1721-1772 Finland 1809-1863

Finland under Swedish Rule, 1772 - 1808

The Policies of Gustavus III. . Following Gustavus III.' coup d'etat, Sweden adopted an authoritarian, yet liberal constitution.
As an enlightened absolute monarch, King Gustavus III. pursued a policy of lightenng the burden on the part of the population which generated the national revenue - peasants and burghers. He maintained the policy of employing exclusively noblemen for positions in the officers' and diplomatic corps. He introduced (limited) religious toleration for Catholics and Jews, abolished witch persecution (1779), restored Sweden's currency, reduced export tolls, attempted to free the trade of grain, to establish a monopoly on the sales of alcohol.

Impact on Finland . The constitution of 1772 in Finland was to remain in force until 1919.
The policies of King Gustavus III. alienated many Swedish noblemen, both in Sweden and in Finland. Jacob Sprengtporten, in 1772 had secured Sveaborg for Gustavus III. His brother Göran Magnus Sprengtporten in 1787 entered into the service of Russia, which since 1742 propagated the establishment of a separate Kingdom of Finland. G.M. Sprengporten, from 1808 to 1809, was to serve briefly as Russia's first Russian Governor General of Finland.
The royal policies in favour of Catholics and Jews, although of little impact on Finland's largely rural society, alienated the conservative Lutheran clergy.
The restoration of the Swedish currency and the reduction of burdens on the Finnish peasantry, and the spread of potato cultivation (introduced in Sweden in 1748) caused a population increase on unprecedented scale.
Sweden's wars with Russia (1788-1790, 1808-1809) greatly affected Finland as it provided the battleground.

The Russo-Swedish War and the Anjala Conspiracy . In 1788 Swedish forces invaded Russia and the Swedish navy attempted an assault on St. Petersburg. However, the plan failed and Swedish forces had to withdraw. From there, 112 disgruntled officers entered secretly in communication with the Tsarina (the Anjala Conspiracy). They declared the Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790 (started by Sweden) to be illegal, asked for the restoration of the Finnish borders of 1721 and for peace negotiations with representatives of the nation (of the Finnish nation, i.e. the ethnical Swedish representatives of the estates based in Finland). From Swedish point of view, this was an act of high treason. Gustav III. found public opinion on his side. The leading conspirators were arrested.

The Years 1790-1808 . King Gustavus IV. Adolphus (1797-1818) was fearful of revolutionary change and entered into an alliance with Russia. When France and Russia concluded the Peace of Tilsit 1807, this in effect was a Franco-Russian alliance which placed Sweden in immediate danger. Napoleon, in Tiflis, had agreed on Russia taking Finland. When the Russians attacked Finland in 1808 (Russo-Swedish War 1808-1809), Gustav IV. Adolf held back a part of his forces, fearing a Danish attack on Scania. The Swedish commander in Finland fought valiantly, but after the capitulation of Sveaborg castle Finland was lost to Sweden. In 1809, Sweden ceded Finland to the Russian Empire.

Social History . The Swedish-speaking minority dominated civil administration, education and clergy; the country's nobility was Swedish-speaking. The majority Finnish-speakers were mostly illiterate peasants. Most inhasbitants of Finland were Lutheran protestants; in the country's east there were a few Russian Orthodox parishes. Among the nomadic Sami (Lapps) of Northern Finland, shamanism still was widespread.
The census of 1770 counted 561,000 Finns, the number for 1775 was 610,000, for 1780 was 664,000, for 1785 was 679,000, for 1790 was 706,000, for 1795 was 771,000, for 1800 was 833,000, for 1805 was 896,000 (IHS p.4).

Article Swedish Constitution of 1772, History of Finland - Age of Enlightenment, Gustavus III., Jacob Magnus Sprengtporten, Georg Magnus Sprengtporten, Anjala Conspiracy, Governor General of Finland, 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 Kuoppamaeki
DOCUMENTS Diplomatarium Fennicum, from Finnish State Archive, project under construction, individual documents requested by search engine
REFERENCE IHS : B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics. Europe 1750-1988, NY : Stockton Press 1992 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 8th 2004

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