Pälkjärvi. There he defeated a Russian advanced guard, but that was the end of his attack on Serdobol.
Malm did not dare to attack the town, for its troops were reinforced once again and general-major Alekseev on August 13th was replaced by the aide-de-camp of Alexander I, Duke M.P. Dolgorukiy as the new commander. In addition to that, the Swedish squad feared a Russian attack from Savo. Local peasants refused to take arms during the harvesting season. As a result, Malm returned to initial position in Tohmajarvi, leaving a small troop in Pälkjärvi.
On August 17th, 1808 the numerous squad of Duke Dolgorukiy moved out of Serdobol in the direction of Kalavesi, but it advanced slowly, having to fight the guerilla troops. Approximately at the same time nother Russian squad moved out of Kuopio towards Kesalahti. This forced Malm to retreat to Joensuu, leaving a small troop in Tohmajarvi. In September Dolgorukiy's squad defeated Swedish advanced guards in Pälkjärvi, Tohmajarvi, and a strong guerilla squad in a place called Kemie, where he stopped for a long time.
Thus in the beginning of autumn of 1808 war left the Pälkjärvi area and peace was restored. A small battle at the frontier in mid-september was not as fierce as that in August, when the Russians suffered a loss, but still took many human lives on both sides.
Further battles took place on the Savo territory, North Karelia, moving further west and north-west from Pälkjärvi.
Duke Dolgorukiy, who headed the advnced guard of Tuchkov, was killed by a cannonball in a battle at Idensalmi on October 15th, 1808, at the age of 28. On October 17th, when the news of Duke's death had not yet reached Petersburg, he was promoted to general-leutenant and awarded an Alexander Nevskiy medal. By November of 1808 the whole territory of Finland ("New Finland") was cleared of Swedish armies, and the war action shifted to Swedish territory.
One of the troops that crossed the Gulf of Botnia and entered the Swedish land, was commanded by general Alekseev, apparently, the one that suffered defeat at Pälkjärvi in August of 1808. "His squad, hurrying to help out another squad, in one night travelled for 40 versts [1 verst=3500 feet] on ice and partly knee-deep in cold water." Then, having made a roundabout manoeuvre to the rear of the enemy, the general, being wounded, together with his soldiers fought a battle "for an hour standing knee-deep in cold water" and won a brilliant victory.
On March 16th, 1809, the Seim of Borgoss had officially fixed Finland's annexation to Russia. On September 5th, 1809 in the Fredricshamn (Hamina) Peace Treaty Sweden acknowledged Russia's rights for Finland. On December 11th, 1811 Emperor Alexander I issued the Manifest of joining the "New" (freed from Swedish rule) and the "Old" (Vyborg region) Finland into a united Finland, which received inner independence (autonomy) within the Russian state. That was in a way Emperor's Christmas present for the Finnish people.
As to Pälkjärvi, as a result of Finland's unification this area was now freed of the "frontier curse", which affected its spiritual, cultural and economic revival.
The Ladoga Karelia land, which had been a border territory for a long time, hosts dozens of monuments, public and personal tombs and burials, which are evidence of several centuries of a very difficult relationship between Russia and Finland, which often resulted in conflicts. Their count starts with the monument by the Pälkjärvi lake, and it will end only when the last victim of past wars is buried and when we all repent of what had been done.