1249-1389 Finland 1523-1640

Finland under Swedish Rule, 1389 - 1523

Administration . From 1389 to 1523 Sweden (and with it, Finland) nominally was part of the Union of Kalmar. The union kings resided in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sweden was in rebellion against the union in 1434-1436, in 1448-1447, 1464-1465, in 1467-1520, and in 1523 restored full independence. The union kings occasionally even experienced difficulty holding on to core Denmark; King Erik XIII. being deposed in 1439, Christian II. in 1523. Thinly populated and remote Finland, in the period 1434-1523, was neglected. The nobility of Finland, ethnically Swedish, participated in the political history of Sweden.

Sweden's Relations with Russia . 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, in part because Sweden was little interested in trade and occasionally resumed her policy of eastward expansion; Sweden and Novgorod were at war in 1392, 1411, 1445. In 1478, Novgorod was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Muscovy (since 1547 the Russian Empire). In 1495 to 1497, Muscovy and Sweden were at war; Vyborg (Viipuri) withstood a Muscovite siege; the King of Denmark (who continued to claim the crown of Sweden) even entered into an alliance with Muscovy.

The Economy . In 1389 Finland basically had a feudal economy; transportation was bad, the stretches of the Baltic Sea adjacent to Finland frozen over during the winter. The bulk of the food had to be produced locally; trade was minimal. A few towns were centers of administration (Åbo, Vyborg) and of the limited trade which took place. Overseas trade was largely controlled by Hanseatic merchants.

Social History . Finland was extremely thinly populated and largely agricultural.
The nobility, clergy, the burghers of Finlands few cities (of, at best, a few thousand inhabitants) was Swedish-speaking. Except for the Åland Islands and a few coastal communities, which also were Swedish-speaking, the peasants were Finnish-speaking, and mostly belonging to the class of serfs.
The population was dependent on the harvest, a poor harvest causing famine, and also affected by Sweden's wars, most notably those with Novgorod respectively Russia.
In 1403, Vyborg (Viipuri) was granted a city charter.

Cultural History . The Catholic Church dominated life above the level of peasant communities; Latin was the language of the church, of administration and jurisdiction. Documents pertaining to trade were mostly written in Lower German, the language of the Hanseatic merchants. Finns, since the early 14th century, studied at universities such as Paris.

Articles History of Finland : Middle Ages, Swedish-Novgorodian Wars, Russo-Swedish War 1495-1497, Raseborg Castle, Vyborg, from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Finland
Rising Sweden - From a Borderland to a Part of a Great Power 1500-1700, from A Web History of Finland by Pasi Kuoppamäki
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 19th 2007

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