1150-1249 Finland 1389-1523

Finland under Swedish Rule, 1249 - 1389

Administration . The Swedish conquest of Finland had begun in the 12th century, and by 1249, from the sparse documented evidence we have, it appears that Swedish rule over southwestern and southern central Finland was stable. In 1293 Sweden extended her control over Karelia, and Vyborg was founded. Åbo and Vyborg emerged as the two administrative centers of the country.

Sweden's Relations with Novgorod . Swedish Finland's neighbour to the east was the Republic of Novgorod, the trade of which had flourished in the 13th century, but declined in the late 14th and 15th centuries. Sweden's raison d'etre was not trade (the Baltic trade was in control of Gotland and the Hanseatic League), but warfare; Sweden conducted expansion-motivated campaigns ("crusades" against "heretics") against the Republic of Novgorod in 1249, 1293, 1348. Novgorod retaliated with raids in 1311 and 1318. In 1323 Sweden and Novgorod signed the Treaty of Nöteborg, in which Novgorod recognized the acquisition of territory including Vyborg by Sweden.

Political History . Within the Kingdom of Sweden, Finland was remotely located. In 1362, representatives of Finland took place in the election of the Swedish king. During the rule of King Albert of Mecklenburg 1364-1389 Sweden descended into civil war, which affected Finland; nobleman Bo Jonsson Grip abused his position as the country's highest official to extend his fiefs and turning Finland into his personal domain, administrated from Vyborg.

The Economy . The Swedes established and expanded a feudal economy in Finland; castles were built in Finland, such as Raseborg and Vyborg, the local Finnish population reduced to the status of peasant serfs, who had to toil the fields for their (Swedish) feudal masters. The cities (better towns) were few and small, their inhabitants mainly Swedes or Germans; the Baltic trade controlled by Gotlanders, later by the Hanseatic League.
Novgorod was mainly interested in forest products it could gain from the region - fur and honey, Sweden in expanding the Swedish feudal society.
The fact that the Baltic Sea freezes over in winter affected communication between Finland and Sweden.

Social History . The feudalization of Finland, similar to contemporary developments in Estonia and Livonia, meant that the Finnish population had to accept converting to Catholicism, and had to live under both a Swedish clergy and under a Swedish nobility. The status of the Finns was that of serfs, they belonged to the land they tilled. Sweden was very thinly populated. Some regions in western Finland were settled by Swedish peasants.
The Swedish nobility formed an elite, which for the coming centuries was to dominate political life in Finland; it was these nobles which enabled Sweden to hold on to the land conquered from Novgorod; it was the lack of such a feudal nobility, which explained why Novgorod was not capable of holding on to her possessions in the face of Swedish invasions.

Cultural History . The Dominicans arrived in Finland in 1249, establishing a convent in Åbo (Turku). In 1259, the Diocese of Finland was renamed Diocese of Åbo (Turku). Vyborg Castle was erected in 1293, Tavastehus (Hämeenlinna) shortly after 1320. In 1318, city and cathedral of Åbo (Turku; consecrated in 1300) were burnt down by the Novgoroders.

Articles History of Finland : Middle Ages, Swedish-Novgorodian Wars, Bo Jonsson Grip, Albert of Mecklenburg, Raseborg Castle, Vyborg, Turku, Treaty of Nöteborg, Second Swedish Crusade, Third Swedish Crusade, Häme Castle, Vyborg Castle, 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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