Sunday, 12 July 2009

Finland: Some History, Part One

Who are these enigmatic Finns and what is their history?  In 1970, Walter Bacon wrote this passage:

"But where does Finland belong?  Is it a Baltic state, like Estonia?  Is it part of Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, with which it is linked and with which it has such close ties?  Is it really a part of Russia?  Or is it something different from all of these?"  

Although Swedes did inhabit some places in modern Finland, Finns lived in relative obscurity and in a separate, isolated peace until the Middle Ages.  By the middle of the 14th century, Sweden held Finland fully under its control.  Although "benevolent overlords," according to Hall, 1967, the only contention between the Finns and the Swedes came down to the matter of language.  Swedish was the language of schools, politics, and all aspects of official life.  Educational and social advancement required the use of the Swedish language, but most Finns refused to give up their unique language.

Russia occupied Finland between 1714-1721.  A war between Sweden in Russia in 1809 began a new era of Finland as a Grand Duchy of Russia.  Although part of Russia, Finland remained autonomous and retained the Lutheran Church and Swedish as the official language.  One of the czars during Russian rule, Alexander II, championed the use of the Finnish language.  However, Alexander III and Nicholas II did not prove to be so liberal.  Lenin, a supporter of Finnish autonomy, came to power in November, 1917, and the Finns declared their independence in December, 1917.  

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