Finland History Part II

By | December 17, 2021

The beginning of the century XVII instead marked a strengthening of Swedish central power with Gustavo Adolfo (1611-1632). Administrative and financial reforms were introduced; the parliament (Riksdag) was reorganized, to which representatives of the four classes of the population were admitted. In 1616 the king summoned a Finnish diet to Helsinki. The uninterrupted wars with Russia, which after the Stolby treaty had ceded the Kexholm region (Käkisalmi) to Sweden, and participation in the Thirty Years’ War, under the leadership of the Finnish Marshal Karl Horn, exhausted the country’s finances. Towards the middle of the century XVII, the regency established during the minor age of Queen Christina, wanting to restore finances, gave Finland the governor Per Brahe, who governed wisely and founded (1640) the university of Åbo (Turku); the reforming work was also continued by Charles XI (1660-1697), who promoted land reform. Supported by peasants, citizens and clergy, he expropriated the large estates of the nobility. At the same time the army quartering system was introduced (see below). At the end of this king’s reign there was a great famine, which caused the death of a quarter of the population of Finland. As soon as it recovered, Finland had to take part in the Nordic war against Russia. In 1714 all of Finland was in the hands of the Russians; after the peace of Nystad (1721), Ingria, the region of Kexholm (Käkisalmi) and the city of Viborg (Viipuri) passed definitively to Russia. The policy of the oligarchic government, which after the death of Charles XII (1718) assumed power, divided the Swedes into two parties. One of these, the party of the “caps” was demanding a peaceful neighborhood with Russia, while the party of the “hats” wanted revenge. The same two parties also existed in Swedish Finland, but patriotism attenuated their differences. In 1734 the new civil law was also introduced in Finland, according to Swedish law, which was still in force when in 1919 the country passed to the republican regime. But during the struggle between “caps” and “hats” a separatist movement from Sweden began in Finland. The Empress Elizabeth of Russia, during the Russo-Swedish war, had already made a proclamation to the Finns, with which she promised them autonomy, on condition of submitting to Russia. This proclamation was unsuccessful; but in 1743 the peace of Åbo (v.) gave Russia new Finnish lands north of the Kymi river. For Finland 2012, please check eningbo.info.

The separation from Sweden, on the other hand, had to take place in the Napoleonic period. Tilsitt’s meeting between Napoleon and Alexander of Russia in 1807 changed the fate of Finland. The Swedish king Gustavo Adolfo IV did not want to enter the Franco-Russian alliance against England; and thus, when the war against Sweden began, the emperor Alexander obtained from Napoleon the promise of favoring the separation of Finland from Sweden for the benefit of Russia. Without the help of the Swedish army, the Finnish army under the command of generals Adlercreutz, Sandels and Döbeln, had to retreat: on 4 May 1808 the fortress of Sveaborg (Viapori, now Suomenlinna) capitulated and southern and central Finland was occupied by the Russian army. In the north the the national army instead put up a tenacious resistance to the Russians; but, after the terrible defeat of Oravaimen, the fate of Finland was definitively decided. Emperor Alexander, wishing to preserve the historical and traditional organization of the country, called to himself deputies chosen from among the nobility, the clergy, citizens and peasants, to express their opinion on the needs of the country. After preliminary conferences, which took place in Petersburg between these deputies and the representatives of the Russian government, the Finnish diet was convened in the city of Borgå (Porvoo), inaugurated on March 16, 1809 by the emperor Alexander himself; it recognized the Tsar as Grand Duke of Finland, who for his part promised to observe the Finnish constitution, respecting the religion, laws and freedoms of the country. On September 17, 1809, the peace of Fredrikshamn (Hamina) was concluded, as a result of which Sweden had to cede all Finland and the lands of Western Bothnia up to the Tornio and Muonio rivers to Russia. The diet drafted four bills: on the army, on taxes, on money, and on the establishment of a government council. But his wishes were not all fulfilled. The army quartering system was preserved, the towns and villages committed themselves by contract to constantly maintain a certain number of soldiers, to whom they gave housing and a piece of land; soldiers did their military service only in the summer. The proceeds from the taxes and the pre-existing treasury were to be spent only on the needs of Finland. The Russian ruble was accepted as a monetary unit. On August 6, 1809, the government council was established as the supreme administrative body, which in 1816 was transformed into the imperial Finnish senate. In 1811 the Bank of Finland was founded. Under the reign of Alexander I the diet was no longer convened, and neither was it under the reign of Nicholas I. Only in 1856 the emperor Alexander II, presiding over a session of the Finnish senate, proposed a whole series of reforms, ‘implementation of which required, according to the law, the participation of delegates from all Finnish lands: and so the Senate voted to convene the diet. In September 1863, after the completion of preliminary work by a special commission composed of 12 members for each class, the Finnish diet was opened with great solemnity in Helsinki, which in 1821 had replaced Åbo (Turku) as the capital. The diet of 1863 enacted a whole series of reforms in the fields of public education, finances, military service and the internal regiment of the country; and since then it has met regularly every 5 years, having recognized the right to elaborate new laws; but around 1880 Finland felt the effects of the new orientation of Russian politics, which tended to treat Finland in the same way as the other countries of the Russian Empire.

The advent of Alexander III to the throne for the killing of Alexander II (March 13, 1881) marked, with the prevalence of the reactionary camarilla, the beginning of a new policy aimed at stifling the separatist tendency of the grand duchy. This program had its maximum development later with Nicholas II, and with the appointment of General NI Bobrikov as governor general of Finland (1898). Following the refusal of the Finnish diet to modify the recruitment law to conform to the Russian one, the imperial manifesto of February 15, 1899 transformed the diet into a simple consultative forum. The protests of the representatives of Finland and a petition signed by 500,000 Finns had no result; indeed, Count von Plehwe was appointed secretary of state. In 1901 the Finnish army was disbanded, the constitutional guarantees were suspended and finally on 9 April 1903 General Bobrikov had dictatorial powers. However, the fight continued and on June 16, 1904 Bobrikov was killed by E. Schauman. During the revolutionary uprisings of the whole of Russia, the Finns with greater energy resumed the agitation for the regain of the trampled rights; and the movement culminated in the political general strike which lasted from 30 October to 6 November 1905. The Russian government, weakened also by the defeats reported in the Far East, had to bend to re-establish the constitutional order. On the contrary, an extraordinary diet was convened, which replaced the old representation of the states with a chamber elected by universal suffrage; the reforms were sanctioned by the Tsar on July 20, 1906. The diet appointed under the new laws, however, was dominated by radical parties, which led to a new conflict with the Russian government, in which, with the advent of Stolypin, the Russifying tendencies began to prevail again. The governor general Gerard, of liberal leanings, was replaced by gen. Finland Seyn, who had been Bobrikov’s secretary; and the Pan-Slavist policy was supported by the Duma, which on June 30, 1910 approved a law, which practically abolished the autonomy of the Finnish diet. Since the latter refused to collaborate in the Russification policy, it was dissolved.

Finland History Part II