The Gulf of
Finland (Finnish: Suomenlahti; Estonian: Soome laht;
Russian: Фи́нский зали́в, tr. Finskiy zaliv,
IPA: [ˈfʲinskʲɪj zɐˈlʲif]; Swedish: Finska viken) is the
easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between
Finland (to the
Estonia (to the south) all the way to
Saint Petersburg in
Russia, where the river
Neva drains into it. Other major cities around
the gulf include
Helsinki and Tallinn. The eastern parts of the Gulf
Finland belong to Russia, and some of Russia's most important oil
harbours are located farthest in, near
Saint Petersburg (including
Primorsk). As the seaway to Saint Petersburg, the Gulf of
been and continues to be of considerable strategic importance to
Russia. Some of the environmental problems affecting the Baltic Sea
are at their most pronounced in the shallow gulf.
2 Geological history
3 Flora and fauna
4.1 Before 1700
4.2 History since 1700
8 Major cities
9 See also
11 External links
Gulf of Finland
Satellite image showing the gulf entirely frozen over in January 2003.
The area of the gulf is 30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi).
The length (from the
Hanko Peninsula to Saint Petersburg) is
400 km (250 mi) and the width varies from 70 km
(43 mi) near the entrance to 130 km (81 mi) on the
meridian of Moshchny Island; in the
Neva Bay, it decreases to
12 km (7.5 mi). The gulf is relatively shallow with the
depth decreasing from the entrance to the gulf to the continent. The
sharpest change occurs near Narva-Jõesuu, which is why this place is
called Narva wall. The average depth is 38 m (125 ft) with
the maximum of 100 m (330 ft). The depth of the
Neva Bay is
less than 6 metres (20 ft); therefore, a channel was dug at the
bottom for safe navigation. Because of the large influx of fresh water
from rivers, especially from the
Neva River (two-thirds of the total
runoff), the gulf water has very low salinity – between 0.2 and 5.8
‰ at the surface and 0.3–8.5 ‰ near the bottom. The average
water temperature is close to 0 °C in winter; in summer, it is
15–17 °C (59–63 °F) at the surface and 2–3 °C
(36–37 °F) at the bottom. Parts of the gulf can be frozen from
late November to late April; the freezing starts in the east and
gradually proceeds to the west. Complete freezing is usually reached
by late January, and it might not occur in mild winters. There are
frequent strong western winds causing waves, surges of water and
The northern coast of the gulf is high and winding, with abundant
small bays and skerries, but only a few large bays (Vyborg) and
Hanko and Porkkalanniemi). The coast is mostly sloping;
there are abundant sandy dunes, with occasional pine trees. The
southern shores are smooth and shallow, but along the entire coast
Baltic Klint with the height up to 55 m
(180 ft). In the east, the gulf ends with
Neva Bay and on
the west merges with the Baltic Sea.
The gulf contains numerous banks, skerries and islands. The largest
Kotlin Island with the city of
Kronstadt (population 42,800),
Beryozovye Islands, Lisiy Island,
Maly Vysotsky Island
Maly Vysotsky Island with the nearby
Vysotsk (population 1706),
Hogland (Suursaari), Moshtchny
Bolshoy Tyuters (Tytärsaari), Sommers, Naissaar,
Pakri Islands and others.
Starting from 1700, nineteen artificial islands with fortresses were
built in the gulf by Russia. Their purpose was defense from attacks
from water and their construction was urged by the Great Northern War
of 1700–1721. Those include Fort Alexander, Krasnaya Gorka, Ino,
Totleben, Kronshlot and others.
The largest rivers flowing into the gulf are
Neva (from the east),
Narva (from the south), and Kymi (from the north). Keila, Pirita,
Jägala, Kunda, Luga, Sista and Kovashi flow into the gulf from the
south. From the north flow Sestra River, Porvoo, Vantaa and several
other small rivers.
Saimaa Canal connects the gulf with the Saimaa
International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization defines the western limit
of the Gulf of
Finland as a line running from
Spithami (59°13'N), in
Estonia, through the island of
Osmussaar from SE to NW and on to the
SW extreme of
Hanko Peninsula (22°54'E) in Finland.
See also: Eridanos (geology)
The modern depression can be traced to the incision of large rivers
Cenozoic prior to the Quaternary glaciation. These
rivers eroded the sedimentary strata above the Fennoscandian
Shield. In particular the eroded material was made up of Ediacaran
(Vendian) and Cambrian-aged claystone and sandtone. As erosion
processes the rivers encountered harder layers of Ordovician-aged
limestone leading to the formation of the cliffs of
Baltic Klint in
Estonia and Ingria. Subsequently the depression was
somewhat reshaped by glacier's activities. Its retreat formed the
Littorina Sea, whose water level was some 7–9 metres higher than the
present level of the Baltic Sea. Some 4,000 years ago the sea receded
and shoals in the gulf have become its islands. Later
uplifting of the
Baltic Shield skewed the surface of the gulf; for
this reason, its ancient northern shores are significantly higher than
the southern ones.
Gulf Coast near Komarovo
Islands near Helsinki
View on the bay from the St. Olaf's Church, Tallinn
Fishermen on the Gulf of Finland
Kronstadt in winter
Neva River from the Gulf
View on the island of
Hogland by Kotka
Flora and fauna
Malusi islands in
Estonia are one of the main habitats of grey seals
in the Gulf of Finland.
The climate in the area is humid continental climate, characterized by
temperate to hot summers and cold, occasionally severe winters with
regular precipitation. The vegetation is dominated by a mixture of
coniferous and deciduous forests and treeless coastal meadows and
cliffs. The major forest trees are pine, spruce, birch, willows,
rowan, aspen, common and gray alder. In the far eastern part of the
gulf vegetation of the marshy areas consists mainly of bulrush and
reeds, as well as fully aquatic plants, such as white and yellow
waterlilies and acute sedge. Aquatic plants in the shallow waters of
the gulf include
Ruppia and spiny naiad.
Fish species of the gulf include Atlantic salmon, viviparous eelpout,
gobies, belica, loach, European chub, common minnow, silver bream,
common dace, ruffe, Crucian carp, stickleback, European smelt, common
rudd, brown trout, tench, pipefish, burbot, perch, gudgeon,
lumpsucker, roach, lamprey, vendace, garfish, common whitefish, common
bream, zander, orfe, northern pike, spined loach, sprat, Baltic
herring, sabre carp, common bleak,
European eel and Atlantic cod.
Commercial fishing is carried out in spring and autumn.
Grey seal and
ringed seal are met in the gulf, but the latter is very rare.
See also: History of
Finland and History of Estonia
Many ancient sites were discovered on the shores of the gulf dated to
up to nine thousand years old. Humans began to inhabit these places
soon after the ice age glaciers have retreated and the water level of
Littorina Sea lowered to reveal the land. Remains of about 11
Neolithic settlements were found since 1905 in the mouth of the river
Sestra River (Leningrad Oblast). They contain arrow tips and scrapers
made of quartz, numerous food utensils and traces of firecamps – all
indicative of hunting rather than agricultural or animal husbandry
Overseas Guests by Nicholas Roerich, 1899
The gulf coast was later populated by Finno-Ugric peoples. Eesti (or
Chud) inhabited the region of the modern Estonia,
Votes were living on
the south of the gulf and
Izhorians to the south of
Neva River. Korela
tribes settled to the west of Lake Ladoga. In the 8th and 9th
centuries, the banks of
Neva and of the Gulf of
Finland was populated
by East Slavs, in particular by
Ilmen Slavs and Krivichs. They were
engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting and
fishing. From the 8th to the 13th century, the Gulf of
Neva were parts of the waterway from Scandinavia, through Eastern
Europe to the Byzantine Empire.
From the 9th century, the eastern coast of the gulf belonged to Veliky
Novgorod and were called Vodskaya Pyatina. As a result of the 1219
crusade and the Battle of Lyndanisse, the Northern
Estonia became part
of Denmark (Danish Estonia). In the 12th century, the city Reval
(Latin: Revalia, Russian: Колыва́нь) was established on the
territory of modern Tallinn. As a result of the Estonian uprising
in 1343, the Northern
Estonia was taken over by the
Teutonic Order and
sold by Denmark in 1346. In 1559, during the Livonian War, the Bishop
of Ösel-Wiek in
Old Livonia sold his lands to King Frederick II of
Denmark for 30,000 thalers. The Danish king gave the territory to his
younger brother Magnus who landed on
Saaremaa with an army in
1560. The whole of
Saaremaa became a Danish possession in 1573,
and remained so until it was transferred to
Sweden in 1645.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Finnish tribes on the north of the
gulf were conquered by the Swedes who then proceeded to the Slavs. The
first encounter is attributed to 1142 when 60 Swedish ships attacked 3
Russian merchant vessels. After a Swedish attack in 1256, the Russian
Alexander Nevsky crossed the frozen gulf and raided the
Swedish territories in the modern Finland. In 1293, the
and city of
Vyborg was founded by the Swedish marshal Torkel Knutsson.
The castle was fought over for decades between
Sweden and the Novgorod
Republic. By the
Treaty of Nöteborg
Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323,
Vyborg was finally
recognized as a part of Sweden. It withstood a prolonged siege by
Daniil Shchenya during the Russo–Swedish War of 1496–1499. The
town's trade privileges were chartered by King
Eric of Pomerania
Eric of Pomerania in
Vyborg remained in Swedish hands until its capture by Peter the
Great in the
Great Northern War
Great Northern War (1710).
In 1323, the
Treaty of Nöteborg
Treaty of Nöteborg set the border between
Russia along the river Sestra. In the 15th century, the Izhorian lands
Novgorod Republic were attached to the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
In 1550, Gustav I of
Sweden founded a city on the site of modern
Helsinki. As a result of the Russian defeat in the Ingrian War
(1610–1617) and the
Treaty of Stolbovo
Treaty of Stolbovo (1617) the lands on the Gulf
Neva River became part of the Swedish Ingria. Its
capital Nyen was located in the delta of
History since 1700
See also: History of
Saint Petersburg and Siege of Leningrad
Russia reclaimed the eastern part of the gulf as a result of the
victory in the
Great Northern War
Great Northern War (1700–1721). On 16 May 1703, Saint
Petersburg was founded in the mouth of
Neva River, not far from Nyen,
and in 1712 it became Russia's capital. To protect the city from the
Swedish fleet, the Kronshlot fortress was built on an artificial
island near the
Kotlin Island in May 1704. By 1705, five more such
forts were built nearby composing the city Kronstadt. These
fortifications, nicknamed by the contemporaries "the Russian
Dardanelles", were designed to control the gulf waterway.
In 1710, the cities of Peterhof and Oranienbaum were founded on the
southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. On 27 July 1714, near the Hanko
Peninsula, the Russian Navy won the
Battle of Gangut
Battle of Gangut – a decisive
victory over the Imperial Swedish Navy. The Russo-Swedish war
ended in 1721 by the Treaty of Nystad, by which
Russia received all
the lands along the
Neva and the Gulf of Finland, as well as Estland,
Swedish Livonia and western part of the Karelian Isthmus, including
Finland was returned to Sweden. The war resumed
in (1788–1790), and the Battle of
Hogland occurred on 6 July 1788
near the island Gogland. Both the battle and the war were relatively
minor and indecisive, with the outcome of
Russia retaining its
The next Russo-Swedish war was fought in (1808–1809). It ended with
Treaty of Fredrikshamn
Treaty of Fredrikshamn giving the
Russia rights on the territory
Finland and Åland Islands. The newly established in 1809 Grand
Finland received broad autonomy within the Russian Empire and
Karelia was returned to Finland. On 6 December 1917, the
Finland promulgated the Finnish Declaration of
Karelia was annexed by the Soviet Union after
the Winter War.
Estonia declared independence on 24 February 1918 and fought a war of
independence. The republic existed until 1940 and then was annexed by
the Soviet Union.
Estonia regained its independence after the
dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Battle of Gangut
Battle of Hogland
Sea battle at Vyborg(1790)
Ivan Aivazovsky, 1846
The Gulf of
Finland had several major naval operations during World
War II. In August 1941, during the evacuation of the Baltic Fleet from
Tallinn to Kronstadt, German forces sank 15 Russian military vessels,
(5 destroyers, 2 submarines, 3 guard ships, 2 minesweepers, 2 gunboats
and 1 Motor Torpedo Boat) as well as 43 transport and support ships.
Several ships still remain on the gulf bottom near Cape Juminda, and a
monument was raised there in memory of those lost in the
In 1978, construction was started on the
Saint Petersburg Dam aiming
Saint Petersburg from the frequent floods. The work was
halted at 60% completion in the late 1980s, due to the financial
problems related to the breakup of the Soviet Union; it was resumed in
2001 and is — as of August 2011 — complete.
The southern coast of the gulf contains the Leningrad Nuclear Power
Plant and a network of ports and unique natural and historical places.
Navigation has long been the dominant activity in the gulf. The major
port cities and their functions are, in Russia:
Saint Petersburg (all
kinds of goods),
Kronstadt (container shipping), Lomonosov (general
cargo, containers, metals),
Vyborg (general cargo), Primorsk (oil and
Vysotsk (oil and coal),
Ust-Luga (oil, coal,
timber, containers); in Finland:
Helsinki (containers), Kotka
(containers, timber, agricultural products; it is the main
transhipment cargo port for Russia),
Hanko (containers, vehicles),
Turku (containers, rail ferry), Kilpilahti/Sköldvik harbour (oil
refinery); in Estonia:
Tallinn (grains, refrigerators, oil), Paldiski,
Sillamäe. Gulf of
Finland is also part of the Volga–Baltic Waterway
and White Sea–Baltic Canal. Important goods include apatite from the
Kola Peninsula, Karelian granite and greenstone, timber from
Arkhangelsk Oblast and Vologda, ferrous metals from Cherepovets, coal
Donbass and the Kuznetsk Basin, pyrite from Ural, potassium
chloride from Solikamsk, oil from
Volga region, and grains from many
regions of Russia.
Passenger transport on the gulf includes a number of ferry lines which
connect the following ports:
Hanko (Finland), Mariehamn
Stockholm and Kappelsher (Sweden),
Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad
(Russia), as well as many other cities.
Another major and historical activity in the gulf is fishing,
especially on the northern coast near Vyborg, Primorsk and on the
southern coast near Ust-Luga. Commercial fish species are herring,
sprats, European smelt, whitefishes, carp bream, roaches, perch,
European eel, lamprey and others. In 2005, the catchment was 2000
tons by the ships of
Saint Petersburg and
Leningrad Oblast alone.
In September 2005 the agreement was signed on the construction of the
Nord Stream offshore gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea, from
the German city of Greifswald. The first line was expected become
operational in 2011. Afterwards, the first line of
Nord Stream was
laid by May 2011 and was inaugurated on 8 November 2011; the
second line was inaugurated on 8 October 2012.
Main port of Saint Petersburg
Near the harbor of Tallinn
Aerial view of Helsinki
Saint Petersburg Dam
Shipwreck of Kazanets near
Osmussaar in Estonia.
The bottom of the gulf is one of the world's largest ship cemeteries.
Because of the low salinity and cold waters, and no shipworms, the
ships are relatively well preserved. Since the 6th century, major
waterways were running through the gulf, and from the 8th to the 10th
century about 3,000 tonnes of silver was transported there. Later, the
gulf was actively used by
Russia for transport of goods.
Every year saw dozens of lost ships. In the fall of 1743, 17 Russian
warships returning from
Finland sank in just 7 hours, and in the
summer of 1747, 26 merchant vessels sank within 4 hours near Narva. A
record was set in 1721 when during the evacuation of Russian troops
from Finland, more than 100 vessels were lost within 3 months,
including 64 in a single night.
By the end of 1996, about 5,000 submerged objects were identified in
the Russian part of the gulf, including 2,500 ships, 1,500 airplanes,
and small items such as boats, anchors, tanks, tractors, cars,
cannons, and even naval mines, aerial bombs, torpedoes, and other
ammunition. The ships belonged to
Russia (25%), Germany (19%), United
Sweden (15%), Netherlands (8%), and
Finland (7%). The
remaining 9% are from Norway, Denmark, France, United States, Italy,
Estonia, and Latvia. These objects present potential hazards to
navigation, fishery, coastal construction, laying of submarine
pipelines and cables, and the environment. Mines were laid in the gulf
during World War I (38,932 units), the Russian Civil War, and the
Finnish War (1939–1940), with an estimated total number of
60,000; 85,000 more mines were set during World War II, and only
a fraction of all those were eliminated after the wars.
Ust-Luga Multimodal Complex on the
Soikinsky Peninsula in the
Kingiseppsky District of northwestern Russia
The ecological condition of the Gulf of Finland,
Neva Bay and Neva
River is unsatisfactory. There is significant contamination by ions of
mercury and copper, organochlorine pesticides, phenols, petroleum
products and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Cleaning of waste water
Saint Petersburg was started in 1979 and by 1997 about 74% of
wastewater was purified. This number rose to 85% in 2005, to 91.7% by
2008, and as of 2009 was expected to reach 100% by 2011 with the
completion of the expansion of the main sewerage plant.
Nevertheless, in 2008, the Federal Service of Saint Petersburg
announced that no beach of
Saint Petersburg is fit for swimming.
Fish catchment decreased 10 times between 1989 and 2005. Apart from
pollution, another reason for that is hydraulic and engineering works.
For example, construction of new ports in
Vysotsk and on
Vasilyevsky Island adversely affected the spawning of fish. Extraction
of sand and gravel in the
Neva Bay for the land reclamation destroy
spawning sites of European smelt.
Construction of the
Saint Petersburg Dam reduced water exchange of the
Neva Bay with the eastern part of the gulf by 10–20% that increased
the contamination level of
Neva Bay. The largest changes occur within
5 km (3 mi) from the dam. Some shallow areas between Saint
Petersburg and the dam are turning into swamps. Waterlogging and the
associated rotting of plants may eventually lead to eutrophication of
the area. Also worrying is expansion of oil ports in the gulf
and the construction of a treatment center for spent fuel from the
Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant.
The port of
Kronstadt is currently serving as a transit point for the
Russia of radioactive waste through the Baltic Sea. The
waste, mostly depleted uranium hexafluoride, is further transported
Saint Petersburg to Novouralsk,
Angarsk and other cities of
eastern Russia. This transit point will be moved from Saint Petersburg
to the port Ust-Luga, which is about 110 kilometres (68 mi) west
of Saint Petersburg, and within the Border Security Zone of Russia, as
decided by the Russian government in 2003 (Order No. 1491-r of 14
October 2003). It is expected that after this completes it should
reduce the ecological risks for Saint Petersburg.
envisioned to be the largest transportation and logistics hub in
northwestern Russia. However, in 2015 it was reported that
some construction plans in
Ust-Luga were frozen, and the construction
Ust-Luga Multimodal Complex, supposed to be the transit point for
radioactive waste, never started.
Peter the Great's Naval Fortress
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gulf of Finland.
ESA satellite photograph of the Gulf of Finland
"Finland, Gulf of". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
"Finland, Gulf of". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.
Landing stages of Russian coast in Gulf of Finland
North gulf coast (Leningrad Oblast)
Miller's pier (1875 - 19XX)
Dubkovsky pier (1847 - before 1870)
Lisy Nos pier (1894 - 1928)
South gulf coast (Leningrad Oblast)
Peterhof landing stage
Peterhof landing stage (1XXX)
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