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Road to independence
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-12-07 09:39:55
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On the 6th of December, Finland celebrates its 89th year of independence. The Finnish nation went through a great deal before it became a country often finding itself as a battlefield between the two mighty northern powers, Sweden on one side and Russia on the other.

The destiny of the Finns and their need for a national identity started in the beginning of the 18th century when they were once more being used as a battlefield between the Sweden’s King Charles XII and Russia’s Czar Peter the Great. This war became an endless issue between the two armies with the Finns in the middle and the only ones who were paying the cost in every sense.

The worst part was that the Finns stopped entrusting their defense to the Swedish who let them be victims Peter the Great’s plans. Around the end of the 18th century the Finns began realizing the need of an independent state, especially after the increased Finnish industry in Turku and Tampere, plus the expansion of Finnish commerce with Finnish ships sailing from the northern seas to the Mediterranean.

Czar Alexander I used this separation and distance between the Finns and Swedes by invading Finland once more in 1808. The Swedes didn’t send any help to the weak Finns, who had to withdraw to Lapland, and by September 1809 Sweden resigned from any right they had in Finland surrendering their province to Russia. Finland became a Grand Duchy with its own government and parliament, and fifty years later minted its own currency, the Finnish marka.

Over the next hundred years the relationship between the Russians and the Finns was turbulent, with the best period was Alexander II, who supported Finnish nationalists and opposed Russian bureaucrats based in Finland. He even gave the seat of philosophy in the University of Helsinki to the promoter of Finnish independence Schnelman. The worst period was just before the Russian revolution during Czar Nicolas II reign, with the Russian army acting more as an occupation army than anything else.

At the beginning of Bolshevists revolution in February 1917, the personal union that Czar Nicolas II had signed between Russia and Finland according the Finns, lost its legal base and on November 5th, the same year, the Finnish parliament declared itself to be ‘the possessor of supreme state power’ in Finland, based on Finland’s constitution, which had been enacted by the Estates after Gustav III’s coup.

On December 4th the Senate of Finland came to the parliament with a new republican institution to govern and a declaration, so technically that was the beginning of Finland’s independence. The declaration reads:

The people of Finland have by this step taken their fate in their own hands; a step both justified and demanded by present conditions. The people of Finland feel deeply that they cannot fulfill their national and international duty without complete sovereignty. The century-old desire for freedom awaits fulfillment now; Finland's people step forward as a free nation among the other nations in the world.

(...) The people of Finland dare to confidently wait how other nations in the world recognize that with their full independence and freedom, the people of Finland can do their best in fulfillment of those purposes that will win them a place amongst civilized peoples.

On December 6th Parliament adopted the declaration, which is why this day is celebrated as a national holiday, also known as Finland’s Independence Day.

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