Kastelholm Castle, Sund
The Kastelholm Castle was built in the 1380’s by the powerful Bo Jansson Grip, but he lost it in 1440 to Karl Knutsson, who managed to make himself the king of Sweden in 1448. When the Danes conquered the castle in 1502, King Gustav Vasa sent Henning von Brockenhus to Åland to reclaim the castle, but the Danish commander Lyder Frisman would not be defeated. Finally it was decided that the fate of the castle would be decided by a duel.
Both men sat on their horses facing each other when the question was asked in whose name they would fight. Frisman answered “in the name of the Danish ladies and maidens” – but von Brockenhus answered “in no other name than that of my lord and master Gustav Vasa”. But luck was with Frisman as von Brockenhus’s horse fell and Frisman’s men soon struck von Brockenhus. After two years, the Danes gave up and left the castle to Gustav Vasa.
King Gustav Vasa was friendly inclined toward Åland. In 1537 he bought two big farms for himself there. After a two months visit in 1556 at Kastelholm, the king granted a dukedom of Åland and Åbo for his second son Johan. The king meant it as a good will gesture toward his beloved second son, but Johan soon saw that his older brother, King Erik XIV was toppled from his throne and Johan took over the rule of Sweden. Erik was imprisoned at Kastelholm for a couple of months in 1571.
In 1671 the young Swedish King Karl XI came for a short visit to the castle, but after that it remained unused and uncared for a long time. Sweden’s period of a mighty power was a very difficult time for Åland with high taxes in order to help finance the conquering war machine, and often the Ålander himself was found standing behind the cannons on the Swedish battle ships.
The Great Northern War 1700-1721 brought grave consequences for the Åland Islands. Almost all of Åland seafaring men were killed in the battle on the Neva River. In 1714 the Russian naval fleet arrived in Åland, raided, burned and killed in a way that defies all description. Almost the entire population of Åland had to flee to Sweden and remain there until 1722 when peace was agreed upon.
In 1809 a Russian war unit of 17,000 men came marching over the ice and occupied the islands. By 1830 preparation for a big fort with 88 cannons at Bomarsund was on its way. In 1854 when the fort was half ready, the superior French and English naval fleet came to the islands. The Bomarsund’s fort was blown up, and 1,700 Russian soldiers was taken prisoners and brought to France and England.
The Ålanders were now hoping for a reunion with Sweden and let their wishes be known to the Swedish government. But Sweden remained guarded from such action fearing Russian retaliation, but at the Peace Conference in Paris, King Oscar I of Sweden did mention that Sweden also desired a reunion with the Åland Islands. The reunion was not granted, but instead and Åland Convention was established in 1856 which prohibited the Russians to build forts on the Åland Islands.
When Finland declared independence from the Russian rule in 1918, the Ålanders again hoped to be reunited with Sweden. The Ålanders stubbornly refused Finland’s military service and the arrests that followed resulted in sharp notes between the Swedish and Finnish governments. The League of Nations compromised the issue in 1921. Finland should retain the sovereignty over the province, but the Åland Islands should be made a non-military and territorial self-governing territory. Åland was also neutralised, and thus may not become a theatre of war. The decision also guaranteed Åland the Swedish language and culture.