(From the book "Denmark and Sweden with Iceland and Finland", by Jon Stefansson, Ph.D., lecturer in Icelandic at King's College, London. T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. London, 1916)



THE invasion of Finland by a Russian army and the heroic defence of the Finnish army have been related. (1)

All armed resistance was at an end, but Finland had not been ceded to Russia when certain representatives of its four Estates were received in Petersburg by the Tsar. At their suggestion he summoned the Finnish Diet to meet at Borgå*, March 1809. On March 15th Alexander I issued at Borgå an Act of Assurance to the people of Finland. "Providence having placed Us in possession of the Grand Duchy of Finland We hereby confirm and ratify the religion and fundamental laws, rights and privileges of its inhabitants, according to their Constitution, and promise to maintain them firm and unchanged in full force." He reiterated this promise in the speech with which he opened the Diet, and when the Estates took the oath of homage to him as Grand Duke of Finland in the Cathedral the Act of Assurance was read out and solemnly handed to the nobles. It was also read out in every church in Finland. His popularity was still more increased by the speech with which he closed the Diet in July 1809. "I have kept watch and ward over the independence of your opinions. This brave and loyal people will be grateful to Providence, which has brought them to their present status, placed from this time forward in the rank of nations (place désormais au rang des nations) under the sway of its own laws." The doubts thrown by Panslavist writers on the intentions of Alexander I are dispelled by the instructions which he gave to the first Governor of Finland. "It has been my aim to give the people of Finland a political existence so that they shall regard themselves, not as subject to Russia, but attached to her by their own manifest interests."

After the cession of Finland by the Treaty of Frederikshamn*, September 1809, the Government of Finland was organized on the basis of the two Constitutions given by Gustavus III in 1772 and 1789. The province of Viborg, which had been part of Russia since 1721, was reunited to Finland (1811). A Council of State was established, one-half of whose members formed a Supreme Court. In 1816 its name was changed to "Imperial Senate of Finland" and the senators were appointed by the Tsar. The Governor-General presided at their meetings. A Secretary for Finland in Petersburg formed the link between the Tsar as Grand Duke of Finland and the Diet. The Senate prepared all Bills to be laid before the Diet, though they were only submitted on the initiative of the Tsar. Constitutional reforms required the consent of all four Estates, all other Bills only, the assent of three Estates. The Diet was not convoked during the reigns of Alexander I and Nicholas I, but Alexander II opened it in person (1863). Three years before, in 1860, he had granted Finland a separate coinage. In his speech from the throne he reiterated the assurances of Alexander I as to the constitutional rights of Finland and made use of the terms "state" and "nation." A commission was appointed to codify the statutes of the Finnish Constitution. The Diet was to assemble every five years. This Diet met at Helsingfors*, to which the seat of Government had been moved from Åbo* in 1821. The University of Finland was moved from Åbo to Helsingfors in 1827.

In 1877 the Russian War Minister desired to extend to Finland the system of general conscription introduced in the Empire. A Bill to that effect was laid before the Diet which made certain changes in it; universal service was accepted on condition that the Finnish troops were only bound to serve in Finnish regiments under Finnish officers, and only bound to defend the throne and their country, i.e. Finland. The Diet wished to avoid the Russianization of the Finnish Army, but the Russian War Minister maintained that Finlanders were bound to defend the whole Empire, not only Finland. The Finnish guards fought with great valour in the Russo-Turkish War in 1878.

For years there was a bitter struggle between the Fennomans, who demanded equality for Finnish side by side with Swedish, and the Svecomans who upheld the predominance of Swedish. The Tsar enacted that the prevailing language of each commune should be its official language, and soon the two languages were on an equal footing, but the Svecomans declared that the Fennomans had called for assistance from Russia in a wholly internal matter and thus sown the seeds of future interference.

The Panslavists worked for the political and economic solidarity of Finland and Russia. In 1890 two Commissions were appointed in Petersburg to bring Finnish coinage, customs, and postage into greater conformity with that of the Empire. Separate Finnish postage was abolished in 1899.

Greater changes were contemplated. In July 1898 an extraordinary session of the Diet was called to meet on January 19, 1899; on August 24th the Tsar issued his Peace Manifesto, and six days later, August 30th, he appointed Bobrikoff Governor-General of Finland. This was a blow in the face of the "right and justice " invoked by the Tsar in his Peace Manifesto, for Bobrikoff was notorious for his terroristic rule of the Baltic provinces. On January 19th he laid a Bill before the Diet to bring the Finnish Army into conformity with that of the Empire. The Finnish Army was to be four times larger and to be Russianized and incorporated in the Russian Army. Bobrikoff told the Diet the Bill must be passed. This was a breach of the Constitution. The motives of the Bill were drafted by the War Minister, Kuropatkin, and by a commission presided over by Pobjedonoszev, the leader of Russian Panslavism. The Bill was to be submitted to the Imperial Council "as a matter of concern to the whole Empire of which the Grand Duchy of Finland is an inseparable part". The Diet was willing to contribute its quota of men and money in proportion to other parts of the Empire, i.e. about 20,000 men at an annual cost of £1,000,000, on condition of keeping the Finnish troops separate from the Russian Army. But while the Bill was being debated the Imperial Manifesto of February 15, 1899, came as a bolt from the blue. It was a coup d'état, an abrogation of the Finnish Constitution. All Finnish matters of Imperial interest were hereafter to be dealt with by Russian institutions, the Tsar to decide which matters were Imperial or exclusively local and Finnish. By ten votes to ten the Senate published this manifesto under protest. The Diet declared itself ready to double the number of Finnish troops, and stated that the new military Bill could not become law without the concurring consent of the Emperor Grand Duke and the Estates; it published an exposé of Finland's relations to the Empire and the rights of the Diet. The Tsar gave an ungracious answer to their remonstrance.

All strife between Fennomans and Svecomans now ceased. Like one man the people joined in a petition to the Grand Duke. This was read from the pulpit of every church in the country and signed in every parish. On March 13, 1899, five hundred representatives of the people, one from every parish, assembled in Helsingfors to take the petition, signed by over 520,000 people, to Petersburg. In the depth of winter, in a fortnight, these signatures had been collected, even in the highest North, beyond the Arctic Circle, by runners on snowshoes. When the deputation arrived in Petersburg, the State Secretary for Finland told them from the Tsar "to return to their homes at once, though the Tsar was not angry with them." A member of the deputation declared in memorable words: "We are inured to the visitations of Nature, but such a night frost as that of February 15th we have never known. With one stroke of the pen the dearest treasure we possessed and hoped to hand on to our children was destroyed that night. Can His Majesty afford to throw away the loyal love of this people, can he bear the responsibility of its utter ruin before Almighty God and the judgment of history?" It was all in vain. The Tsar also refused to receive a European deputation of professors of law and men of science who wished to protest against the coup d'état.

Bobrikoff was exasperated at the tough passive resistance to his measures for the Russification of Finland, and decided to bully and goad the people into rebellion. Newspaper after newspaper was confiscated. The Finnish Army was dissolved, and Russian troops sent to protect him and his tools.

Russian and Carelian pedlars, who were agents and spies in his service, wandered round the country, ostensibly with their wares. Governors of provinces, judges, burgomasters, and other officials were dismissed, without pensions, and their places were filled by Russians or by pro-Russian Finnish adventurers utterly unfit to hold office. Domiciliary visits, expulsions, and arrests, occurred daily. Leading men of influence were first harassed and then exiled. Russian was made the official language for all correspondence. Bribery was resorted to on a large scale. Servants in families were often spies in the secret service of the police, the cost of which was increased at the expense of the Finlanders, against their own will; detectives were about everywhere, listening to conversations and sending in reports on trivial matters. Russian Cossacks and gendarmes were imported "to keep order," while they themselves were the only danger for public safety and often guilty of crimes of violence.

The Senate was a helpless tool in Russian hands, for it had been carefully weeded out, and consisted of the creatures of Bobrikoff. The Russians made use of the racial antagonism and systematically incited the Finnish working-men against their Swedish employers. Daily life was full of fear and suspicion and insecurity. People spoke in whispers, and kept under lock and key every piece of written paper for fear of police thieves. The most innocent actions could be distorted into anti-Russian actions; a party of cards might be called a political meeting, a ball a conspiracy. The only hope left was a revolution in Russia.

On June 16, 1904, Eugen Schauman shot Bobrikoff with a pistol as he was entering the Senate House, and immediately afterwards shot himself. Schauman was the son of an ex-member of the Senate and came of a distinguished family. He sacrificed a young and promising life for his country.

The new Governor, Prince Obolenski, was conciliatory. He allowed most of the exiled patriots to come back. In October 1905 the gigantic general strike in Russia wrested from the Tsar the promise of a Constitution. Finland decided to do likewise. From October 31st to November 6th a general strike took place in Finland. The Governor-General and the Senate resigned. The Svecomans and the so-called Young Finns - who desired co-operation with the Swedes against the Panslavist danger - formed a "constitutional" party and sent a petition to the Tsar. His answer was the manifesto of November 4, 1905, which suspended the manifesto of February 15, 1899, and promised to develop the rights of the Finnish people on the basis of their Fundamental Laws, reformed and modernized. The Senate was reconstituted and composed of constitutionalists with Leo Mechelin at their head. A conciliatory Governor-General, Gerard, was appointed. The Diet passed a new Law of the Diet. There was to be one single chamber consisting of two hundred members, elected for three years. Every man and woman over twenty-four years of age had the right to vote in the elections for the Finnish Parliament, and was eligible as a member of it. Proportional representation, according to the d'Hondt system, was to be introduced. This was the most democratic Parliament in the world. The number of voters was increased from 100,000 to 1,250,000, and 25 women were elected in the first elections to sit in the new Parliament. Thus the Finlanders were the first nation not only to give parliamentary suffrage to women, but to give them seats in Parliament.

The Tsar had not time to spare for Finland. He was grappling with revolution at home, and the first and second Duma were not obsequious. As soon as he had got a Duma after his heart the Russian Press began to attack Finland for hatching dangerous revolutionary plots. Questions were asked in the Duma whether Russian authority extended to Finland. Stolypin answered, in May 1908, that the autonomy of Finland was a spontaneous gift of the Tsar which could be taken back if misused. Russian interests must predominate in Finland, whose relations to Russia were wholly determined by the Treaty of Frederikshamn. In vain Milyukoff defended Finland eloquently against the reactionaries in the Duma. On June 2, 1908, the Tsar issued an ordinance that all Finnish questions should be laid directly before the Russian Ministerial Council, who were to determine which of them were Imperial and discuss them. The Secretary of State for Finland was no longer to report separately to the Tsar. This was an abrogation of the Finnish Constitution, against which Senate and Diet both protested. When the Speaker referred to it in his opening speech the Diet was dissolved.

The first Diet elected by universal suffrage, in 1907, had eighty Socialist members, who in 1908 were able to carry a vote of no confidence against the Senate, the Fennomans not voting. The Tsar declared that his decision was final, and all petitions were in vain. At the beginning of 1909 a Russo-Finnish Commission, composed of six Russians and five Finns, began to sit in Petersburg to investigate which matters were to be withdrawn from the competence of the Finnish Diet as being Imperial matters. The appointment of the assistant of Bobrikoff, Seyn, as Governor-General of Finland, showed a violently anti-Finnish tendency. In 1910 the storm broke. On March 2/th the Tsar issued a manifesto, embodying proposals for regulating laws and matters of Imperial importance concerning Finland. A list was given of Imperial and not exclusively Finnish matters, based solely on the report of the Russian majority of the commission, as follows: (1) Finland's share of the Imperial expenditure and all taxation relating thereto; (2) conscription and all military matters; (3) the rights of Russian subjects in Finland who are not Finnish citizens; (4) the use of the language of the Empire, Russian, in Finland; (5) the execution in Finland of the decisions of the courts and authorities of the Empire; (6) the principles and the limits of the separate Government of Finland; (7) keeping order in Finland and the organization thereof, justice, education, meetings, clubs, societies, press laws and the import of foreign literature, customs, coinage, post office, telegraphs, railways, pilotage. The Russian minister concerned sends the Bill to the Finnish Senate and asks for its opinion, to be given within a certain time. "Local Bills " only were to be sent to the Diet ere they came before the Duma and Council. The Diet was to send one representative to the Imperial Council and four to the Duma, in which the Russians in Finland were to be represented by one member. The Diet now sent a petition to the Tsar explaining why "a change in the Fundamental Laws of Finland without the consent of the Diet cannot be held valid. The conflicts arising from their enforcement will bring suffering on us, but fear of suffering does not justify betrayal of the Constitution. We implore you to save our laws and our rights, and keep the most law-abiding of your subjects loyal." But the Duma passed this abolition of the Finnish Constitution without change, and Nicholas II signed it on June 30, 1910. The Russification of Finland, its annihilation as a separate State, now proceeded apace. The contribution of Finland to the military expenses of the Empire, which was ten million mark, was to be raised to twelve million mark in 1911, and to rise by one million mark annually until it reached twenty millions in 1919, which was to be the annual sum thereafter. Russian residents in Finland, including soldiers, were to have the same political and communal rights as Finlanders, and Finnish officials who disobeyed this law were to be prosecuted before Russian courts. The Senate became a tool of Russification which blindly followed the directions given to it, without regard to justice or law. All the nineteen members of the Viborg High Court were sentenced by a Russian judge to sixteen months' imprisonment in a Russian prison for disobedience to the law giving Russians equal rights with the Finlanders in Finland; they regarded it as illegal, as it had not been passed by the Diet. But all Russian attempts to exasperate the Finlanders and goad them into rebellion beat in vain on the rock of passive resistance. Finland is confident that she can hold out till the Government of Russia has become so liberalized that justice is given her. She will then again become a contented and loyal member of the Russian Empire. Dependent as Russia is on her Baltic seaboard it is against her interest, in the long run, to alienate the sympathies of the three Scandinavian kingdoms.

(1) See Sweden. (Elsewhere in the book)

*) Borgå = Swedish name for Porvoo
Fredrikshamn = Swedish name for Hamina
Helsingfors = Swedish name for Helsinki
Åbo = Swedish name for Turku

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