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Historisk tidskrift 128:1 • 2008

Innehåll (Contents) 2008:1

Uppsatser (Articles)

Storfurstendömet Finland 1809–1917 – dess autonomi enligt den nutida finska historieskrivningen

Av Aleksander Kan

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Autonomous Finland 1809–1917 in contemporary Finnish historiography.

The status of the grand duchy of Finland within the Russian empire was at first a problem mainly for Finnish politicians, publicists and lawyers. After Finland’s separation from Russia it also became an important topic for Finnish historians. Their interpretation of Finland’s autonomy was influenced by the state of the relations between Finland and Soviet Russia or the Soviet Union. Improvements in the relations between the two countries after 1947, and even more so after 1960, generated thorough investigations of different issues in the secular history of autonomous Finland by a younger generation of mostly Helsinki based scholars (i. e. Tommila, Korhonen, Polvinen, Klinge, Engman). Since the 1960s they have produced a series of innovatory dissertations and books on the era of Finnish autonomy. This article considers the life work of Osmo Jussila, who has studied the entire range of political and legal aspects of Finnish–Russian relations between 1809 and 1917. Jussila’s work, which began in the 1960s and is based on extensive archival studies (in both Finland and St Petersburg), has recently been summarized in his important book “The Great Duchy of Finland 1809–1917”. The main points of this revised conception of Finnish autonomy are as follows: 1) autonomy was not the product of the Russian conquest in 1808 to 1809 but rather a process that gradually transformed the conquered province into a dependent state devoid of sovereignty; 2) the guiding light of this process was the idea of Finland as a distinctive nation, an idea that preceded the development of a sense of nationality among the Finns; 3) even the partial emancipation of an autonomous Finland resisted to a large degree the late imperial assault by tsarist administration. 4) Both Finnish successes and vicissitudes during the “Russian bracket” 1808–1917 were a component of Russian history and cannot be understood outside this context. The article also offers some criticism. 1) Jussila erroneously exaggerates the irreversibility of autonomy. 2) The tsarist government only postponed its integration plans in Finland for the duration of the world war. 3) No Russian regime besides the Bolsheviks were willing to give up Russian sovereignty over the duchy of Finland.


Finland, Russia, Sweden, autonomy, historiography, nationalism