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THE machinery of Government in Finland is
rather complicated. There are three main
factors to be reckoned with the Emperor-Grand-
Duke, the Senate and the Diet, and the inter-relation
of these is based on the old Swedish constitution,
as defined by the "Form of Government " of 1772
and the "Act of Union and Security" of 1789. This
constitution was guaranteed to the Finns by Alex-
ander I in 1809, when Finland entered the Russian

The Emperor-Grand-Duke governs in accordance
with the fundamental laws and the other laws of the
country, with the assistance of Finnish authorities
and officials. The legislative power is exercised by
the Emperor and the Diet together, but certain ad-
ministrative ordinances can be issued by the former
alone. The official medium of communication be-
tween the Emperor and the Finnish authorities is
the Secretary of State for Finland.

The Governor-General is the head of the civil ad-
ministration of the country.

The Senate, which corresponds in certain respects
to a Cabinet, consists of two Departments, that of



Justice and that of Economy. The former is pri-
marily a Supreme Court of Appeal, but has also cer-
tain functions of an administrative nature, which in
other countries fall under the domain of the Min-
istry of Justice. The latter is the administration
proper and is divided into eight "expeditions" or
ministries, at the head of each of which is a Sen-
ator. Senators are appointed for a term of three
years by the Emperor, who under normal conditions
takes into consideration the prevailing feeling in
the country in his choice. A strong desire exists to
separate the Department of Justice from the rest
of the Senate and transform it into an independent
Supreme Court. The fact that its members are ap-
pointed by the Emperor largely for political reasons,
and for a brief tenure of office only, seriously weak-
ens the Department to-day. It is also desired to
remove from the Department all business of an ad-
ministrative nature. In the Senate sits the Pro-
curator, its legal adviser, whose business it is to
see that public officials do not transgress the laws.
The Senate, it is important to notice, is not respon-
sible to the Diet.

Before passing to the Diet, it may be well to in-
dicate briefly the nature of local government and the
considerable functions it discharges.

The country is divided into 38 urban and 475
rural communes. The present organization of the
former was only established in 1873, that of the lat-
ter in 1865 (now Act of June 15, 1898). Behind it,
however, there lies a long experience in self-
government, based on the old Scandinavian insti-


tutions. Towns of more than two thousand inhabi-
tants elect representatives, and smaller towns and
rural communes are also entitled to do so ; but it fre-
quently happens in the country communes that busi-
ness is still settled in a general assembly of all the
voters, which elects an executive to carry out the de-
cisions it has arrived at. The right to vote depends
on taxation, and, while in the Diet elections the prin-
ciple of one man (or woman) one vote reigns, in the
communes a man may have any number of votes up
to twenty-five, according to the size of his income.
This is a curious instance of the co-existence of the
old and the new in Finnish life. Married women
do not exercise the communal vote, because their
husbands pay their taxes. No doubt when the polit-
ical situation becomes normal again the communal
laws will be revised. The communes have the right
to manage practically all their own affairs, includ-
ing finance, the communal properties, schools, po-
lice, poor law administration and the public health.
There are, however, a few matters in which they
have to obtain the consent of the provincial govern-
ors or the Senate, such as the raising of loans. In
the urban communes is a town court consisting of a
mayor and aldermen ; it is a court of justice acting
also as a magistrate, i.e., the executive body of the
town administration. But there may also be many
elective municipal boards, the principal one being
that of Finance (Dratselkammare). The country
communes have no such court. In 1909 the 38 urban
communes had a population of 451,030. According
to the budgets for 1908, their combined income


amounted to nearly 34 million marks, of which more
than a quarter was derived from income tax. The
municipal debt amounted to nearly 55 million marks,
while the assets were estimated at nearly 144 mil-
lions. The population of the 475 rural communes in
1909 was 2,608,229, their income for 1908 being 12
millions, of which nine were derived from income
tax. The debt amounted to nearly 17 millions.

The present parliamentary system in Finland
only dates back to 1906. Up to that time the old
Swedish representation had been in force. The Diet
had consisted of Four Estates, namely, the Nobil-
ity, the Clergy, the Burghers, and the Peasants,
which sat and voted separately. The electorate num-
bered some hundred thousand persons, a mere frac-
tion of the population, and large groups of citizens
who were keenly interested in politics were entirely
excluded from participation in them. Long before
1905 this system had been regarded as obsolete, but
circumstances had prevented the substitution of a
more modern alternative.

The present representation came as one of the
results of the Great Strike of 1905, by which the
Finns induced the Tsar to withdraw the illegal or-
dinances of the Bobrikoff regime and restore the
constitution. Two proposals for a new system of
election had been previously discussed in Finland,
each of them being based on the idea of universal
suffrage ; one of them favoured a two chamber sys-
tem, the other a single chamber, elected by propor-
tional representation. The latter opinion prevailed.
A committee drew up a scheme early in 1906, which


was accepted by the Four Estates, and received the
Emperor's sanction on July 20th.

The Diet thus consists of a single chamber. It
contains two hundred members, who are elected
every three years by direct and proportional repre-
sentation. Every man or woman who has attained
the age of twenty-four, provided he or she is not
disqualified owing to certain obvious disabilities,
such as are recognized in every country, is both en-
titled to vote and eligible for a seat in the Diet. The
Diet meets yearly, being convoked by the Emperor,
and its session lasts for ninety days. The Emperor,
however, has the right to dissolve it before the ex-
piration of the session. In this case new elections
have to be held and the Diet meets again. The
Emperor has also the right to summon an extraordi-
nary Diet. The Finnish and Swedish languages are
on a footing of equality, and the Speaker uses both
when pronouncing a ruling or making a communica-
tion. Naturally much more Finnish is spoken than
Swedish, and Swedish speeches are translated into
Finnish by a special interpreter.

The first election on the new system was held on
March 15 and 16, 1907. The number of persons
who voted was 899,347, about 70 per cent, of the
whole electorate. The parties were divided as fol-
lows :

Socialists ... ... ... ... ... 80

Old Finns 59

Young Finns ... ... ... ... 26

Swedish party 24

Agrarians ... ... ... ... ... 9

Christian Workmen ... 2


The great surprise of the election was the large
number of Socialists returned, the new party claim-
ing no less than two-fifths of all the seats. As, how-
ever, some account of the Socialists is given in an-
other chapter, reference will only be made here to
the other parties. The Swedish party, representing
the Swedish-speaking population of Finland, lost
most by the new system of election. Hitherto they
had controlled two out of the old Four Estates ; now
they shrank to an eighth part of the new represen-
tation. Nevertheless, their influence is out of pro-
portion to their numbers, because for generations
they have been the governing class in Finland and
have developed a practical political capacity which
gives them a considerable advantage over their less
experienced colleagues. They have been long accus-
tomed to control a machine which the more recently
enfranchised classes are still but learning to manip-
ulate. They first began to organize themselves as a
political party in the eighteen-eighties, when the
triumph of the National movement seemed to render
the formation of a league in defence of the Swedish
language imperative. The Nya Pressen was founded
as their Press organ about that time. To-day the
party is represented in Helsingf ors by Hufvudstads-
bladet and Dag ens Pressen. In internal politics
both conservative and radical shades of opinion
emerge. With regard to Russia they have always
led the movement for "passive resistance," and in-
sist on the strictest observance of the constitution.
They do not, of course, stand in any way for polit-
ical separatism.


The Finnish party (usually called the Old Finns
or Fennomans, to distinguish it from the Young
Finnish party) began organizing in the eighteen-
sixties. Its aim was the realization of Snellman's
ideal, ' ' one nation, one language. ' ' The philosophic
conceptions on which the party is based are derived
from Germany and are rather Bismarckian (Snell-
man, it will be remembered, was a disciple of Hegel).
The party achieved a great work in winning its
rights for the Finnish language and paving the way
for the intellectual and cultural development of the
Finnish-speaking population. Its yielding attitude
towards Russian aggression has lately brought it
into conflict with the other parties and weakened its
hold on the country. It is sometimes accused of
yielding in order to receive the posts from which
the passive resisters are expelled. If applied to the
party as a whole, the accusation must be regarded
as unfair, but it is true that a great many political
adventurers joined the party during the Bobrikoff
period in the hope of personal advancement and
have done much to discredit it. To-day a tendency
exists among many of the Old Finns to abandon
their former policy towards Eussia and adopt that
of the constitutional parties. Altogether the party
seems to be in a transitional state. Like the Swedish
party, it contains both conservative and radical ele-
ments. Its principal organ is Uusi Suometar. The
party is strongest among the peasant proprietors,
especially in west and south Finland, and has a very
large number of adherents among the Lutheran


The Young Finns represent a revolt against the
too conservative and bureaucratic leaders of the Old
Finnish party. They definitely seceded and organ-
ized as a separate party in the early 'nineties.
Among their original aims was a speedy settlement
of the language question, about which they regarded
the old leaders being too lukewarm, too consider-
erate to the Swedes. Their party program was, on
the whole, a radical one, the political philosophy be-
hind it being French and English, rather than Ger-
man. Large numbers of artists, scientists and lit-
erary men are among their members. As soon as
the pressure from Eussia became serious, the
Young Finns abandoned their earlier standpoint
on the language question and co-operated with the
Swedish party in the interests of national unity.
During the Bobrikoff period they joined with the
Swedes in founding the constitutional party for pas-
sive resistance against Eussian aggression. The
party served as a refuge for many of the Old Finns
at this time, who could not agree with the yielding
policy towards Eussia. If the Young Finns succeed
in holding to the ideal of a united Finland, with
"one spirit and two languages," they will do the
country an immense service. It is worth pointing
out that Herr Svinhuf vud, for many years the hon-
oured Speaker of the Diet, who is generally re-
garded as the best representative of a united Fin-
land, is a Young Finn.

The Agrarians represent the small landowners.

The party situation in Finland might be roughly
summarized as follows : With regard to Eussia, the


Swedes, Young Finns and Agrarians form the so-
called constitutional party, insisting on a policy of
rigorous passive resistance against aggression. The
Socialists usually make common cause with them, oc-
casionally differing on points of detail. The Old
Finns, however, adopt a somewhat yielding policy
towards Russia and are thus frequently opposed to
the other parties. Latterly there has been a tend-
ency among them to come into line, as they have re-
alized the true extent of Russia's designs on Fin-
land. With regard to internal politics, the situation
is more complicated. Broadly speaking, however,
the middle-class parties always unite against the
Socialists, whom they can thus outvote. Except for
their common dislike of the latter, the Swedish
party and the Old Finns usually disagree. Between
the Old and the Young Finns there is a good deal
of friction, the former tending to regard the latter
as not sufficiently devoted to the cause of Finnish
nationalism. Nevertheless, they have strong inter-
ests in common. The Young Finns are on rather
friendly terms with the Swedish party, as they have
temporarily abandoned the language struggle and
the two parties agree in their Russian policy. The
whole situation is complicated, however, by the fact
that in each of the middle-class parties there is a
right and a left wing, not definitely organized as
such, yet clearly perceptible. Generalizations about
the Finnish parties are therefore beset with pitfalls.
To a foreigner, one of the most interesting fea-
tures of the Diet is the light it throws on propor-
tional representation. Persons interested in the



particular system that obtains in Finland are re-
ferred to Mr. John H. Humphries 's "Proportional
Representation" (Methuen), which includes a very
lucid exposition of this rather complicated subject.
Here it is sufficient to point out that the elector's
task is an easy one, as is seen from the fact that
less than 1 per cent of the voting-papers are spoiled.
The counting, however, takes several days. In the
selection of candidates great freedom is permitted.
The country is divided into sixteen electoral dis-
tricts returning different numbers of members, ex-
cept Lapland, which is only represented by one.

The proportion between the seats actually gained
and the votes cast is shown in the following analysis
of the election of 1909. The result is typical of all
the elections that have taken place since 1907, any
of which would have served equally well as an illus-
tration. The justice of the distribution is on the
whole very striking.



Seats actually

Seats in Proper
tion to Votes

Socialist ...




Old Finn




Young Finn




Swedish ...




Agrarian ...




Christian Workmen




Briefly, it may be said that the system works very
smoothly and gives a fair representation to all the

The work of the Single Chamber Diet has been


conditioned largely by the unfortunate political re-
lations between Finland and Russia. It falls
roughly under three categories legislation proper,
representations to the monarch, called forth by the
abnormal political situation, and thirdly, financial
matters. The first Single Chamber Diets devoted
most of their attention to legislation. They have
little positive result to show, owing to the hostility
of the Russian authorities, which has prevented the
measures passed from becoming law. In fact, for
several years legislation has been practically at a
standstill. Since 1910, when reaction became still
stronger, the Diets have been obliged to devote most
of their time to the last two categories, which, ow-
ing to Russian interference with Finnish finance,
are closely allied. In a succession of excellently
worded petitions and addresses, the Diet has vindi-
cated Finland's right to her constitution in the face
of Russian aggression, and has demonstrated the il-
legality and the harmful effects of Russia's present
policy. This attitude has been resented in Russia,
with the result that, except for that of 1911, none
of the Diets since 1907 have been allowed to run
their natural course of three years, but elections
have taken place annually.

There seems to be a very general impression
among persons who have sat both in the old Four
Estates and the Single Chamber Diet that, as re-
gards its composition, the older body was superior.
The sudden irruption of the proletariat into the Diet
may well have temporarily lowered the average of
education and political insight among its members.


Even the critics of the new Diet, however, admit that
a remarkable improvement in its work has taken
place during its later sessions, which suggests that
the Finnish peasantry are quick to learn their new
duties and will justify the confidence placed in them.
There seems to be no real ground for pessimism, es-
pecially when the inevitable dislocation accompany-
ing the early stages of so sudden and far-reaching
a change is borne in mind. On many sides one hears
that the effect of the extended franchise on the
electorate has been to widen their interests in a
remarkable manner.

Of recent years the opening of the Diet has been
an interesting ceremony, because a symbolic one. It
takes place in the State ball-room of the Palace,
which in happier days was the scene of friendly hos-
pitality extended by the Emperors to their faithful
subjects. To-day no Emperor comes to the deserted
building, which lives on its memories. Only when
the Diet is opened does it regain a temporary lease
of life. From one of the doors enters the Diet,
headed by its Speaker. It looks curiously out of
place in the polished and shining hall. Among its
members one does, indeed, distinguish many intel-
lectuals, but it seems mainly an assembly of farm-
ers, careworn, silent men with rugged, strongly
marked, yet extraordinarily impassive faces. Here
and there one notices a woman. They take up their
position in a semicircle opposite an imposing throne
placed on a dais. After a few minutes a sharp mil-
itary shout is heard, and the Eussian Governor-
General enters, followed by a long succession of


officers, both military and naval, in brilliant uni-
forms. Glittering in steel and gold, they take up
their position opposite the sombre-coloured Diet.
When they have settled themselves a dramatic mo-
ment occurs. The representatives of the Autocrat
Tsar and of the Finnish democracy take a step for-
wards towards each other and exchange curt formal
bows, suggestive of the brief handshake of boxers
before a bout. The Russian stands brusque in man-
ner, unsympathetic, the picture of the military mar-
tinet. He gives the impression of a German rather
than a Eussian. Indeed, this apostle of russianiza-
tion is a German by family and a Lutheran by re-
ligion. He has an evil reputation in Finland, where
he was BobrikofPs right-hand man. The Finn con-
fronting him is a tall, massive man, looking as un-
shakeable as a rock of Finnish granite, a typical rep-
resentative of his country's patient strength. The
Eussian reads out something in a harsh voice; the
Finn briefly replies. Again curt bows. Nothing
more happens. The uniforms troop out at one door,
the black coats and homespuns at another. The
muzzled Diet has had its session opened; in the
streets outside are Cossacks.



rTIHE characteristic features of a Finnish land-
A scape are forest, water and rock, and it is pre-
cisely from these and especially the two former that
the wealth of the country springs at the present day
and is destined to spring far more rapidly in the
future. Possibilities of utilizing the enormous sup-
ply of granite are indeed not to be compared with
the certainties of wealth that lie in the endless for-
ests and the innumerable sources of water power.
Probably in no country in the world, certainly in no
European country, is there such a combination of
conditions favourable to the development of a tim-
ber, and more particularly a paper industry.

Roughly speaking, 63 per cent of Finland is cov-
ered by forest, a proportion greater than that
reached in any other European country. Even if
from this is deducted marsh land and bog, an enor-
mous surface of dry forest land remains. Both the
geological formation of the greater part of the coun-
try and also the climate are favourable to forestry
far more indeed than to agriculture and the nat-
ural re-growth of the trees is unusually rapid. The



difficult work of transport is facilitated by two cir-
cumstances. Firstly, there is always enough snow
in the winter to make it easy to bring down the
logs from the forests, and yet the snow is not so
deep as to make the cutting down of timber difficult.
Secondly, the country is intersected by an enormous
network of waterways. The great Saima basin, ex-
tending 360 miles inland, has no parallel in Europe,
and, as a glance at the map will show, there are many
other notable chains of lakes. Along these great
natural waterways it is easy to float logs down to
the sea-coast at a low cost. Moreover, nearly all
the rivers through which the lakes issue have a large
number of rapids and are capable of producing an
enormous degree of water power, whether for saw-
or paper-mills. Nearly 2,000 rapids have been
counted in Finland, and Imatra alone, which takes
the overflow of the Saima basin, is calculated to be
equal to not less than 140,000 horsepower. Finally
there is an ever-increasing world market for both
sawn goods and all sorts of paper, but especially
for the latter, which is by far the most profitable of
the two, and which, as we shall see, is bound more
and more to engage the activities of Finnish capi-
talists in the future.

The forests are largest and thickest in the centre
of Finland, between the great lakes and the plain
bordering the Gulf of Bothnia, and in the east along
the Russian frontier, and in the north. The prin-
cipal trees are the common pine (Pinus sylvestris),
the fir (Abies excelsa) and the birch. But many
other trees also flourish, notably both kinds of alder,


the aspen, the larch and, in South Finland, the oak,
etc. The forests contain a very large variety of ber-
ries, which are of considerable importance to the

It is comparatively recently that the value of the
timber as an article of export was realized. To the
earliest inhabitants of Finland the forest was a place
where one hunted. At a later period trees were
used for building, firewood, etc. As cultivation came
into use, the forests were regarded as manure i.e.
they were burnt down in order that the soil might
be fertile for the production of crops. Even to-day
this custom persists in parts of East Finland. Acci-
dental fires also perform a great work of destruc-
tion, as may be judged from the fact that in each of
the three years 1868, 1883 and 1894, when proper
precautions were already being taken, considerably
more than 100,000 acres of forest was burnt down
in the State forests alone. Gales have also been
terribly disastrous from time to time. The keeping
of reindeer has involved a great destruction of trees
in North Finland, and the ignorant topping of trees
to provide fodder has been another source of loss.
Worst of all has been the wholesale selling of for-
ests to timber companies and speculators by the
ignorant peasants fortunately a thing of the past.
The forests were often sold for a mere song, and
were simply ravaged by the purchasers, who took
all they could and rarely thought of replantation.
The coast district of Osterbotten and the shores of
the Saima chain of lakes have suffered terrible
havoc in this respect, and the only compensation


has been that agriculture benefited by the money
derived by the peasants from the sale of their trees.
Only in the middle of the nineteenth century, when
saw-mills became common, did people begin to think
seriously of scientific forestry. The first Institute

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Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 14 of 22)