26.10.1828 Viipuri, Grand Duchy of Finland
4.2.1896 Helsinki, Grand Duchy of Finland
The son of Secretary of Governor and Wholesaler Anton Alfthan and his wife Helena, Georg was born into a life of privilege. Like many teens of wealthy families, he enrolled into the Hamina Cadet School, where he graduated in 1846 with honours. His first appointment was to the prestigious Pavlovsky Life Guards Regiment as an Ensign, followed by promotion to Lieutenant in 1848.
In 1848 he entered the Nicholas General Staff Academy, graduating in 1850 with the Academy’s silver medal due to his excellent grades. Promoted to Senior Lieutenant the following year, he was made a staff officer in the Life Guard headquarters.
After the outbreak of the Crimean War, he was promoted to Staff Captain and in early 1854 was transferred to the Headquarters of Imperial Forces in Finland. His talents were soon recognised and he was made senior adjutant, during the Anglo-French assault on Viipuri in August, he participated in the defence. Due to his service during the conflict, he was promoted to Captain and was made temporary chief of staff for the Finnish Headquarters.
In 1856 he was ordered to compile a study on defending Finland. He carried out a complete topographical survey of the Grand Duchy, producing a report for the Imperial General Staff, which also included a 1:1260000 scale map. The map became very popular and was widely distributed amongst the military and civil service.
As 1857 came, Alfthan was appointed divisional quartermaster of the 1st Guards Infantry Division. He soon was promoted to Colonel and transferred to be a senior adjutant at the Guards’ Headquarters. From 1860 to 1862 he was Chief of Staff of the 3rd Guards Infantry Division. This would be his last true military posting.
In May 1862, Alfthan returned to Finland as Acting Governor of Oulu. He was still classed as an active officer on the rolls of Officers of the Guards. In July of the next year, his position was made official and he was also promoted to Major General. Alfthan gained a reputation for organisation and level-headedness. He actively set out to improve the infrastructure of Northern Finland, which proved itself when the 1867 famine hit, as Oulu was able to recover better than other provinces. Alfthan was also meticulous for reports and his economic papers are still a valuable source for historians.
For his services to both military and civil services, Alfthan was ennobled in 1866 as von Alfthan, and his family was enrolled in the House of Knights the following year. He was a common sight at parliamentary hearings, being a big influence among the nobles. Appointed as a member of the Economic Committee in 1872, he was then made chairman of the Railway Committee from 1877 to 1878, followed by chairman of the Legal and Economic Committee in 1882. Alfthan showed a keen interest in the development of railways and canals. He started a state initiative for a railway line to Oulu, which he became chair of the construction board. He also contributed to the planning committee of the St. Petersburg-Murmansk railway line.
In 1873 von Alfthan was appointed governor of Uusimaa, he continued his efforts of making regular reports, especially in economics and agriculture. The following year he became one of the founding members of the Helsinki Association for Animal Welfare. He sat on many committees throughout his time as governor that would help the province, such as rural policing and clerical pay. In 1879 he was promoted to Lieutenant General and in 1882 commander of imperial troops stationed in Helsinki.
As a highly respected member of Finnish high society, as well as his high rank with the Russian system, he served as a member and chairman of committees dealing with sensitive issues between Finland and Russia. He fought against giving the Governer-General more powers but ultimately his defence of Finland’s constitutional powers failed. In 1888 he was appointed Chief of the Military Commission of the Senate Finance Department.
Lieutenant General von Alfthan strived to use his position to better Finland’s position in all areas but especially in economics, culture and public education. He worked for Finland until his death on 4th February 1896.
Honours and Awards
1853 – Cavalier badge of the Swedish Order of the Sword
1857 – Order of St. Anne 3rd class
1858 – Order of St. Vladimir 4th degree
1860 – Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd class with the imperial crown
1869 – Order of St. Vladimir 3rd degree
1871 – Order of St. Stanislaus 1st class
1874 – Order of St. Anne 1st class
1883 – Order of St. Vladimir 2nd class
1885 – Order of the White Eagle
1846 – Ensign
1851 – Senior Lieutenant
1854 – Staff Captain
1856 – Captain
1857 – Colonel
1863 – Major General
1879 – Lieutenant General
Wife – Ebba Matilda (née Geschwend; 1.5.1832 – 19.6.1893), married 4.1.1853
Son – Georg Edvard (17.5.1856 – 23.3.1901 )
Son – Anton Reinhold (5.1.1858- 25.12.1925)
Son – Otto Ludvig (26.1.1859 – 30.8.1884)
Daughter – Ebba Matilda (1.12.1860 – 3.6.1921)
Son – Kristian Axel (1.3.1864 – 13.8.1919)
Daughter – Dagmar Maria (4.12.1865 – 26.11.1952)
Daughter – Ingeborg Helena (3.9.1868 – 16.6.1946)
Son – Hjalmar Frithiof (15.1.1870 – 17.9.1916)
Daughter – Signe Adèle (20.10.1873 – 29.10.1955)
Son – Carl Ferdinand (10.3.1875 – 20.3.1932)
Georg von Alfthan, Biography Center, Finnish Literature Society
Volkov S.V. Generals of the Russian Empire: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Generals and Admirals from Peter I to Nicholas II, in 2 volumes. Centerpolygraph: Moscow, 2009.