The Road to Independence Finland in WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Special


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When The First World War Broke Out, Finland

was a small part of a large empire,, but by the wars end had declared independence and was fighting to keep it. Today I m going to look at the events that led up to that declaration of Finnish independence. I

M Indy Neidell; Welcome To A Great War

Special episode about Finland and the First World War. When The war began, Finland was part of the Russian Empire and had been for over a century. It had, though, had a largely autonomous status as the Grand Duchy of Finland, with the Tsar as the Grand Duke. By. The late 19th century, Finland had its own currency, legislative Senate and estates General, police force, postal service, and military.


The nation was a divided one; the government elite was mostly Swedish speaking and there were sharp class distinctions. . Also, the majority of Finns had no representation in either the Senate or the Estates. General.

There Were Finnish Nationalists Who By Then Viewed

Russia as an oppressive regime,, but as long as Finland enjoyed its continued autonomy, most people were content with Russian rule and the nationalist question wasnt so much about independence as it was the nature of Finland s relationship to Russia. Was it in a union with Russia Was It a vassal state A province However, a change came when Nicholas UK became Tsar of Russia in 1894. See, that period was one of nationalism everywhere, not just Finland, and in Russia, many UK activists, military leaders,, and bureaucrats were dissatisfied with Finland

S Special Status.

That, along with a string of reforms aimed to unify the Empire, brought tensions to a head by the end of the century. , and, supervised by Nikolai Bobrikov, governor-general of Finland, Nicholas. to limit Finnish autonomy with a program of gradual Russification. The Ruble was introduced alongside the Finnish Mark; Russian language use was increased in administration and education; restrictions were removed on Russian financial activity in Finland.

On February 15Th, 1899, Nicholas Issued His

February Manifesto,, which declared that Finlands Estates General was now only an advisory body. . In response, Finnish activists organized an address to the Tsar. .

This Gathered More Than Half A Million Names

from a population of three million, and though Nicholas never received it, it sparked the Finnish masses into political activism. The threat against autonomy united the bickering language groups, the radicals, the Conservatives, and the Socialists. . In 1901, Nicholas issued a new conscription law, which disbanded Finnish Army units and ordered Finnish men to be drafted into the Russian army. .

This Sparked A Lot Of Passive

resistance,, but also some riots. In 1902. IN response. To that, Bobrikov received dictatorial powers in 1903. .

He Was Murdered In 1904,, Though, The Most

famous political murder in Finnish Hi story, and his killer, Eugen Schauman, became a national hero.. This. Whole period had been a period of steady economic growth for Finland; the population nearly doubled between 1870-1914, and it did industrialize, though the vast majority of the population still worked some form of agricultural labor. .


With the rise of industrial capitalism came a workers movement, and the Social Democratic. Party-UK formed in 1899 and advocated for wider political representation and class warfare. .

In 1905, After Russia

s loss in the UK War, a series of strikes sprang up all over the Empire and a Finnish general strike was called, very nationalistic in nature. . Class divides were a major issue, and when the right wing Finnish government thought it might lose authority. It funded the founding.

A National Guard.

That guard was made up of both workers and bourgeoisie and it soon split into two camps, with the workers forming their own Red Guard. The Finnish Senate did manage to use the Russian turmoil to its advantage and in 1905, the Tsar s November manifesto repealed much of Bobrikov s legislation, including the Conscription Act.

In 1906, He Confirmed Finland

s new Constitution, which replaced the Estates general with a one-body Parliament and introduced universal suffrage,, which made Finnish women the first in Europe to have the vote, and the first in the world to appear on the ballot. The Social Democrats declared they would no longer support violent protest and would attempt reform via parliament. . That approach did alienate some radicals, but seemed to work at first.

The Uk Won 80 Of 200 Seats.

In 1907, UK the Tsar, now in a stronger position, refused to ratify laws. by Finnish Parliament and also ordered seven elections between 1907-1917, so parliamentary work was nearly impossible anyhow. Still, Finland was relatively peaceful come 1914, and though part of a warring nation, kinda resembled a neutral one. No Finns were conscripted into the Russian army and no battles were fought on Finnish soil.

Many Finns Did Serve, Of Course, Either As

career officers or volunteer enlisted men,, but a lot of Finns had mixed feelings about the war.. Nationalists were UK because of cultural ties, and many others believed that a Russian defeat could be exploited for political concessions. , like after 1905. The Germans were certainly willing to try and take advantage of that, and already in August 1914 sent an inquiry to Stockholm, their nearest embassy to Finland, about the prospect of turning Finland into a buffer state.

Also, Fritz Wetterhoff, A Finnish Lawyer

who fled to Germany to escape. charges, approached the German army with plans to start an uprising in Finland, supported by German troops. In a stroke of fortune for him, In late October Finnish student nationalists gathered and asked for German arms and help. They had the help of several major politicians and were connected with Wetterhoff. They then formed the nucleus of the J├Ąger movement, which by 1916 had recruited some 2,000 Finns to enlist in the German Army to liberate their homeland.


NK] 3) Finland was pretty important strategically to Russia, since if invaded it could be used to launch an attack on Petrograd, the capital. UK 4) So Russia stationed a garrison of 50,000 men there and the Russian Baltic Fleet used Helsinki as a major base of operations. operations. One big fear the Finns had was that if the Germans invaded, large parts of the population would be forcibly deported eastward as was done in Poland In 1915.

In Terms Of Trade, Finland

s two biggest trading partners, Germany and Britain, were no longer an option, but wartime created an endless demand in Russia for Finnish metal and food supplies. The Finns did, though, become dangerously dependent on Russian wheat, so when the Russian economy collapsed on the road to revolution, imports stopped and food became scarce. . The fear of starvation became a pressing issue among the poor.

In 1915, Finnish Consumption Of Wheat

per capita was 45.9 kilos. , two years later, that number was just below 9. However, in the socialist propaganda, the suffering of the working class was not tied to Russia s chaos, but was blamed on the bourgeoisie and the wealthy landowners.

Gotta Point Out Though That Strict

censorship prevented criticism of the Russian government, but still. The propaganda paid off as the UK finally won control of parliament in 1916,, but they were not allowed to meet, again frustrating plans for reform. UK 4) The initial confusion of the February Russian Revolution struck Finland on March 12th, 1917, when rebels seized control of the St. Petersburg railway. Admiral Adrian Nepenin, commander of the Imperial Baltic Fleet, ordered Viapori fortress to lockdown.

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Two Days Later.

, he reluctantly acknowledged the provisional government of Russia and arrested Finland s Governor General, Franz Seyn. As. The news of revolution spread, the fleet itself mutinied, though.

Crews Flew Red Flags From Their Ships, Murdered

their officers, and left their posts en masse. Nearly fifty officers were murdered by their own men on the 16th and 17th of March, including Admiral Nepenin himself. . Finnish politicians were able to form a Senate with a socialist majority, headed by Oskari Tokoi. They immediately set to work to repeal much of the Tsar

S Legislation.

Finland s status was really unclear, though-did the provisional government inherit the Tsar s control In Petrograd, addressing this matter was postponed. The Finnish socialists didn

T Do Themselves Any Favors Over The Summer

of 1917 by allying with the Bolsheviks.. Though. They did pass the Power Act, which basically made the Parliament the supreme power in Finland,, but it was never sent to the provisional government, since after the July Days uprising, retribution from Russia was swift. .

Parliament Was Disbanded And Finland Descended

into chaos.. Hunger, unemployment, skyrocketing inflation, and revolutionary sentiment from Russia collapsed state authority, and the police force had been disbanded immediately after the Revolution. . The Workers and the Bourgeoisie formed their rival Red and White Guards once again, with.

Violent Clashes, Like Those During A General Strike

in November that left 22 dead. The Finnish right had been opposed to a break with Russia,, but when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia after the October Revolution, conservatives pushed for independence before the red tide could flow over Finland. . The bourgeois and social democrats wrestled over the issue of independence, and the bourgeois gained the upper hand. On December 6th, 1917, the declaration of independence was voted on and the demand for immediate independence won 100-88.

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  • declaration finnish independence

That Date Has Been Celebrated As Finnish Independence

Day ever since. And there, I will leave you for today. The events of 1918 and 1919, the internal struggles and the fight against Soviet. Russia, are some of the most controversial in Finnish history and will be covered in a later special;.

This Was Just A Look At

the Finnish situation before and during the war itself, when the Finnish Nationalist movement finally turned to independence. Spoiler alert-the course that new nation would take would be decided on the battlefield. Big Thanks to Olli Pihlajamaa Elmo Mustonen, and I am sorry if I slaughtering your names, for the research for this special.

If You Like To See Our

weekly episode that covered the July Days. You can click right here for that. And do not forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and dream about us and I can’t say more than that. See you next time!


When the First World War broke out, Finland was a small part of a large empire, but by the war’s end had declared independence and was fighting to keep it . Indy Neidell: Finland was part of the Russian Empire and had been for over a century . The nation was a divided one; the government elite was mostly Swedish speaking and there were sharp class distinctions. The majority of Finns had no representation in either the Senate or the Estates.& There were Finnish nationalists who by then viewed Russia as an oppressive regime,. but as long as Finland enjoyed its continued autonomy, most people were content with Russian rule . But a change came when Nicholas UK became Tsar of Russia in 1894, and many UK activists, military leaders,. and bureaucrats were dissatisfied with Finland&s special status . That, along with a string of reforms aimed to unify the Empire, brought tensions to a head by the end of the century, brought it to an end by the start of the ….. Click here to read more and watch the full video