Admiral Carl Olof Cronstedt (1756-1820)
Carl Olof Cronstedt, whose name has had such a bad ring to it in history, was born outside Helsinki. Cronstedt began a promising career in the military as a volonteer at Prince Fredrik Adolf's Regiment in 1765. And already by 1788 he had attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the Swedish Coastal Navy. After the battle of Svensksund in 1790, where he showed personal courage, he was made general aide under the king and Colonel in the army as well as minister for maritime issues. This advance was followed by him being made commander for the coastal navy's Sveaborg squadron as well as Counter Admiral in 1793; in 1801 he was also made Vice Admiral of the Blue Banner (the sign of the coastal navy). He was commandant at Karlskrona at the same time that the British Royal Navy blockaded the harbour. Finally he attained the position as commandant at Sweden's largest and most important fortress - Sveaborg, but this position was seen more as an exile than a position of honour since he had fallen from favour with the king.
In March of 1808, Russian troops arrived outside Sveaborg. Cronstedt had a well trained, and armed garrison of over 6.000 troops; he had supplies aplenty and ammunition. On top of this the 110 ships of the coastal navy's Sveaborg squadron was posted at the fortress. The Russian forces outside did not outnumber him at all. The first shots between the fortress and Kamenskij's Russian division were traded on March 17.
On May 3 1808, Cronstedt surrendered the fort to Kamenskij who had the brilliant negotiator Suchtelen at his side. The capitulation happened without any notable resistance from the Swedish, who by surrendering the fortress, surrendered Finland. In history (and in Runeberg), Cronstedt has been the one to blame. Historians discuss this issue still today.
After the surrender, Cronstedt settled in Helsinki, but was in Sweden stripped of all his military ranks and orders and was even sentenced to death, in his absence. The execution was never carried out and he died in Helsinki in 1820. The real sentence and punishment came later.
In our days, the historians have done some vain attempts at reevaluation of Cronstedt. I saw a documentary on TV where the famous Swedish historian Herman Lindqvist did a brave attempt, yet it was unconvincing. Cronstedt's punishment for surrendering Sveaborg may be too hard, but it still stands - he is still the traitor and coward, a Finnish Quisling. Following are the words Runeberg wrote about Cronstedt, which are also the historical verdict of him.
"Take all the darkness you can find in the grave
and all the suffering in this life
and create yourself a name thereof
and give it to that man;
and it shall nonetheless awaken less sorrow,
than the one he had at Sveaborg"
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