Finland 1249-1389

Finland under Swedish Rule, 1150 - 1249

The Sources . Finland was located between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Novgorod. The Republic of Novgorod was christian (Russian Orthodox) and produced historiography (chronicles); Sweden was Catholic and also produced historiography, in the tradition of Viking Sagas, but now with a christian perspective. The Finns, pagans, did not write.

Geography . What we today refer to as Finland consisted of a number of landscapes, Finland Proper, Tavastia, Satakunta, Nyland, Savonia and Karelia. We have to regard these regions as separate political entities. As Swedes conquered and secured the western region of Finland proper first, the name of the region came to be used by the Swedes for all of their later conquests further to the east.

The Finnish Regions and Novgorod . Historical maps feature the Republic of Novgorod controlling vast areas in northern Russia and Finland (that is, up to the Swedish conquest). It has to be understood that these maps express a loose form of control; Novgorod traded in the fur the local population had collected; it appears evident that Novgorod respected the autonomy of the individual territories, did not interfere in their administration, was most concerned about peace and trade.

The Swedish Conquest . In the 1150es King Erik IX. of Sweden led what is called the First Swedish Crusade into Finland. The Swedes established a stronghold at Rändamäki in Finland Proper, which became the seat of the Diocesis of Finland, Henrik being the first bishop; in 1229 the seat of the diocese was moved to Åbo (Turku).
The papacy supported Swedish expansion into Finland, as it fit into the crusade policy of the time, the Finns being pagans. In 1229 the Gotlanders were warned by Pope Gregory IX. not to trade with the pagan Finns, which according to the document threatened the young church in Finland; it was more likely the christian community of Sweden and Finland which threatened their pagan neighbours.
Stages of the conquest, in this early phase, are poorly documented. We may assume that the Swedish conquest followed the coastline; after Finland Proper, Nyland (Swedish for new land) seems to have been secured.

Political History . In the areas under Swedish control, the populace was forcefully converted to Catholicism, and feudalization was introduced, i.e. the Finns pressed into serfdom, to serve Swedish feudal lords.

Articles History of Finland : Middle Ages, Swedish-Novgorodian Wars, First Swedish Crusade, Nyland (Uusimaa), Finland Proper, Raseborg Castle, Turku, Archdiocese of Turku, from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Finland
DOCUMENTS Diplomatarium Fennicum, from Finnish State Archive, project under construction, individual documents requested by search engine

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on July 20th 2007

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