View and Map of the Affair at Ratan, of August 20, 1809


This watercolor by the Swedish artist and draftsman Carl Gustaf Gillberg (1774–1855) depicts the fighting at Ratan on August 20, 1809 between the armies of Sweden and Russia. Contemporaneously with the Napoleonic wars, at the beginning of the 19th century Sweden and Russia fought what became known as the Finnish War, which had the effect of radically altering the political topography of the Baltic. Sweden’s defeat put an end to its domination in the region. Finland, previously a province of Sweden, became a grand duchy under the rule of the Russian tsar. The loss of Finland fundamentally changed Sweden’s self-perception. No longer a regional power, it rediscovered itself not by claiming imperial greatness, but by avoiding military conflicts and transforming its internal social model. In Swedish historiography, the battle at Ratan has served as a symbol for this shift. For Finnish historiography, the battle marks a political realignment that led to a new political self-awareness and set in motion an emergent Finnish nationalism.

Last updated: September 11, 2015