1389-1523 Finland 1640-1721

Finland under Swedish Rule, 1523 - 1640

Administration . Sweden achieved its independence from Denmark / the Kalmar Union in 1523. King Erik XIV. in 1561 began a policy of creating baronies and counties in Finland, and handing them out to court nobles; they were taken back by the state under the reduction policy of 1680. In 1581 Österland (Finland except for the extreme north) was declared a Grand Duchy, held in dynastic union with the Kingdom of Sweden. In 1594 the first Swedish Governor General of Finland was appointed, an office which often was left unoccupied. In 1634 Sweden implemented an administrative reform, introduced the County (Län) System, thus the administrative borders within Finland were redrawn.

Sweden's Relations with Russia . Every now and then, Sweden fought wars against Russia; Finland, as a border country, was especially affected by these wars. The Russo-Swedish War of 1570-1595 was concluded by the Treaty of Täsina. The Russo-Swedish War of 1611-1617 was concluded by the Treaty of Stolbovo; in the latter, Russia ceded Ingermanland and Kexholm Län to Sweden.

Political History . King Gustavus I. Vasa, in 1527, introduced the Lutheran Reformation in Sweden. It was to take decades, until the Reformation took thorough roots in Finland (New Testament translated into Finnish in 1548, Royal Academy at Åbo established in 1640, the first complete bible translation into Finnish published in 1642).
From 1434 to 1523, Sweden's nobility had been notoriously rebellious against union kings residing in Copenhagen. The new Vasa Dynasty residing in Stockholm had to establish her authority over independent-minded nobles.
Finnish peasants, suffering from excessive burden, revolted in what is known as the Klubbekriget (War of the Clubs, 1596-1597).

The Economy . In 1523 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. In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries additional towns were founded, indicating an increase in trade, and a gradual intensification of a capitalist economy.

Social History . 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 reformation introduced elementary education, which in the 16th century affected the Swedish-speaking population, while the Finnish-speaking population was neglected in this aspect.
The population was dependent on the harvest, a poor harvest causing famine, and also affected by Sweden's wars, most notably those with Russia.
A number of new cities was established, Helsingfors (modern Helsinki) in 1550, Oulu in 1605, Vaasa in 1606.
King Gustav I. Vasa (1523-1560) pursued a policy of settling certain unpopulated regions in Finland.

Cultural History . The progress of the Lutheran Reformation in Finland was affected by the fact that the vast majority of the population spoke Finnish. In 1548 Mikael Agricola published a translation of the New Testament into Finnish. Yet progress of the Reformation was still slow, accelerated only after the Royal Academy was established in Åbo (Turku) in 1640, a complete bible translation published in 1642 and the printing press introduced in 1642.
The Diocese of Åbo (Turku) continued to exist, since 1527 as a Lutheran diocese. In 1554 the diocese of Vyborg (Viipuri) was created.
When Russia ceded Kexholm Län and Ingermanland in 1617, the Lutheran clergy attempted to pressure the Orthodox population to convert to Lutheranism. This policy was resisted, and thus a number of villages continued to adhere to Russian Orthodox faith.
Raseborg Castle was abandoned in 1553, her strategic function having been taken over by the city of Helsinki (established in 1550).

Articles Finland's Historia under Nya Tiden (Finland's History in the Modern Era), in Swedish, Counties and Baronies in Finland, Oulu : History, Vaasa : History, Mikael Agricola, Klaus Fleming, County System, Österland, Rasebog Castle, 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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