The imperial fishing hut at Langinkoski is a summer residence built for emperor Alexander III of Russia in the late 1880s. For an imperial building, the fishing hut is modest, but its style does have a simplified grace. Several buildings from the same period are located in the museum area, surrounded by a nature reserve. The hut has been used as a museum since the 1930s.
Langinkoski is a fascinating place to visit, combining a refreshing trip to nature with the traces of the common history of Finland and Russia. It is a unique site.
Significant fishing place
For centuries, the Langinkoski rapids has been a significant fishing site. The most desired catch was salmon. The small Orthodox prayer house, which is the oldest building in the museum area, is a memento of the fishing history of the area. It was built by monks from the Valamo monastery, to whom Russian emperor Paul I had donated the fishing rights for the area in the 1790s. The prayer house was used to consecrate the fishing waters in the beginning of the fishing season.
Various lease and donation agreements have changed the holder of the fishing rights to the rapids along the centuries. Finns, Swedes, as well as Russians have fished at Langinkoski, which has been called one of the best salmon rapids in Finland. The original salmon stock in Kymijoki has since become extinct, mainly due to the problems with pollution and damming of the river, which came to a head in the 20th century. Fish have since returned to the rapids. Metsähallitus now sells fishing permits for the Langinkoski area.
Building of the imperial fishing hut at Langinkoski
Russian Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich visited the Langinkoski salmon fishing site in summer 1880. The naturally beautiful rapids and impressive haul made an impression on the future emperor. In 1887, when he had already been crowned emperor, Alexander III of Russia came back to see salmon fishing at Langinkoski together with empress Maria Feodorovna, known before her marriage as Princess Dagmar of Denmark. After the visit, the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland received the order: An imperial fishing hut was to be built at Langinkoski, and the fishing rights were to be moved from the Grand Duchy to the emperor.
The fishing hut was designed by Finnish architects. Director General of the Board of Public Buildings Sebastian Gripenberg and architect Magnus Schjerfbeck created the construction drawings, while the interior was designed by Jac Ahrenberg. The emperor and empress with their children came to see the progress of the construction. The festive opening of the fishing hut was organised on 15 July 1889. The prestigious guests included the Queen of Greece and the Duchess of Edinburgh. Embassies arrived by boat all the way from Helsinki and Vyborg to greet the rulers of the country.
With its impressive fireplace and original furniture, the fishing hut is an overall work of art, similarly to the Hvitträsk artist villa, for example. It is one of the first pieces of national romantic architecture in our country. The manner of construction is founded on the Finnish tradition of building of wood, and it was carried out at the emperor’s orders in a ‘simple, rustic, and humble’ spirit. The interior design represents the best sides of the young industry in Finland. Some of the original artefacts of the hut have been preserved and are exhibited at the museum.
The fishing hut as an imperial summer residence
Cruising the Gulf of Finland on the empress’ yacht, the Tsarevna, the imperial family arrived in Langinkoski in summer. They spent time at the hut with their family, relatives, and friends, and returned to the services of the stylish yacht for the night. Alexander III liked to ensure the safety of his family, which made Finland an ideal holiday resort. Finns were considered faithful subjects, and the hut, surrounded by water, was easy to guard.
Langinkoski also allowed the imperial family to leave the court etiquette behind, which otherwise defined their lives in detail. The imperial guests went fishing, chopped firewood, hiked, and cooked. The rustic summer life raised eyebrows in the high society of Saint Petersburg, but this did not prevent the imperial family from returning to Langinkoski. For five years, it remained the summer hideaway of the imperial family.
Nicholas II ascends to the throne
The sudden death of Alexander III in 1894 marked the end of an era at Langinkoski. The throne passed on to Nicholas II of Russia, who also became the new master at Langinkoski. However, he only visited the hut once after becoming emperor. At that visit in 1906, he brought with him empress Alexandra Feodorovna and the four daughters of the imperial family: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and five-year-old Anastasia.
Continuing the cruising tradition started by his parents, Nicholas II did spend summers in Finland, but his trips were often targeted at Virolahti rather than Langinkoski. The widowed empress Maria Feodorovna also participated on these cruises, but she never returned to Langinkoski after the death of her husband.
The First World War brought changes even to Langinkoski. Langinkoski hosted a Red Cross convalescent home for Russian soldiers during two summers. Fortification work was also carried out on the shores of the rapids as part of the defence line from the river Kymi to Päijänne. They were never used in battle, because the war ended before the fortification work was completed.
Age of Independence and museum operations
When Finland became independent, the hut became property of the young Finnish State. The area and buildings still remain property of the State. The future of the imperial fishing hut was unclear in the 1920s, and there were even suggestions to demolish it. In the end, it was kept, and used irregularly as a summer residence of statesmen. The fishing rights to the rapids were rented out.
The fishing hut was converted into a museum in the 1930s after a group of notable local figures founded a museum association with the objective of restoring the imperial history of the hut. The Kymenlaakson museoseura association, now called Langinkoskiseura, managed the museum operations at the hut until the end of 2017.