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Accueil > Research on Anarchism > Ideas to Explore > Politics and Political Theory > Nationalism > KROPOTKIN, Peter. "Finland : a Rising Nationality"

KROPOTKIN, Peter. "Finland : a Rising Nationality"

The Nineteenth Century (March 1885) pp. 527-46

National questions are not in vogue now in Europe. After having so much exercised the generation of ’48, they seem to be now in neglect. The poor results of a movement which caused so many illusions ; the new problems that are coming to the front – the social problem taking the precedence of all ; the prominence recently given to the ideas of unification and centralisation above those of territorial independence and federalism, by the sudden growth of a powerful military State in middle Europe, – all these have helped to repel into the background those questions of national independence which seemed to constitute the very essence of the history of Europe during the first half of our century. Faith in national programmes, formerly so firm, has been much shaken by the events of the last few years. Italian unity has not improved the lot of the lower classes of the Peninsula, and they have now to bear the burden of a State endeavouring to conquer a place among the great Powers. The formerly oppressed Hungary is oppressing in her turn the Slavonic populations under her rule. The last Polish insurrection was crushed rather by the agrarian measures of the Russian Government than by its armies and scaffolds ; and the heroic uprisings of the small nationalities of the Balkan Peninsula have merely made them tools in the hands of the diplomacy of their powerful neighbors. Moreover, the nationalist movements which are still in progress in Europe, are mostly confined to the remoter borders of the Continent, to populations which are almost unknown to old Europe and which cannot be realized by the general public otherwise than in the shape of loose agglomerations of shepherds, or robbers, unused to political organisation. They cannot therefore excite the same interest nor awake tile, same sympathies as the former uprisings of Greece, of Italy, of Hungary.

Notwithstanding all this, national questions are as real in Europe as ever, and it would be as unwise to shut our eyes to them as to deny their importance. Of course we know now that national problems are not identical with the ’people’s problems ;’ that the acquisition of political independence still leaves unachieved the economical independence of the laboring and wealth-producing classes. We can even say that a national movement, which does not include in its platform the demand for an economical change advantageous to the masses has no chance of success unless supported by foreign aid. But both these problems are so closely connected with one another that we are bound to recognise that no serious economical progress can be won, nor is any progressive development possible, until the awakened aspirations for autonomy have been satisfied. Though relegated now from the centre to the periphery, Europe has still to reckon with national movements. Irish ’Home Rule,’ the Schleswig ’difficulty,’ and Norwegian ’separatism’ are problems which must be resolved ; as also the national agitation that is steadily undermining Eastern Europe. There is no doubt that (to use the words of a recent English writer) not only a thorough discontent, but a chronic insurrectionary agitation’ is going on among the Serbo-Croats, who are endeavouring to shake off the yoke of Hungary. The Czechs, the Slovaks, the Poles of Austria are struggling, too, for self-goverment ; as also, to some extent, the Slowens, or Wends, and the Little Russians of Eastern Galicia ; while neither peace nor regular development is possible on the Balkan Peninsula until the Bosnians, the Herzegovinians, the Serbs, the Bulgarians, and others, have freed themselves from Turkish rule, Russian ’protection,’ and Austrian ’occupation,’ and have succeeded in constituting a free South-Slavonian Federation. The Russian Empire, too, has to reckon with the autonomist tendencies of several of its parts. However feeble now, the Ukrainian autonomist movement cannot but take a further development. As to Poland, she cannot much longer submit to the denationalizing policy of her Russian masters ; the old Poland of the szlachta is broken down ; but a new Poland – that of the peasants and working men – is growing up, with all the strength it has drawn from the abolition of serfdom. It will resume the struggle, and in the interests of her own progressive development Russia will be compelled, one day or the other, to abandon the reputedly rather than really strong ’defensive line of the Vistula.’ Finally, in the North-east we have Finland, where, one of the most interesting autonomist movements of our time has been steadily going on for more than sixty years.

One hardly hears of it in Western Europe. With the perseverance, however, that characterises the men of the North, and particularly those of Finland, this small yet rising nationality has within a short time achieved results so remarkable that it has ceased to be a Swedish or a Russian province more or less differing from its neighbours : it is a nation. Discussing once this question, ’What is a nation ?’ Ernest Renan get forth in his vivid and graphic style that a nation is not an agglomeration of people speaking the same language – a language may disappear ; not even an aggregation with distinct anthropological features, all nations being products of heterogeneous assimilations ; still less a union of economical interests which may he a Zollverein. National unity, he said, is the common inheritance of traditions, of hopes and regrets, of common aspirations and common conceptions, which make of a nation a true organism instead of a loose aggregation. The naturalist would add to these essential features of a nation the necessary differentiation from other surrounding organisms, and the geographer, a kind of union between the people and the territory it occupies, from which territory it receives its national character and on which it impresses its own stamp, so as to make an indivisible whole both of men and territory.

None of these features is missing in Finland. Its people have their own language, their own anthropological features, their own economical interests ; they are strongly differentiated from their neighbours ; men and territory cannot be separated one from another. And for the last sixty years the best men of Finland have been working with great success in spreading that precious inheritance of common hopes and regrets, of common aspirations and conceptions, of which Renan spoke. ’Yksi kieli, yksi mieli ’ (’One language, one spirit’) :- such is precisely the watchword of the ’Fennomanes.’

Comparative philology and anthropology may tell us that the Finns have but lately occupied the country they inhabit, and that during their long migrations from the Altaic Steppes they have undergone much admixture with other races. Nonetheless do the present inhabitants of Finland appear as a quite separate world, having their own sharply defined anthropological and ethnical characters, which distinguish them from the populations by whom they are surrounded. Their nearest kinsfolk are found only on the other shore of the Gulf of Finland, among the Esthonians, on whom they already exercise a kind of attraction. Their southern brethren, the Magyars, are too distant, too separated, and too distinct ever to exercise any influence on Finland. As to the other members of the same family scattered through Eastern Russia, the Voguls, the Permians, the Mordovians, and so on, science may prove their common origin ; but their national characters are being obliterated every day by contact with Russians, and nearly all of them have already lost any chance they may ever have had of constituting separate nationalities. Finland has thus no need to care about these scattered members of her family. It is true that even the ordinary traveller soon discovers in Finland two different types – the Tawastes in the west, and the Karelians in the east ; the square face of the former, their pale eyes and yellow hair, their heavy gait, strongly contrasting with the taller and more slender Karelians, with their elongated faces and darker hair, their animated and darker eyes. But the inhabitants of Central Finland, the Sawos, partaking of the physical features of both neighbours, are an intermediate link between the two ; and all three – Karelians, Sawos, and Tawastes – speaking the same language, living the same manner of life, and having so much in common as to their national characteristics-melt together into one ethnical type-the Finnish. Even religion does not separate them, the nearly 50,000 Orthodox Karelians being as good ’Finnish’ as their Protestant kinsfolk.

Exceedingly laborious they are all throughout the country : they could not lie otherwise in their Suomenman-the country of marshes-where the arable soil must be won from the forests, moors, and even likes, which stretch over nine-tenths of the land. The perseverance and tenacity that characterise all Northern Finnish stems are the natural outcome of these conditions, together with a gravity and a kind of melancholy which are so striking in the features of the people and form one of the most marked peculiarities of their folklore. The disasters, the wars, the bad crops, the famines, from which the Finnish peasant has so often had to suffer, have created his capacity of grave and uncomplaining submission to fate ; but the relative liberty he has always enjoyed has prevented him from developing that sad spirit of resignation, that deep sorrow which too often characterises his Russian brother. Never having been a personal serf, he is not servile ; he always maintains his personal dignity and speaks with the same grave intonation and self-respect to a Russian Tsar as to his neighbour. A lymphatic temperament, slowness of movement and of thought, and sullen indifference have often been imputed to him. In fact, when I have entered on a Sunday a peasanthouse in Eastern Finland, and found several men sitting on the beaches rental the wall, dropping only a few words at long intervals, plunged in a mute reverie as they enjoyed their inseparable pipes, I could not help remembering this reproach addressed to the Finnish peasant. But I soon perceived that though the Finn is always very deliberate in his movement, slowness of thought and indifference are peculiar only to those, unhappily too numerous, village paupers whom long-continued want and the struggle for life without hope of improvement have rendered callous. Still, a Finnish peasant family must be reduced to very great destitution before the wife loses her habits of cleanliness, which are not devoid of a certain aesthetical tint. The thrift of the Finn is striking ; not only among those who have no choice, for they are compelled to live upon rye-bread, baked four times a year and containing an admixture ’of the bark of our black Pines,’ as Runeberg says. Simplicity of life is the rule in all classes of society ; the unhealthy luxury of the European cities is yet unknown to the Finns ; and the Russian tchinovnik cannot but wonder how the Finnish official lives, without stealing, on the scanty allowance granted him by the State.

Contemplativeness – if I am permitted to use this ugly word – is another distinctive feature of the Finns : Tawastes, Samos, and Karelians are alike prone to it. Contemplation of nature, a meditative mute contemplation, which finds its expression rather in a song than in words, or incites to the reflection about nature’s mysteries rather than about the facts, is characteristic as well of the peasant as of the savant. It may be akin to, without being identical with, mystical reverie. It may, in certain circumstances, give rise to mysticism, as it did at the beginning of our century ; it produced that tendency towards sorcery and witchcraft to which the Finns were, and are still, renowned among and tested by their Russian neighbours ; but actually it gives rise among the instructed classes to a tendency towards a philosophic and pantheistic conception of nature, instead of the childish wonder with which others are satisfied. It also orients the Finnish folk-lore with an idealism which makes it so strongly contrast with the sensualism of the folk-lore of so many other nationalities. In science it causes savants to devote themselves rather to abstract mathematics, to astronomy, to the great problems of the physics of the earth, than to the merely descriptive sciences, these last being, as it seems, rather inherited from the science of Sweden.

Everybody loves his own country : with the Finns this love becomes a passion, as powerful as the passion of the Scottish Highlander for his ’land of mountain and of flood ;’ and it has the same source. We can easily understand the nostalgy of the Highlander who yearns for a glimpse of the rocks ’where the snowflake reposes,’ for the ’dark frowning beauties’ of his native mountains, which, in their ever-changing aspects, reflect the moods and phases of the human mind – of life itself. The same is trite of dwellers by the sea ; it is true again of the inhabitant of lake regions like Finland, where water and soil are inextricably interwoven each with the other ; they live for him, and are ever and always assuming new moods and expressions. Finland is a poor country, but it is a fine country, and has a stamp of originality. Its like may be sought for in vain even in the lake district of England or among the inland seas of Canada. Where else, indeed, can the Finns find this network of land and water, this tangled skein of lake, and sea, and shore, so fall of contrasts, and yet forming an inseparable and enchanting whole ? Where find these millions of islands – of lovely rocks giving footing to a few pines and birches which seem to grow from beneath the water ; these thousands and thousands of ever-varying tints spreading over the lakes as the sun slowly moves almost in the horizon, unwilling to go down, or leaving behind it the shining twilight which meets in the north with the aurora of the morning ? Nowhere else will the Finn find a country which breathes the same mild and sweet harmony, grave and melancholy, which matches so well with the dreamy pensiveness of his character.

Finland has not, it is true, an exclusively Finnish population. [1] The coasts of the two gulfs which entangle it are peopled with nearly 300,000 Swedes : thus one-seventh of its population belongs to the once dominant race. In Osterbotten, on the islands of Aland, the Swedes make 90 per cent of the population, and the labouring classes consist of both nationalities. On the coast of the Gulf of Finland the Swedes number from 50 per cent, of the population in the west to 5 per cent, in the east. But elsewhere, in the interior of the country, they constitute only the population of the towns, the land-owning class, and the personnel of the Administration. The inconveniences, however, which arise from this double character of the population are much less ethnographic than political. The fishermen of Osterbotten are not on bad terms with their Finnish countrymen, and are as much attached to their country as these last ; so also are the inhabitants of the south-western corner of Finland. As to those Swedish farmers who are scattered in the interior, and even on the south coast, they really are more Finnish than Swede : one must be born in the country itself to distinguish them from the Finns, with whom they might be confounded by a stranger. They speak Swedish of course, but nevertheless you soon find them to be passionate ’Finland patriots,’ who scorn your attempts to distinguish between Swedes and Finns in their little country. It is not so with the Swedish nobility, Swedish tradesmen and Swedish officials, until now they have constituted the dominant element in Finland’s political and economical life ; they are still landholders in a larger proportion than the Finns ; and, by maintaining Swedish as the official language in the Administration, they have systematically eliminated from it the Finnish element, which they still regard with contempt.

Hence, all Finland is divided into two great parties, the Svekomanes and the Fennomanes, continually struggling against one another in the national representation, in all questions of legislation, and in literature. The Fennomanes struggle for the recognition of their language as the equal of Swedish, and strive to introduce it into the Administration of all Finnish-speaking Finland, and that the higher and secondary instruction be given in Finnish ; the Svekomanes, in their turn, strive to maintain Swedish as the official language of the country, of the university, and of the secondary school, foreseeing that they will be eliminated from the Administration, which is now in their hands, so soon as Finnish shall be rendered obligatory for the officials, and Finnish youths have the possibility of receiving higher instruction in their own language. Thus the struggle is not one between two races, it is for the maintenance of class privileges inherited from the Swedish domination. Its issue cannot be doubtful. The Fennomanes obtained last year the recognition by law of the equality of both languages ; and they will not fail to expel the Swedes from the Administration so soon as the Constitution is modified in a democratic sense. It is also most significant that the majority of young men, even many of those who are born of Swedish parents, associate themselves rather with the Fennomanic than the Svekomanic party. They speak only Finnish, and take an active part in the crusade of the Finnish against the Swedish tongue. Of course there are still plenty of Swedish noblemen who sigh after the past military grandeur of Sweden ; plenty of tradesmen who look across the Baltic for better business ; and enough Swedish officials who are wroth at the idea of ’those Finnish peasants’ performing the functions once performed by their forefathers. But those Swedes who do not care for retaining a privileged position – and they are numerous – fully recognise the rights of the Finns. They join the Finnish national movement, and all the Swedes of whose names Finland is proud have been, and are, ardent Finnish patriots.

As to the nearly eleven thousand two
hundred Russians who live in the country, the seven thousand military of course need not be taken into account ; if their stay in Finland is short – and it mostly is, for only Finnish citizens are permitted to occupy official positions in the country – they remain Russians. But the tradesmen, or farmers, or peasants, who are staying in Finland for a longer time, are quickly ’Fennicized.’ In a few years they conform to Finnish customs ; and as you see one of them slowly smoking a pipe and rocking in the rocking-chair (an inevitable piece of furniture in a Finnish household), you would hardly guess that he is a Russian immigrant. He speaks little, he has become reserved and contemplative. Under the regime of a liberty He never knew at home, he feels interested in Finland and her prosperity. Nay, even his face has changed. As to big children, their fair heads can hardly be distinguished from the yellow-haired heads of the same Tchoukhnys whom their father formerly regarded with so great contempt. It is most interesting that, according to a remark of Herr Max Buch, even the Germans, who so seldom lose their national features, are rapidly ’Swedicized’ when they stay for some time in Finland.

Finland has thus the ethnographic cohesion which is the first condition for constituting a nation. Its inhabitants possess also the historic inheritance of common struggles, common glory, and common misfortunes, and they have a common board of folk-lore and literature. Moreover, they have so marked an individuality that they can neither be assimilated by their Scandinavian neighbours on the one hand, nor by the Russian Empire on the other. Even at the time when Finland was under Swedish dominion, and Sweden regarded the ’Ostlande’ as a mere stronghold against Russia, she always looked upon the Finns as a separate ’Finnish nation.’ And during the nearly seventy years which have elapsed since their separation, Finland has done so much for the development of her own national individuality that she can never again be a mere Swedish province. Besides, Swedish rule has left such a heritage of unpleasant memories, especially among the peasants, that a union of both States has been rendered most improbable. Those who suppose otherwise ought to read Mr. Yrio Koskinen’s History of Finland. They will then learn the dislike entertained by the lower classes of Finland for Swedish rule, and how that rule is regarded by the best men of Finland. There is no doubt that, united with the Sweden of our times, Finland would enjoy much more liberty and probably would be happier than under Russian rule. But historical sympathies and dislike are not easily dealt with, and Finland now cherishes the hope of becoming an independent State herself.

Of course, in the circumstances under which Finland had to develop at the dawn of her history, Swedish domination brought it several advantages. Assailed as they were on one side by the Germans, and on the other by the Russians, the Finnish stems could not remain free, and would have had to share the fate either of the Esthonians conquered by Germans, or of the Karelians conquered by Novgorod, and later on by Moscow. It was under Swedish rule that the Suomis formed themselves into a political body. Swedish rule again saved Finland from serfdom – at least from the disgrace of personal servitude, and it accustomed the peasant to the sound of his own voice in the State’s representation. Finally, the Reformation, by translating the Bible into Finnish, saved the language of the country from oblivion.

These were great advantages ; but they do not set off the inconvenience and ruin which resulted from the domination of the aristocracy. Finland was not only, as Soren Norby said, ’the best part of the land for levying taxes,’ it became the province most coveted by the Swedish aristocracy. When there were not enough rich estates in Sweden to satisfy all the Swedish and Finnish nobles who gathered at Court, they were sent to Finland. Free peasants were assigned in thousands to Swedish noblemen, who treated them as a lower conquered race. Two-thirds of the country, one-third of the taxes, became the property of noblemen who exacted from the ruined peasantry such sums, enormous for that time, as 20,000 thalers in annual revenue raised by Count Brahe, or 18,000 thalers raised by Wasaborg. Finland was becoming a possession of the Swedish aristocracy, and Finnish trade a monopoly of the Stockholm trading companies. The great ’reduction’ which began about the end of the seventeenth century certainly put a stop to the further depredations of the aristocracy. It created that class of discontented nobles whom we see later intriguing for Russia against Sweden. But the peasant gained little thereby, if anything. The State appropriated the incomes of the nobles and inaugurated the long series of wars which reduced Finland to starvation ; while the establishment of autocratic power in Sweden introduced the tendency to centralisation caused the Finns to be considered ’like serfs, not partners as before,’ and manifested itself in the absurd attempt ’to abolish the Finnish language.’ Famines, formerly unknown, and a complete ruin of the population, such were the natural consequences of this policy.

Though brought thus to a state which rendered successful resistance to Russian conquest quite impossible, Finland did not throw herself into the arms of her powerful Eastern neighbour. She straggled desperately against the invasion, and thus conquered the right of imposing conditions on her conqueror. Decimated by famine and pestilence, the Finnish peasants fought like lions in 1721 against the Russian Empire. And later on, in 1799-90, when the discontented Finnish nobles of the Anjala Convention surrendered Southern Finland to Russia, the peasants of Sawolaks fought the desperate battles of Porassalmi and Uttis. Even in 1808, when the struggle had become hopeless, when the Finnish troops, badly commanded, were melting away like snow, when Sveaborg, with a flotilla of 110 boats, surrendered without discharging one of its 2,000 guns, even then the Sawolaks peasants raised the banner of the national and popular war, and thus saved their country from political slavery. Alexander I, whose generals had already began to treat Finland as a conquered province, was compelled to grant several liberties, to proclaim the ’union’ of Finland with Russia, instead of merely requiring unconditional submission.

Much bloodshed was prevented and many disturbances avoided by the happy circumstance of Finland falling under the Russian dominion at a time when Alexander I had not yet abandoned the Liberal principles of his youth. Neglecting the counsels of his courtiers, he followed the advice of Speransky, who understood that ’Finland was a State and not a Russian province which might be administered in common with other provinces.’ While uniting the formerly conquered Eastern Provinces with the newly annexed Western Finland, he granted at least a limited autonomy to the young State. He abolished the dreadful recruiting for twenty-five years’ military service, already introduced in the province of Viborg by Paul I, and granted to Finland her own separate army and system of finances. He granted that only Finnish citizens should be permitted to occupy official positions in the Administration of the country ; and he did still better in putting an end to the so-called ’donations’ of estates in Eastern Finland to Russian officials – a practice which had endured since the first conquest, and was especially rife during the reign of Catherine II ; the enforcement of serfdom on Finland was thus hindered. And yet Russian rule did not become popular in Finland. Alexander I was then, as throughout his life, full of contradictions and tergiversations ; thus, while the representatives or the so-called representatives of the country were elaborating the Constitution at Borga, no discussion of it was permitted outside ; the single paper of the time, M. Koskinen says, though free to fill its columns with news about the Indians of America and ’the Island of Sirenes,’ was not allowed to publish one word of the debates on the Seim of Borga : they have not been published even yet. Besides, though Alexander I did much to win over the nobility and tradesmen, the people were quite forgotten. It is even doubtful whether he, or even Speransky, remembered that behind the nobles who gathered round him at St. Petersburg, loudly protesting their loyalty, there was a starving multitude of ruined peasants on the moors and in the woods. Nothing was done for the revision of the land laws or the lightening of the taxes that oppressed the labourer ; the people were forgotten amidst the balls and soirees, and of this oblivion the cost is now being paid. While the nobility are really loyal to the Crown – far more than might be expected from men who have some feeling of self-respect – the people retain the hatred for the Russian Empire which their forefathers learnt on the field of battle. [2]

Moreover, the liberties granted to Finland were considered as a mere expression of the good-will of the ruler, which, together with all his liberal ideas, vanished with increasing age. The Seim was not again convoked after it elaborated the Constitution of 1810, and for fifty-three years the country was governed from St. Petersburg by a ’Finnish Committee.’ The Finnish Senate, nominated by the Emperor had but little power under Alexander I, and still less under Nicholas I. It could not oppose the fancies of the military autocrat ; and every attempt at self-government or even at national revival denounced by the gendarmes was ruthlessly repressed. To speak of Finnish nationality was considered a crime. Only in 1843 was it permitted to read Finnish in schools ; but some years a later an Imperial decree prohibited the publication in Finnish language of anything but prayer-books and economical works. The circulating libraries were shut up ; men like A. E. Nordenskjold were compelled to seek a refuge in Sweden. Even so inoffensive a chair as that of comparative philology at the University of Helsingfors was abolished. The cost, of fortifying Bomarsund compelled the young State to contract its first national debt ; and though the conversion of corvees into money-rents in 1840 was, in principle, a benefit to the peasant, it was so made as to become a new burden to him ; while in the formerly Russian Finland, (Viborg) the peasants were expelled from their homes if they could not prove that they had built them before 1706, a measure whose evil effects may be seen still, as well in the impoverishment of the peasantry as in their discontent with Russian rule.

Since 1863 the Finnish representatives have been regularly called together every four or five years, and the rights received under the Constitution of 1910 have not since been violated, They were even somewhat increased in 1882, and on the whole Alexander II’s Government did not meddle over much with the affairs of Finland. All the laws voted by the Senate were sanctioned by the Emperor, and Finland acquired the full right of administering her own finances and of coining her own money, thereby escaping the disorder that reigns in the fiscal affairs of Russia. She was to maintain her own army, and was allowed freely to build her own railways, to spread instruction, to open seminaries for teachers, to adopt the Finnish language for official purposes, and to develop a popular literature without being greatly troubled by the Russian censorship – as long as the writers speak in high terms of the ’innumerable benefits of the union with Russia." But what guarantee is there for the continuance of these liberties, in reality, so limited ? – such is the question which the Finnish patriots are asking themselves. The most insignificant event – a fiery speech pronounced by somebody – may any day change everything for the worse. Where is the force, moral and material, to oppose the attempt to reduce Finland to the rank of a Russian province, which is quite possible, and which a certain party of Russian Chauvinists never cease to advocate ? The force necessary to resist such an enterprise could be derived only from a spirit of national independence pervading all classes of the people, from the mansion to the hovel, and penetrating into the minds of all those whose affections and inclinations were still turned in the direction either of Sweden or of Russia. It was necessary to prove to the indifferent that the watchword, ’Finland for the Finns,’ is not an empty dream, but may become yet a reality. Such was the immense task undertaken first by a few men, so soon as they saw into what an abyss they had nearly been drawn by the dream of making the Finland of the first years of our century an independent State under a Russian protectorate.

It is at the end of the last century that the first germs of the nationalist movement, in Finland must be sought. The awakening of the labouring classes in Western Europe found an echo in the North, and manifested itself by a fermentation both in the lower and upper classes of society. It was generally understood that something ought be done to ameliorate the lot of the masses ; and while Communistic ideas spread among the peasants, finding later on (1804-1808) an expression in the propaganda of Elias Hanninen, the upper classes endeavoured to raise the economical condition of Finland by the extension of agricultural knowledge, the increase of industry, by the study of their own country, and by the development of national conscience. Porthan, Professor of Roman Antiquities at the Academy of Abo, was the man who did the most to promote this actual yet vague, uncertain national revival. By his vast erudition, and still more by his large-minded teaching and paternal relations with his students, he exercised a potent influence over his pupils and friends. He created a whole school of young men who devoted themselves to the study of Finnish geography, Finnish history, Finnish antiquities and language.

War, more than Porthan’s death, which occurred in 1804, checked the further development of this movement. But when the impossibility of constituting a free State under Russia’s protection was duly demonstrated even to the few who cherished this dream ; when the national feeling was raised by the last wars, undoubtedly glorious for so small a nationality as Finland, and it became obvious that even the few vestiges of autonomy obtained from the Russian Emperor were due to the resistance opposed to the conquest by the lower classes of the Finnish peasantry ; when, finally, both parts of Finland, Western and Eastern, separated by former wars, were again united together, the national movement took a new life. The, desire to build up a Finnish nation, in the true meaning of this word, spread widely over the land ; and it was in a pamphlet published in 1810 that the word ’Fennomany,’ already popular with the Abo students, made its first appearance. To have its own language – that of the great mass of the inhabitants of Finland – was obviously the first step towards success.

It was doubted, however, at that time whether the Finnish language – ’a language of labourers and fishermen ’ – would be sufficient for the expression of all the complex conceptions developed by the variety of social relations of European life ; and surely much boldness was necessary in the son of a Finnish peasant, Jacob Juden (who died in 1856), to champion the literary rights of ’the language of the plebeians’ by making it a vehicle for poetry. His attempts proved so successful that a series of Finnish poets (those of the earlier epoch) followed in his footsteps. A stranger, the Danish philologue Rasmus Rask, took up the defence of the popular tongue and showed how readily it lent itself to scientific elaboration, The first Finnish grammar and the great dictionary of Renvall soon followed (in 1824 and 1826) ; while Sjogren, also a peasant’s son, undertook the immense task, the accomplishment of which is one of the glories of our century, the comparative philology of the Altaic languages, so magnificently crowned a few years ago by the great work of M. Donner, which sums up the long labours of Sjogren, Lonnrot, Schlott, Budenz, Ahlqvist, Ujfalvi, and so many others.

The discovery of the Kalevala, the great Finnish epic poem, was a mighty aid in the further development of the nationalist movement : it gave to it a solid basis. When Doctor Lonnrot (whose loss Finland so sincerely deplored last year) discovered during his journeys in Karelia the fragments of a great epic poem in the runes that are sung in the villages on Lake Ladoga ; when he published them together, and thus reconstituted one of the finest epic poems known, a general cry of admiration went up from literary Europe. Any literature, however rich, might well be proud of a poem so grand in its cosmogonic conception, inspired with so pure an ideal (the word, the sung word, dominating throughout the poem over brutal force), so deeply penetrated with best human feelings, so beautiful in its simplicity. For Finland it was a revelation. Dr. Lonnrot had opened new and bright horizons, and a pleiad of young men made it their work to hunt up the hoards of poetry concealed for so many centuries in the memory of the Finnish people. Afore and more treasures were discovered. The Kalevala was followed by the Kanteletar, tbe epic poetry by the more accessible lyric songs, so fine that many of them would be a gem in the greatest poet’s crown. Indeed, one cannot read these Kauteletar without being struck by the always ideal purity of the conception, the fine poetic rendering of even the plain circumstances of life, the artistic finish of the image, the deep insight into the salient emotions of the soul and the workings of nature. A language which proved to be so admirably appropriate to the finest analysis of human feelings and so aesthetic a representation of nature – the language of the Kalevala and thet Kanteletar – who would dare to say that it was fit only to express the rough feelings of the lowest beings ? It was unanimously admitted to be a literary language.

The discovery of the Kalevala had another advantage : it awakened the national spirit of the Esthonians. On the other side of the Gulf of Finland like treasures of popular poetry were brought to light, sung also by the runolat in a language most akin to that of the Kalevala, and so suggestive of the common origin of both stems, now separated by politics, but once united by their common civilisation. In fact, since Dr. Kreuzwald (son of an Esthonian peasant, of a serf) had discovered the Kalevi-poem, an epic poem celebrating the exploits of Kaleva’s son, the first germs of ’Pan-Fennism’ were brought to life ; while Castren’s scientific researches into Finnish mythology extended still more widely the limits of the Finnish fatherland and showed the Finns and Esthonians that they are members of a race which played an important part in in remote times and may play it again, not by warfare, but by lending to Aryan civilisation their own ideals and philosophical tendencies.

The ground was thus prepared for the development of poetry and fine arts in Finland. Swedes born in Finland and Finns joined together in their work of raising the national feeling and of developing the national literature. When Nicholas I prohibited writing in Finnish, the conquest of nationality was continued in Swedish. It was in Swedish that Runeberg, Nervander, Topelius, Cygnaeus, sang the beauties of their country, the exploits of her children, and preached the love of Finland and its people. All Swedish-speaking Finland knows by heart the beautiful patriotic hymn of Runeberg, Vart Land and would tell you the effect it produced when it was first sung at the ’May-gathering’ of 1848. Thousands of men and women shed tears of happiness ; people who had never met before, overcome by patriotic emtion, fell into each other’s arms as the conception of a fatherland awakened in their hearts. Though writing in Swedish, this great connoisseur of the human heart and lover of beauty has pictured the Finnish people in their forests, their homes, and their struggles, as vividly as if he were a true Finn. And his ballad, "The Brother of the Cloud", whose hero understood ’more than life-love, and more than love, for he knew how to die’ for his country, is surely one of the best patriotic pieces ever written in Finland. So also with the verses of J. J. Wecksell, who used to write also in Swedish even such pieces as Swedish and Finnish, where the young, strong Finn provokes his former ruler in these words :-

Young I am, and I am proud of that ; always young, wandering through forests and fields, I sang my dreams and the wonders of past times, waiting till my hour would come. It is come now, and I defy thee ! And see, not withstanding all thy fury, thou blanchest under thy visor....I stand in the heart of the country ; as a young pine I was once forgotten amidst the snow, still full of growth on the barren tract. It is spring now ! The hearts of my people feel full of love, hope, and light. Thou sinkest thy crown, mine will not bend.

Common love for the mother-country concludes this fine piece, which expresses in poetry the feelings of at least the best Swedes in Finland.

None of these poets dared, however, to rise the Finnish language, so sonorous and so supple, for writing in verse. But they opened the way, and soon a young poet, who concealed under the pseudonym of Oksanen a name which later became widely known for philological research – M. Ahlqvist – tried to sing in his own tongue. He did so with a very great success, and his poetry faithfully reflects the feelings of his countrymen. Other poets, all peasants – Olaf Kymalainen, Peter Makkonen, Andreas Pulahka – followed M. Ahlqvist, and now Finland possesses some of the finest modern poetry written in the language of its people. [3]

Finnish art is still very young, but it is going in the right direction. It will not wander among distastefully modernised Greek or Roman antiquities : it seeks its inspiration in Finnish folk-lore, in Finnish nature ; and thus Europe will find in it a new and fruitfull source of inspiration – austere but not ascetic, severe yet highly idealistic, and sometimes good-naturedly witty. The pictures of Eckman and Magnus Wright (both recently dead) are in good style, as also those of Ferdinand Wright, who continues the work of his brother. But it is especially in music that Finnish art promises to be rich in new elements. The Russian composer Glinka has already shown in Ruslan and Ludmila what an inspiration may be drawn from Finnish songs, and of what a rich musical elaboration they are susceptible. Glinka did not, however, know the finest songs of the interior parts of Finland. To really appreciate them you must have heard them occasionally during a walk in the forests, or on the shores of a sylvan lake, sung by some peasant as he contemplates the wide scene before him. He begins, then, in a high and full tenor, one of those vigorous and beloved adagios which lift the hearer higher and higher up to some unknown sphere, like one of the best musical phrases of Richard Wagner. We have recently learnt from M. Melgounoff what a richness of quite new and beautiful harmonisation (in Sebastian Bach’s style) is to be learned from Russian popular music ; the same also from the Finnish, especially with regard to melody.

As to Finnish science, each time I peruse its scientific collections I admire the amount of work performed, and this the more as I know the modest means the Finnish savants leave at their disposal. I have already mentioned the work done in philology, which has so wide a repute : the same is true of natural science. Finland is undoubtedly one of the best explored countries of Eastern Europe. Not that there are no blanks to be filled : large tracts remain still unexplored ; but all explorations have been performed in the true spirit of modern science, and are imbued with a fervent love of the mother-country. In scientific research Finland has much profited, of course, by the experience of Sweden, and imitated it, and nearly all Finnish scientific works have been written in Sweden. But already Lonnrot had begun to cultivate Finnish so as to render it suitable for the philosophical and scientific needs of our time, he translated works of law and science, and discovered that his language offers remarkable facilities for creating new scientific and technical terms. His bulky Swedish and Finnish dictionary became a powerful aid in the further development of scientific terminology ; and the tendency is now towards writing scientific works in Finnish. Of course, the savants of Western Europe will object, but the resulting inconvenience will be easily obviated by the growing custom in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, of giving French or German resumes of the most important papers ; while the growth of a Finnish scientific literature will undoubtedly be an immense gain for the people. European science must recognise once for all that every decade will bring within its cycle more and more important works, written in an ever increasing variety of languages. The true scientific man can no more ignore Scandinavian, Russian, Polish, Czechian, Hungarian, and Finnish scientific literature ; and we must devise the means of systematically bringing all works of importance, written in any language, to the knowledge, of the whole of the scientific world. Be this as it may, Finnish scientific literature is growing every day, so also Finnish historic science. Thus, after the preparatory works of J. J. Tengstrom, W. G. Lagus, F. W. Pipping, Gabriel Rein, and M, Akiander, who all wrote in Swedish, and after a first attempt, made in 1846 by J. F. Kajan, to write Finnish history for the Finnish, we had to greet a few years ago the appearance of the remarkable History of Finland, by Yrio Koskinen, which is a serious attempt to write a history of the nation, and not alone of its rulers. It was immediately translated into Swedish and German.

The periodical press does not lag behind, and offers a warm support to the national movement. The first paper published in Finnish in the last century failed for political reasons. So also several ulterior attempts, all killed in the bud by Nicholas I’s censorship. It was only in 1863 that the Finnish Press took a new start, the Russian Government finding it useful to favour Fennomanes against Svekomanes. It has rapidly developed since, and now supplies the most remote pitaya (farm) in the woods with plain and useful reading in Finnish at a very low price. [4] But even yet the Russian Government pursues with regard to the Finnish Press its unwise traditional policy. It is tolerated on the condition of never criticising the proceedings of the Government ; and when, last year, some young Fennomanes, whose aim is closer union of the Finnish people with the Russian, proposed to start a paper in both languages, the Censorship refused permission. It could not allow a discussion of constitutional rights to be printed in the Russian language.

From all that precedes it is easy to see that Europe has only to gain from the admission of Finland into its family. But to this end liberty and independence are before all things needful, not the ephemeral liberty which is bestowed on the people by the rule of the richer classes, whatever be their nationality, but that full liberty which would result from the people being their own rulers. Finland is in a fair way to accomplish this. Its national movement does not ask a return to the past, as has been the case with Poland ; it aspires after a quite new, autonomous Finland. It is true that for the present the national question overshadows all others, and even the extremely important land question (for Finland has also its agrarian question) is nearly quite forgotten. The very existence of their nationality being menaced from St. Petersburg, will the Finnish nationalists repeat the error so often committed of forgetting that under the actual conditions of landed property, the peasant being overwhelmed with rents, taxes, and personal services, no national independence is possible, and if political autonomy be eventually realised under some exceptional circumstances it will be but a new burden on the labouring classes ? The eminently popular character of Fennomanism leads to the belief that this mistake will not be repeated. But it must be acknowledged that until now Fennomanism has remained a merely literary movement – a movement for a language, and not a movement for social redemption. No more than the Svekomanes have the Fennamones a distinct social programme ; and if Fennomanism is, on the whole, more democratic than its Svekomane rival, it comprises at the same time, together with the peasant’s son who longs after the free possession of soil, the son of the landowner who holds sacred the rights acquired by his forefathers under Swedish or Russian rule over the produce of the peasant’s labour. Both unite for the awakening of a national feeling end the conquering for the Finnish language of equal rights with the Swedish ; but the day will come when it will be asked whether the landowner’s rights are really so sacred as they have been considered, and what will then become of the union ?

It is obvious that so long as all administrative procedure is conducted in a language which is foreign to five-sixths of the population, and so long as Finnish children cannot receive instruction in their mother-tongue, the language question will be a burning question ; and all the more so, as to take the administration from the bonds of the Swedish-speaking officials means to take it out of the hands of the Swedish nobility, landowners, and bankers. This first step was partially realised lat year, the equality of both languages in the administration having been recognized by law. As to Finnish schools, they have still to be created almost entirely. At the University of Helsingfors lectures are still mostly delivered in Swedish, though the students generally speak Finnish. So also at the Polytechnic School and in twelve lyceums out of twenty-two. As to primary instruction, the great mass of the people are still deprived of permanent schools. Out of 300,000 children of school age in I881, only 26,900 received instruction in 576 permanent schools, of which 134 were Swedish. The remainder were taught in ambulatory schools, a typical feature of the Scandinavian north. When Nicholas I forbade Finnish schools, ambulatory schools, like those of Norway and Sweden, were introduced. Once a year the teacher comes into the village, stays there for some time, and teaches the children. Such schools even yet are not the exception, they are the rule ; and while less than 27,000 children were taught in permanent schools, the remainder received primary instruction either from ambulatory masters (116,201 children) or at home (177,925), so that only 6,983 children, mostly feeble or ill, remained without instruction. (I take these figures from the well-informed pamphlet, by Max Buch, Finland und seine Nationaliitatenfrage.) But instruction thus given is obviously quite insufficient, for only eight per cent of the Finns can write, the remainder are only able to read.

Finnish schools, Finnish administration, such is the platform of the Fennomanes. They do not neglect, however, at the same time to free the soil of Finland as much as possible from foreign landholders, and to develop their industry so as to render their country economically independent of its neighbours. A few years ago Russiam monasteries had still large estates and fishing grounds on the western shore of Lake Ladoga. But arable soil, forests, lakes, all have now been purchased by Finns, and are sold in small parcels to Finnish peasants, so that the ’Russianizers’ of the worst part of the Russian Press are, loudly crying out against ’the prodigiously rapid Fermisation’ of Kexholm, Serdobol, and even of the neighbourhood of St. Petersburg.

As to the economical development of the country, it has really made a material progress during the last five-and-twenty years. Notwithstanding the loss of as much as 180,000 people during the famine of 1872, the population of Finland has increased by more than one-fifth during the last quarter of a century, reaching 2,060,800 during the last census of 1881. The population of its towns has doubled during the same period, and the agricultural produce increased in the ratio of 3 to 2. The horned cattle have increased by 400,000 head in twenty-five years, and the making of butter, with more perfect methods, has so extended as to produce from Russia an annual tribute of 1,200,000 roubles (120,0001.) The production of iron has trebled at the same time, reaching the figure of 351,000 cwts. in 1879 ; and the aggregate produce of manufactures has decupled : it is estimated at 49,000,000 roubles, against only 5,000,000 in 1854. No less than 550 miles of railway and fifty miles of canals have been built ; and the exports reached in 1880 123,000,000 Finnish marks, or francs, against 23,000,000 ; while the imports were 138,000,000 marks, instead of 46,000,000. Navigation has experienced such a development that the commercial fleet of Finland in the same year numbered 1,857 ships, 288,300 tons ; 9,744 ships, 1,504,200 tons, entered its parts ; and a considerable part of the foreign maritime commerce of the Russian Empire is conducted under the Finnish flag. As to the roads, they are mostly in so good a state as to be comparable to those of Switzerland ; and the journeys on post-horses, by roads provided with plain but clean hotels, are a true pleasure. The lakes are literally furrowed by steamers, which penetrate into the remotest inlets ; and, thanks to a masterly system of canalisation, in which Finns excel, the smallest hamlets and saw-mills are within easy reach of the great lake-basins, which, in their turn, communicate with the sea by the monumental Saima canal. All this has been done at surprisingly moderate expense, each mile of the Finnish railways having cost, on the average, only one-third of the average cost in Russia. As to finances, though supporting the heavy burden of obligatory military service recently imposed on the country, they are in an excellent state. When Russia finds it impossible to raise money at less than 6 per cent, Finland easily obtains loans at 4.5 per cent, and its paper money circulates at par, while the Russian paper rouble is worth no more than six tenths of its nominal value.

It is obvious that the more national consciousness is raised in Finland, and the more education is spread among its people, the more will it feel the weight of Russian sovereignty ; and, while the Russian peasant is always welcomed by his Finnish brother, every Russian suspected of being an official finds only coolness, and often hatred, among the people. Finnish nobles in Russian service may protest their loyalty as much as they please ; they are not the people. They may refer also to the gallant behaviour of Finnish troops in the last Balkan way : it proves nothing ; the Finns were ever a gallant race, and it is not their habit to recoil before danger. But surely the last war has not increased their attachment to the Russian Empire ; they have seen what Russian administration is, and the war is costing Finland too dear. True, there are plenty of men in Finland ready to say that their country is already quite independent, being only ’united’ with Russia in the person of the Emperor ; but the masses understand pretty well what a union means of which the weaker party is unprotected against the caprices of the stronger. If they should forget it, the Reactionists now in power in Russia do not fail to remember it in the most brutal way. These people do not understand how wise Speransky was when he pointed out the dangers of having a hostile population at the very doors of the Russian capital ; they seem to have set their hearts on rendering it hostile. The small dose of liberty enjoyed by Finland irritates them. A country where people travel without passports, and the dvorniks (porters) do not listen at the doors of lodgers, appears to them a hotbed of revolution. Even the industrial development of this small country renders them uneasy. They would like to shut the doors of Russia against the little merchandise that enters therein. For it is most remarkable that even Finland, poor as she is, imports from Russia the food which is taken from the mouth of the Russian peasant, and exports thither mannufactured ware ; since 1882 it begun even to export more than to import. The editors of the reactionary St. Petersburg papers would rather double the price of the paper on which they print their cheap ideas than to have it from Finland. And the Moscow Protectionists, after having attracted, by almost prohibitory duties, German capital, German enterprise, German manufacturers, and German workmen into Poland, demand now the erection of a Chinese wall against Poland, and even against little Finland. They have succeeded in preventing the entrance of Finnish cattle into Russia, thus raising the already high price of meat at St. Petersburg ; and they would like now to impose still more their own dear produce on Finland, and not their produce alone, but also the disorder of their coin finances. Returning to Nicholas I’s time, they long to introduce into Finland the obligatory circulation of Russian paper roubles. They are not satisfied with imposing on her the burden of a 70,000-men-strong army in war time ; they would like to grasp in their own bonds her poor revenues, and to conduct them, to pillage them, as they have conducted and pillaged the finances of the Empire.

’Is union possible on such conditions ?’ Such is the question which the Russian Reactionists are more and more impressing on the minds of even the most loyal Finnish subjects ; and nobody can tell where this blind policy may lead. Only one thing is certain : that the ardour of Finnish patriots for awakening among their people national feeling and the longing for a complete independence will be redoubled by the attempts, recently renewed, against Finland’s autonomy. The map of Europe has already undergone many changes, and it is not improbable that the social and political complications which accumulate on Old Europe’s head may result, among other things, in the restoration of Finland to the Finns.

[1Population of Finland on the 31st of December 1880 (Suomenman Virallinen Tilasto, sixth series, fasc. 9) :- In towns, 173,401 ; in the country, 1,887,381 Of these : Finns, 1,756,381 (100,300 in towns) ; 294,876 (65,725 in towns) ; 4,195 (821 in towns) ; Germans 1,720, mostly in towns ; other nationalities, 3,610 of whom 961 are Laponians. Of the above population, 14,052 were born in other than Finland ; namely, 3,693 in Sweden, 7,947 in Russia, 522 in Germany, and so on. Emigration in 1879, 34,812

[2The Constitution of Finland, framed in 1810 and slightly modified in 1869 and 1882, is very indefinite, and leaves the Crown a wide field for interfering with the affairs of the country. The national representation, consisting of four chambers—nobility, clergy, towns, and peasants—is convoked by the Emperor every four or five years, but only for four months. Each chamber discusses all affairs separately. They can discuss only those schemes of laws which are proposed by the Emperor, to whom belongs also the right of veto. He has, moreover, the right of issuing decrees, the limits of which are not well defined. The chambers consist now of 121 nobles (this number varying with the number of separate noble families) ; 35 deputies of the clergy, university, and primary schools ; 44 representatives of towns ; and 59 ofr the peasants, elected in two degrees. The unanimous assent of all four chamberes is necessary for the ratification of changes in the Consitution and for new taxes. If unanimity cannot be arrived at for new taxes, a committee of sixty members elected in equal parts by each chamber decides. If new taxes cannot be levied thus without the approbation of the Seim, the expenditure is apportioned by the Emperor-that is to say, by the Finnish Committee, which sits at St. Petersburg, and consists of the State’s Secretary and four members nominated by the Crown (two of them being proposed by the Senate). The Senate is nominated also by the Crown, and meets under the presidency of the Governor-General, who is usually a Russian subject. It is the superior administrative power of Finland, and consists of two departments, Justice and Finance (Economical), which have under them the administration of medicine, posts, railways, canals, custom-houses, and the tribunals. Their powers were slightly increased in 1882, but they are still limited, several important branches remaining under the contorl of the Emperorl thus,he decides as to the customs duties and many other questions of great importance (educational, Church, and so on). The military department is in the hands of the Russian Minister of War, and the Foreign Affairs in those of the Russian Chancellor. Military service has been obligatory since 1879, and Finland has to keep on foot, in time of peace, nine battalions of infantry, and from 70,000 to 80,000 men in time of war. The Governor-General is the chief commander of the Finnish army. Happily the communal and municipal affairs are little interfered with by the Central Government ; and the chief safeguard against Russian interlopers is, first, that Finnish citizens alone can enter the service of the State, and that Finland coins its own money and raises its own loans (with the assent of the Emperor). The higher officials, however, are nominated by the Crown ; it has also the right of dismissing the remainder, who are nominated by the Crown ; it has also the right of dismissing the remainder, who are nominated by the Senate. It will be seen from the above that, if Finland has obtained a certain measure of autonomy, it is more by carefully avoiding any contest witht he Russian Government, and by steadily working for the enlargement of its rights, than by virtue of the scanty guarantees of the fundamental law.

[3I do not venture , of course, to translate into English any of their poetry, and can only recommend to those who know neither Swedish nor Finnish the excellent small collection Aus dem Norden, by Hermann Paul, which contains German translations from M.M. Ahlqvist, Cygnaeus, Runeberg, Topelius, and Weeksell ; and still more, the same author’s German translations of many Kanteletar, which appeared at Helsingfors in 1882.

[4In 1881 Finland had sixty-eight papers, out of which forty-two were Finnish and twenty-six Swedish ; of the latter, seventeen appeared at Helsingfors. Such small towns as Jywaskyla and Uleaborg have six Finnish papers each ; and even Kuopio Tammerfors, and Wasa have each three papers.

Mis en ligne par : CREAGH Ronald

Pour citer cet article :
KROPOTKIN, Peter. "Finland : a Rising Nationality",
Dernières modifications : 6 décembre 2006. [En ligne].
[Consulté le 22 mars 2017]

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