The Emperor’s Fishing Lodge at Langinkoski marks 130th anniversary

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View of the Imperial Fishing Lodge, Langinkoski

Emperor Alexander III became infatuated with the place and wanted to have a fishing lodge built at Langinkoski, which the imperial family visited several times. The fishing lodge, which was completed in 1889, is today the only preserved building outside Russia that was owned by the Emperor. In 2019, the Imperial Fishing Lodge marks its 130th anniversary.

The Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich (future Emperor Alexander III) visited Langinkoski for the first time in 1880 with his consort, the Danish Princess Dagmar (future Empress Maria Feodorovna). After ascending to the Russian imperial throne, Alexander III visited Langinkoski again. He was infatuated with the place and expressed a wish that a fishing lodge be built for him at Langinkoski Rapids.

The Emperor’s wish came true. Architect Magnus Schjerfbeck (1860-1933) prepared the drawings of the fishing lodge, and architect Johan Jacob Ahrenberg (1847-1914) was in charge of interior design. Compared to the imperial court, the lodge was simple and intended for summer use only. Langinkoski was the Emperor’s refuge, where he withdrew from the luxury and formalities of the court. The interior and items in the lodge offered Finnish applied arts and industry an opportunity to present their products. The textiles were made by Tampella, the dishes by Arabia, and the glasses were blown at the local Karhula glassworks.

The fishing lodge was inaugurated in a grand ceremony on 15 July 1889. Local residents brought flowers and sang. When the Emperor came onto the veranda, a 30-gun salute was fired. In the evening, a banquet was held on the imperial yacht, during which the Emperor raised his glass to toast Finland. The imperial family enjoyed great popularity in Finland.

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Interior of the Imperial Fishing Lodge

Alexander visited Langinkoski almost annually. He liked to spend time in the countryside. The river bed was equipped with steel nets and bars to prevent salmon released into it from escaping so that the Emperor could catch them. The Empress, who was known as a sweet and gentle person, sometimes wanted to prepare lunch herself. In the evenings, there were meals, bonfires, firework displays, music and salutes, and sometimes trips were made with horses. The Emperor had three professional fishermen. They came to Langinkoski in May every year and returned home to the Tver government after the fishing season.

Alexander and his family visited Langinkoski for the last time on 21 and 22 July 1894. After returning home, the Emperor learnt that he had nephritis. He did not recover from the disease, but died at the end of the same year. A memorial stone was erected at Langinkoski to remember the Emperor.

After Alexander’s death, his son took the throne as Nicholas II. He did not like to spend time at Langinkoski. People at Langinkoski looked forward to a visit by the imperial family, but the last Emperor of Russia stopped by only once, in September 1906. From time to time, the fishing lodge was visited by other members of the imperial family or high officials.

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Orthodox chapel on the grounds of the Imperial Fishing Lodge

During the First World War, the fishing lodge served as a convalescent home for wounded Russian soldiers as the Dowager Empress had suggested. Russians also built a base at Langinkoski, with trenches, firing nests and dugouts. Some trenches are still to be seen, but the other structures have disappeared over the years.

In 1917, the disorder in Russia also affected Langinkoski. The bronze trimmings of the Emperor’s memorial stone were ransacked, and rebellious soldiers vented their anger on the stone. A Russian private perhaps detonated a hand grenade against it. However, the memorial stone may also have been destroyed in later clashes or during the blasting relating to fortification works. The caretaker of the fishing lodge managed to hide most of its contents. During the Finnish Civil War in April 1918, a unit of the Kotka Red Guards settled at Langinkoski. However, they soon fled as the Whites and Germans advanced.

When Finland became independent in 1917, Langinkoski was taken over by the State of Finland. The Imperial Fishing Lodge soon fell into decay, and some people regarded it as a humiliating reminder of the Russian era. The lodge would probably have been destroyed, had it not been for the Kymenlaakso Museum Society (now the Langinkoski Society) who began to restore it. The lodge was opened as a museum to the public in 1933. Many items had been removed from the lodge, but a considerable proportion of them have been traced and returned to the museum.

The Imperial Fishing Lodge is open to the public from 2 May – 31 August.

© Metsähallitus / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 May 2019