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Katanpää Fortress

The northernmost base of the Baltic Sea’s greatest fortress chain

In the beginning of 1900s Russia was concerned about the territorial integrity of its capital Saint Petersburg.
Peter the Great’s sea fortress chain was constructed to control the security of the Gulf of Finland and at its most extensive, it reached Hiidenmaa, Saarenmaa, Saaristomeri and the northwest corner of the Åland islands. Katanpää, that was constructed in 1915-17, became the northenmost base of the largest fortress chain in the Baltic Sea. From Katanpää Russia was able to control all the three shipping lanes through Saaristomeriand prevent the enemy of entering the Turku archipelago.
The Russians did not govern Katanpää for long. They left the fortress in the beginning of 1918.
During the Finnish civil war the reds occupied it for a couple of months. In 1925 Katanpää became a guard post inhabited by a few officers and conscripts.
In archipelago fortresses, the 1920s was a peaceful period.
During the Second World War, Katanpää acted as a checkpoint for the cargo vessels sailing to the Gulf of Bothnia.
After the war, when the Åland islands were demilitarized and other fortresses of the chain demolished, only Katanpää remained in its original appearance as a memory of the greatest fortresses.

Far from big skirmishes and usage
The distant location was one of the reasons that Katanpää remained in its original appearance. Aside from small skirmishes Katanpää was neither involved in war operations nor its buildings were destroyed during the war. Because of its distant location, there were no modernization pressures. However, in the course of time the buildings have been renovated.

Island of prisoners, conscripts and seafarers

People have visited the Katanpää fortress more or less voluntarily in the course of time.
In the beginning of 1900s, the prisoners brought by Russians from Amur and Mantsuria regions carefully rammed two kilometres of cobblestone road on the island. In 1930s the Finnish prisoners quarried paving stones and renovated the buildings of the barracks. The most extraordinary prisoner work was fishing for food and for sale.
The peacetime recruit training started in Katanpää in 1953. In May 1955 a fire destroyed the naval barracks. It diminished decisively the accommodations and training use. Katanpää became a guard post in March 1955.
The coastal artillery renovated the old buildings to a great extent and now the island serves as a tourist attraction open for all seafarers, where you can admire the island’s nature and small barracks area shaped by past decades.





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