1523-1640 Finland 1721-1772

Finland under Swedish Rule, 1640 - 1721

Administration . Finland was regarded an integral part of Sweden. Temporarily, Finland was administered by a Swedish governor-general residing in Vyborg (Viipuri); the governorship was not a permanent institution. Finland had two administrative centers, Vyborg (Viipuri) because of its proximity to the border to Russia more of military importance, Åbo (Turku) because of its link with Stockholm by boat and its ecclesiastic function (seat of the archbishop of Finland) more of civilian importance. At Åbo, occasionally the Diet of Finland (lantdag) was convened; the establishment of an absolute monarchy in Sweden in 1676 made the diet obsolete.

Sweden's Wars, Relations with Russia . Sweden, from 1630 to 1721, in European policy played the role of a great power, fought in the Thirty Years War 1630-1648, in the Swedish-Danish War 1643-1645, in a brief war with Bremen 1653-1654, in the First Northern War 1655-1660, in the Habsburg-Ottoman War 1663-1664, in another war with Bremen 1666, in the Swedish-Brandenburgian War 1675-1679, in the Habsburg-Ottoman War 1683-1699, in the Great Northern War 1700-1721.
As Sweden (including her possessions Finland, Ingermanland, Estonia, Livonia, Swedish Pomerania etc.) had too weak an economy to finance its wars, the country depended on a combination of foreign subsidies (usually French), on revenue squeezed out of occupied territory, and on the indelningsverket, a system which required every village to provide, and finance, a soldier; the system also was applied in Finland. Also, regiments of cavallery were recruited in Finland.
As Russia, between 1617 and 1689, was weak, Sweden's many wars effected Finland marginally. When Peter the Great ascended to the Russian throne and developed the plan to built a new port on the Baltic Sea (St. Petersburg), Finland's territorial integrity was threatened.
In 1697 it seemed that an unprepared Sweden faced an emerging coalition of enemies - Denmark, Poland, Russia and more; young king Charles XII., against expectations, defeated superior Russian forces at Narva in 1700, and dominated the course of the war until the Battle of Poltava in 1709. From a Finnish point of view, tragically he concentrated on Poland. In 1702, long before Poltava, the Russians began with the construction of St. Petersburg. The Russian victory at Poltava only confirmed Russian control of Ingermanland; in the course of the war Russian forces took Vyborg in 1710, by 1714 were in control of Finland. In the Treaty of Nystad 1721 Sweden ceded Estonia, Livonia and Ingermanland; the border drawn at Nystad left most of Karelia in Russian hands, including the fortress of Vyborg (Viipuri). Sweden was no longer a great power; Russia now was a great power; Finland was exposed, its importance to Russia, because of the country's proximity to Russia's new capital Saint Petersburg, increased.

Political History . During the Great Reduction of 1680, Sweden confiscated the baronies and counties handed out during the rule of King Erik XIV. (1561-1577) and his successors, a measure which affected Finland considerably.

The Economy . The Finnish economy was largely based on agriculture, a few coastal communities being engaged in trade, tar being the most important product.
The policy of reductions 1660-1697 (i.e. the confiscation of estates which had been handed out by Queen Christina to court favourites or otherwise been alienated from state ownership) affected Finland as well as core Sweden.
In the famine of 1697-1699, Finland lost about a third of its population.

Social History . The oldest population census of 1750 counted 421,000 Finns. For the 17th century we may assume the population of Finland not to exceed this number. The urban centers of Finland (Åbo, Vyborg) at that time would have a population of a few thousand inhabitants. The vast majority of the population lived in rural communities and was engaged in agriculture, mostly as serfs.
Kristinestad was founded in 1649, Jakobstad in 1652, Frederikshamn (Hamina) in 1653.
The majority of the population was Finnish-speaking, but the Swedish speaking minority (roughly 10 %, concentrated on the Åland Islands, along Finlands southwestern coast, in the towns) dominated society.
In the 1640es the education of priests for Finland was improved; Swedish became the language of administration and education (replacing both Latin and Lower German).

Cultural History . In Kexholms Län, territory acquired in 1617, the population was hostile to attempts of forcing a conversion to Lutheran faith, and remained faithful to the Russian Orthodox Church.
A royal academy was established at Åbo (Turku) in 1640 as an institution to educate Finnish priests. The Swedish language version of the bible was used in Finland, until a complete Finnish translation was published in 1642 (the New Testament had been translated by Mikael Agricola in 1548), the date also marking the first printing shop in Finland going into operation.
Lutheran bishop of Åbo Johannes Terserus in 1664 was deposed and a cathechism he had published was declared heretical; the event marks a conflict between orthodox and synchretistic clergy, in which the former prevailed.

Articles History of Finland - 17th Century, Finlands Historia under Nya Tiden (Finlands History in the Modern Era), in Swedish, Royal Academy Turku, List of Bible Translations : Finnish, Treaty of Nystad, Swedish Ingria (Ingermanland), Vyborg (Viipuri), Turku (Åbo), Diet of Finland, Hamina, Jakobstad, Kristinestad, Johannes Terserus, in Swedish, Counties and Baronies in Finland, Reduction (Sweden), from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Finland
Rising Sweden - From a Borderland to a Part of a Great Power 1500-1700, Later Swedish Rule - Rising Russia and National Identity 1700-1809 from A Web History of Finland by Pasi Kuoppamäki

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on July 18th 2007

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