Project page, Finland

Finland under Swedish domination

Historical background

Finland’s Prehistoric Times can be shared into three parts Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. The time before Finland was under the Sweden has not remained to produce accurate documentation. In any case, Finland begin to be inhabited after the ice age. The first 5000 years lived in Finland for hunting and gathering until the farming started to generalised and the population begin stabilize. Prehistoric times there was no one ruler and not the written law and the population concentrated village communities. The end of the prehistoric period (during the Viking Age) Finland connections to the rest of europe expanded. Also trading begin to internationalize. When the Vikings arrived, Finland begin to get first influenced by the Christianity. At the same time, welfare and the population grew, and settlement expanded.

After prehistoric time Finland started to become part of Sweden in the 12th century. When Finland was part of Sweden it gots things and institutions, for example market economy, constitution, government, class society, and in agriculture was moved to Swedish model.

In the year 1054 christendom was divided to eastern Orthodox and to western Roman Catholic church. Between 1055- 1093, three crusades were made to Finland. With trade and crusades Finland became a part of western church. Also reading and writing skills developed because church took care of education.

15th and 16th century was the superpower time of Sweden. There were huge changes such as the army, the war department, the navy and the Crown administration was reorganized. During the superpower time Sweden captured, for example
Käkisalmi province and Ingria from Russia. By the end of the 30 year war Sweden had areas all over the Baltic Sea.

Unlike 15th and 16th centuries, in 17th century Sweden suffered huge area losses. Later in the years 1808- 1809 there was a war between Sweden and Russia as the consequence of the war Finland ended up under the sway of Russia.

Consequences of the conquest
- For Finland:
    • Demographic
    • Economic, market economy
    • Religious
    • Social, class society

File:Swedish Empire (1560-1815) en2.png
File:Swedish Empire (1560-1815) en2.png

The relations of Finland and Sweden currently

Finland and Sweden long common history show many different ways in nowadays. Not only in the history books, but each of us everyday life. The best knowing and debated issue is the status of the Swedish language in Finland.

Economic point of view Sweden is one of Finland's closest partner in the world. The Finnish-Swedish connections and quality are the most unique areas of Finland in international relations.

In Finland we have the Swedish-speaking minority. Finland Swedes are native inhabitants of Finland, who speaks Swedish as their mother tongue. Finnish Swedish people lives mostly in three areas: in Uusimaa; Ostrobothnia coast and in Ahvenanmaa and in Turku coast. In the year 2010 there was about 290 000 Finnish-Swedish people who lived in Finland. In addition we have own celebration for them. Swedes-day is 6th of November which is celebrated in Finland and it is general flag day. The day celebrates Finnish-Swedish people to use Swedish in Finland. It started in the year 1908 by the RKP and the purpose was to strengthen the sense belongingof the Swedish speaking minority. RKP is own political party which promote the Finnish Swede rights.
One major issue has always been Ahvenanmaa. It is a group of islands and it’s Finland’s historical and current county and it has its own autonomy. There has been loads of fights over Ahvenanmaa for centuries. Also the people of Ahvenanmaa have wanted to be a part of Sweden. It cames a part of Finland’s Grand Duchy from which it inherited later to the Republic of Finland.

Even if, Finland and Sweden have a long common history it does not mean, that Finland and Sweden are deeply attached to each others. Finnish people have a lot of preconceptions in Swedish and also Finnish Sweden.

The results of inquiry

In Finland most of the young people have quite a good common knowledge. Young knows a lot of inter alia about politics and the economic situation of Finland. In Vammalan lukio made inquiry about Finland under the Swedish and Russian dominations and relations. Guestionnaire was answered by 50 Vammalan lukio upper secondary school students.

Surprisingly, the survey included, for example, that there was no answer to the question: "How long time Finland has been a part of the Swedish"? The answer would suggest that either the young people are not interested in Finland’s and Sweden’s history together, or they do not know the answers.

About half of the respondents of young people think that Finland's accession to Sweden under the rule was a good thing. They think that Finland received civilization from Sweden. They also think that trade contact and result of conques expeditions was the bigest reasons, why Finland get under the Swedish rule. Unfortunately, in the last question about things, that show to people currently and remind of Finland’s and Sweden’s common history, was not reseived a lot of answers, since more than half the respondents did not respond to the question. Slightly more than ten percent the respondents have that kind of opinion, the Sweden in second official language is the most visible thing. The second thing that is mentioned is forced swedish language teaching in schools.
Because the response to the Finland’s population size was so small, the data can not be generalized.



At the beginning of 19th century Finland had been under Swedish rule for 700 years. Upheavals of Europe had an influence on Finland, too, and brought with them a large amount of chances. Becoming a part of Russia, Finland got many advantages – the 19th century became “a century of Finland”. This thesis handles Finland’s autonomy – how Finland got the position, how it could be maintained and what was the signification of this special position.

Map of the Grand Duchy of Finland
Map of the Grand Duchy of Finland

Background of the new position

Finland got involved in European wars when the emperors Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander I agreed in 1807 in Tilsit to compel Sweden into the Britain’s embargo. As a result, the Finnish War broke out. Russians occupied Finland quite easi

ly, and in 1809 it was clear that the Swedish had lost Finland for them. Finland became a part of the Russian empire.

Officially Finland was annexed to Russia in the Porvoo Diet in March1809, although some battles were still in progress. In the event estates of Finland declared allegiance to the Emperor and Alexander I gave his own declares. He also gave a speech in which he stated that Finnish people would now be a separate nation. Conclusively Finland broke loose from Sweden in the Peace of Hamina in autumn 1809 when Sweden’s and Russian’s borders were set.

Tsar Alexander opens the Diet of Porvoo Source
Tsar Alexander opens the Diet of Porvoo Source

How the position of Finland changed?

While the upper class and bourgeoisie didn’t resist much the new ruler, ordinary people were more suspicious about the future and the old enemy. As a matter of fact that was quite pointless as at first there were very little changes in Finland. The Porvoo Diet was hold by traditional Swedish model, andthe emperor declared to maintain the religion and constitution of the land and privileges of the estates. Alexander wanted to calm Finns and didn’t do anygreat changes. Laws from the Swedish era were maintained and there become a separate self-rule from Russia in Finland.

Finland got its own Administration and officials which could even use Swedish as an official language. Moreover, Finland could now have a separate, own national economy, foreign trade and judiciary and later even own currency. On the other hand, Finland’s culture, religion and legislation were untouched so a life of an ordinary citizen didn’t change very radically. The greatest change to ordinary people was perhaps the abolition of the Finnish army, in other words, removal of conscription in Finland.

Consequenses of Finland
  • Demographic
- Population growth was huge, especially in countryside
in 1750 population was 421 000
in 1850 population was 1 637 000
in 1900 population was 2 656 000
  • Economic
- Own currency in 1860
- National economy
- Development of industrialisation --> forestry
  • Social
- Finnish became an official language
- Nationalism
- Estates positions started to fragment because of liberalism
- Conscription law in 1881
  • Religious
- Didnt change very radically

Administration of Autonomous Finland

Finland was leaded from two places, St. Petersburg and Helsinki, generally in a good harmony. Finland's internal administration system was not changed since Russians found the Swedish system more developed than the Russian one.

In St. Petersburg Finnish Secretary of State used a great influence in Finnish affairs while the emperor had the highest authority. In Helsinki the land was ruled by the Imperial Senate of Finland and a Russian governor-general as the Senate’s manager. All the senators and lower officials, however, were Finnish. To ordinary people that created a sense of their own Finnish state.

Estates and life in Autonomous Finland

There were four estates in Finland which of upper class were given some privare rights.

The upper class had most authority because they had sole right for the highest offices. They had to serve emperor as a officer or official and it was an great honor. Moreover, they did not need to pay any taxes.

Clergy’s life consisted of praying for the authorities, teaching people, doing administrative tasks and collecting taxes. They also did not have to pay any taxes.

Bourgeoisie had an exclusive right to trade and handicraft. The trade was allowed everywhere except countryside until the freedom of trade was set in 1879.

Peasantry were forced to pay taxes and they also had to work hard so their life were not easy. Over 90% of people got their livelihood from agriculture in those days. Poor citizens lived in a poverty trap and they had to struggle to survive. There were also some landless people as crofters, servants and maids who were out of estates. Their position were really poor and they were compelled to work by the law.

Cities of Finland were quite tiny in the early 1800s. They were inhabited by 50 000 citizens. Tampere was the only factory town with two factories. Finland was bureaucratic and a remote land in the early 1800s. Finland's politics was in recession and there were hardly any symptoms of alteration. Nevertheless, Finns kept trying to rebuilt and industrialize their land. Little by little they begun to manage and the standard of living increased.

The autonomous status led Finns to develop their own ideas of nationalism and constitutional monarchy, which they could to a large extent implement in practice with the assent of the Tsar. The idea about Finnish culture and future arised.

Which advantages and disadvantages the autonomy brought to Finland?

As long as Finland’s position stayed relatively independent, Finland benefited from belonging to Russia. Only limitation of autonomy from the late 1800s aroused great resistance – Finns were not willing to give up benefits they had used to in their autonomy.

Trade with Russia improved Finnish economy and developed its industry. Especially emperor Alexander II’s reform program from the mid-1800s brought lots of improvements to Finland. Finnish became an official language, education was improved, unnecessary restrictions were removed and civil liberties, such as the freedom of occupation, were increased. Finland’s social and economic development resulted towards more liberal and independent society.

The costs of privileges were loyalty to the emperor and defensing the Empire against enemies. In order to maintain self-determination, Finland had to be careful with its relationship with Russia and ready to defer the emperor’s rule. Being attacked in 1850’s, Finns proved their loyalty by defensing their country although Swedish were planning to “release” Finns for the Russian rule. Finland’s peaceful position was also seen when Finns stayed calm while there were rebellions elsewhere in the Empire. A large number of benefits of the autonomous time for Finland were result of that.

Comment Germany:

For us the most visible sign were the two languages which we could see everywhere. We also noticed some prejudices towards Russians.
After your careful research we understand your history much better.

Comment Italy:

We have never heard anything about some things, like the "freedom of trade", and that's why we found this topic

very interesting.

The whole piece is written quite clearly, even if we found the second part a bit difficult to read because of the therms used.

Probably because we don't study much of the Finnish history.


Aalto, Jari; Aromaa, Vuokko; Haapala, Pertti; Hentilä Seppo and Nieminen, Jaana 2010. Kaikkien aikojen historia 4. Suomen historian käännekohtia. Edita.

Helminen, Minna. Kuinka Suomi korotettiin kansakuntien joukkoon. Otavan Opisto. Read: 5th March 2013 Read: 6th March 2013