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St. Nikolai


The Russian war ship St. Nikolai sank in a battle between Sweden and Russia at Svensksund off Kotka in the summer of 1790. The wreck was found by fairway maintenance workers in 1948. The hull, the length of which was over 40 meters, was intact at the time, the cannons were on their right places and the figurehead was unbroken. Soon after the wreck was found quite a few items and parts of the structure were raised randomly and they even tried to raise the whole wreck without succeed. Unfortunately these actions damaged the wreck badly. The Antiquities Act, which now protects wrecks that are over 100 years old, was not in force at the time.

The National Board of Antiquities investigated the wreck together with the Provincial Museum of Kymenlaakso and a number of recreational divers many times in 1960’s - 1980’s, and several objects were raised. The wreck was measured and photographed for drawings. Among the raised objects there were parts of the structure, guns, utensils and some personal belongings of the crew. Also remains of human bodies were found. Already in the 1960’s it became clear that since the wreck lies in a fairway, currents from ships damage the wreck. The Finnish Maritime Administration demanded in the 1970’s that the draught of the fairway is 13 meters, and so the wreck was made lower.

Despite the great changes and damages that took place or were made in the course of time, a decision was made in the 1970’s that the wreck of St. Nikolai is to be safeguarded as a monument of naval warfare. The artefacts were to be protected for future investigations. The National Board of Antiquities asked for a protected area around the wreck and in the autumn of 1976 the State Provincial Office of Kymi (now State Provincial Office of Southern Finland) confirmed the area. Anchorage and diving are therefore strictly prohibited within the range of 300 meters from the wreck unless they are involved in saving and protecting lives of persons in distress at sea, fairway or research work conducted by authorities, or research work guided by the National Board of Antiquities.

A map of the protected area around the wreck of St. Nikolai
 Map: Finnish Maritime Administration (2005)