National author Juhani Aho
Juhani Aho (1861-1921), originally Johannes Brofeldt, was born in Väärni parsonage where his father Theodor Brofelt was acting as a chaplain. A few years later their family transferred to Iisalmi and to Mansikkaniemi parsonage where Mr. Aho spend considerable parts of his youth.

Later on he went on to study in Kuopio and Helsinki however the rural atmosphere of his childhood home and town stayed in his heart and he often visited them, at least in his mind and writings.

Juhani Aho was one of the first professional writers in Finland. His books Rautatie (Railroad) [1884], Yksin (Alone) [1890)], Papin rouva (Priets’s wife) [1893] and Juha [1911] are amongst the classics of Finnish literature. His writings are often considered realistic and natural lyric poetry but later on his personal life and relationships greatly affected his work.

Juhani Aho was given the title of honorary doctor in 1907 but he refused to accept a title of professor in 1919. In the twilight years of life he spent most of his time with his favourite pastime, fishing, and at the time he considered himself to be more of a fisherman than a public author. He died on 8th of August in 1921 and was buried in Iisalmi a few days later. His gravestone is located at the cemetery of Kustaa Adolf’s Church near Koljonvirta.

Field Marshall Johan August Sandels – Mastermind tactician and the last field marshall of Sweden
Johan August Sandels born into a clerical house in 1764. Despite the background of house Sandels, he decided to make his own career in military. As a military leader he was often described as brave, talented and skillful. The battle of Koljonvirta is considered to be one of the best organized and led battles of the Finnish war. Amongst his soldiers he was a distant but respected Swedish noble. As a person he has been described as handsome, passionate and even conceited.

There are several interesting details regarding Sandels and the battle of Koljonvirta. One of his sayings has been popular long after the battles in Finland. When the first battle of Koljonvirta ended, Sandels was observing the battlefield around the Koljonvirta bridge with his officers and mentioned the following after seeing the countless bodies lying down on the ground: “Gentlemen, this is a small Austerlitz!”

The battle of Austerlitz which is better known as the battle of the three emperors was fought in 1805 in which the French troops led by Napoleon beat the combined army of Russians and Austrians. The casualties were large for that period of time, 36 000 soldiers, of which 25 000 were either Russian or Austrian while only 9 000 French soldiers fell.
After the Finnish war Sandels was called upon to several highly ranked offices and in 1824 he was promoted to the title of Field Marshall. Johan August Sandelds drew his last breath in 1831 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Dolgorukov – Prince on the battlefield and the Russian emperor’s trusted man
Mihail Dolgorukov was born in St. Petersburg in 1780. He was part of the house which founded Moscow and was one of the closest and trusted friends of the emperor if not the most trusted and closest. Dolgorukov had fought on many war frontiers in Europe before the Finnish war. He also travelled together with Alexander the First to Tilsit for the meeting with Napoleon in 1807. Dolkorugov, who was considered to hate the French emperor was forced to step aside from the side of Alexander I and was therefore a year later in 1808 sent to periphery to lead the Russian Karelian troops from Sortavala.

He was often, like Sandels, thought of as a brave, talented and skillful soldier. Otherwise he was described as a confident, handsome gentleman who kept to civilized manners, even during war and battles. This is contradicted by a tale told in the Iisalmi region: “A seer foresaw from reading the Prince’s hand that he would fall in the next battle at Koljonvirta. Perhaps agitated by the sight, then the Prince asked the seer to which kind of foal one of the Prince’s mare would bore. The seer replied: White one. Then Dolgorukov told the troops to put down the animal and in the end they found a white foal from the body of the mare. Enfuriated by this the Prince ordered the seer’s eyes to be pierced through.

In the illest of twists of fate, Prince Mihail Dolgorukov lost his life at Koljonvirta during the next battle on 27th of October in 1808. Several tales add to the mysticality surrounding his death. The tale tells that the Prince turned around at a critical moment of the battle towars a courier, hoping to receive a positive response to his proposal letter, at the same time a steadily approaching chain cannonball killed the prince. His white steed then galloped back to the Russian headquarters with an empty saddle. According to a rivaling tale the chain cannonball had struck the Prince into half and his white steed would have bolted away with only half of the Prince sitting on the saddle.

After his death his body was embalmed in Iisalmi and then transferred to St. Petersburg and later buried in the monastery of Nevsky.

These and all tales told by the local people are often exaggerated and they cannot and must not be held to be the absolute truth but often there is a seed of truth in them and they do tell something fascinating about the era.
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