Arthur Reade.

Finland and the Finns online

. (page 19 of 22)
Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 19 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

which we can never agree?' Tourguenieff then
gave a striking illustration of what he meant from
the sphere of marriage relationships. Kropotkin
admitted that amongst the middle classes the differ-
ence between nation and nation was immense in-
deed, but contended that between the workers, and
especially the peasants, of all nations there is an
"immense resemblance. " "In saying so, I was,
however, quite wrong," he continues. "After I had
had the opportunity of making a closer acquaintance
with French workers, I often thought of the right-
ness of Tourguenieff 's remark."

The same difference is implied in Tolstoy's re-
mark to Dr. Sarolea : "I am glad you are going to
make a special study of Russia, but if you want to



understand us you must grasp the principles of the
Slavophils. "

Now, the Finns, thanks to the Swedish conquest,
are essentially West Europeans. Their minds face
west and not east, while the most typical Eussian
minds face east and not west. Life in Finland has
a close family resemblance to life in any other West
European country. But when one crosses the fron-
tier of Russia one enters a new world and a new set
of values. Compare Petersburg, by no means the
most characteristic Russian city, with Helsingfors,
and the difference is at once realized. Nowhere does
it come out more strongly than in the churches,
where the contrast between the gorgeous Greek
Orthodox ritual of the one and the Lutheran sim-
plicity of the other is almost startling. The differ-
ence of the worshippers is equally obvious. The
Russian has probably sounded spiritual depths be-
yond the ken of the Finn, but it is easy to under-
stand, when you see him at worship, that he has
never developed the particular qualities out of
which free citizens are made, and that he is an easy
prey of those who wish to exploit him.

The difference of mentality between Russians and
Finns expresses itself in different kinds of law and
government. In Russia the sovereign is an auto-
crat; in Finland he is a constitutional monarch.
In Russia the word of the sovereign is law ; in Fin-
land the idea of law penetrates the whole of society,
just as it does in Great Britain, and sovereign
and ministers are subject to it, no less than the
poorest peasant. In Finland law is the product
of the nation; in Russia it is the creation of an in-


dividual influenced by a bureaucracy. When the
plans for a railway from Petersburg to Moscow
were brought to Nicholas I, he drew a straight line
across the map between the two towns, saying that
that was the route it must follow, and thus it had to
be built in spite of the enormous difficulties and
needless expense this autocratic command entailed.

The above distinctions are not drawn with the
intention of showing the West Europeans in general
and the Finns in particular to be superior to the
Russians. No one who has had even a superficial
acquaintance with Russian life and character can
doubt that while we of West Europe have much to
give to Russia, we also have much to learn from
her, especially in the sphere of spiritual things.
The old contempt for everything Russian is out-of-
date, and an attitude of sympathetic inquiry is fast
replacing it. It is not a question of being better
or worse, but of being different, and the object of
the contrast we have drawn is simply to show how
the inclusion of West European Finland within the
Russian Empire inevitably brought with it the seeds
of political conflict.

Sometimes, indeed, it seems surprising that the
trouble did not come to a head much earlier than
was actually the case. The only guarantee for Fin-
land's Constitution was the sacred oath of the Tsars,
and there was a constant danger that the autocrat
might overpower the constitutional monarch. Temp-
tations of this nature sometimes arose, as when, dur-
ing the later part of the nineteenth century, Russian
nationalism, impatient at being bound by a Consti-
tution in Finland, when everywhere else throughout


the vast Empire the Government had a free hand,
hinted to the Tsarg that their scruples with regard
to Finland's Constitution were unreasonable and

During the nineteenth century, however, the Tsars
were true to their oath. Thus, when Count Stein-
heil was appointed Governor-General of Finland in
1810, Alexander I wrote to him, in the course of
other instructions: "My object in organizing the
situation in Finland has been to give to the people
a political existence, so that they shall not regard
themselves as subject to Russia, but as attached to
her by their own evident interests, and for this rea
son not only their civil laws, but also their political
laws have been retained." Moreover, in 1811 the
Emperor reincorporated the eastern portions of
her territory, including the town of Viborg, which
had been ceded to Russia in 1721 and 1743, and had
since then been governed as a Russian province.
Thus, instead of levelling the rest of Finland down
to the provincial status of Viborg, he raised Viborg
to be a part of autonomous Finland. Further, he
reintroduced the ecclesiastical and judicial authority
of Abo over Viborg and made arrangements for the
representation of Viborg in the Diet. No better
proofs of his intentions towards Finland could be
desired. Towards the end of his reign he again
showed his respect for the Finnish Constitution in
a striking way. For, when Count Zakrevsky, the
fourth Governor-General, obtained the Emperor's
consent to the passing of certain ordinances, with-
out having previously consulted the Finnish authori-
ties, Alexander heeded the protest made by the


Senate and directed the Court for the future to
"present his report through the proper constitu-
tional channels."

The Diet was not summoned a second time by
Alexander I, nor did his successor, Nicholas I,
convoke it. This, as we saw, was hardly in keeping
with the spirit of the Constitution, but it did not
involve a formal violation of it, so long as no new
law was enacted or tax levied. For though in the
Swedish "era of freedom" (1719-72) the Estates
met regularly every three years, later on it was
left to the sovereign to convoke them when he
thought it necessary. Although no new taxes could
be levied, yet, seeing that the Crown had the dis-
posal of the ordinary State revenues, such as cus-
toms, the income of crown properties, etc., it was
possible for the sovereign to carry on the govern-
ment without summoning the Estates, by acting in
conjunction with the central governing body (in
Sweden the Riksrad, in Finland the Senate). More-
over, there was, as we saw, the whole domain of
so-called administrative legislation, where the sov-
ereign can issue ordinances having the force of law,
independently of the Diet.

But although the Tsar's failure to convoke the
Diet was not actually a breach of the Constitution,
it had a bad effect, and the impossibility of new
legislation acted as a check to the country's develop-
ment. It was in every way a great advantage to
Finland when Alexander II in 1863 returned to the
more regular procedure by summoning the Estates
and assuring them in the speech from the throne
that he intended to maintain "the principles of con-


stitutional monarchy essentially involved in the
character of the Finnish people, and of which all
their laws and institutions bear the impress. " He
closed his speech with the following striking pas-
sage, which seems to indicate that he contemplated
the extension of constitutional government to other
parts of the Empire: "It is for you, the represen-
tatives of the Grand Duchy, to prove, by the dignity,
moderation, and the calmness of your discussions,
that in the hands of a wise and well-conducted peo-
ple . . . liberal institutions, far from being a dan-
ger, become a guarantee of order and prosperity. "

After this the Diet was summoned fairly regu-
larly about every four yeaxs^ In 1869 the Diet was
recalled and tEeFundamental Laws were further
defined, it being provided that a fundamental law
can be made, altered, interpreted or repealed only
on the representation of the Emperor-Grand-Duke
and with the consent of all the Four Estates.

It is worth pointing out that in 1860 the Emperor
decreed for Finland a separate money system. The
unit was the Finnish mark, equivalent to the French
franc and to a quarter of a Russian rouble.

On several occasions Alexander II stood between
Finland and the bureaucratic Russian, Ministers
who wished to bring the country into line with the
rest of the Empire. His most important interven-
tion concerned military matters, which is interest-
ing, seeing that it was this subject that eventually
brought the Russo-Finnish conflict to a head. In
1873 Russia adopted a new scheme of army organi-
zation, as a result of the war between France and
Germany. General Miliutin, then Russian Minister


of War, wanted Alexander II to extend the scheme
to Finland by Imperial Decree. But when it was
pointed out to the Emperor that this would be alto-
gether illegal, he ordered that the scheme should be
submitted to the Finnish Diet in the regular way.
The Diet recognized the necessity for creating a
more efficient force and keeping it in close touch
with the Russian army, and in 1877 adopted a Gov-
ernment Bill giving effect to these principles. At-
tempts had been made by General Miliutin to induce
the Emperor to alter the Bill, but in spite of the War
Office he refused to do so, and the law was promul-
gated in 1878 in the form in which it had left the
Diet. The most important provisions were that all
Finns were to be liable for military service; that
the army should consist of Finnish citizens only,
and that its object should be the defence of Finland.
The Governor-General was to be in supreme com-
mand, a Finnish officer was to report purely mili-
tary matters to the Minister of War, who in turn
was to report them to the Emperor, and the military
department of the Senate was to be responsible for
the civil administration, commissariat, barracks, etc.
To the troops commands were to be issued, as be-
fore, in the Russian language.

The irritation felt by official Russia, with its ex-
cessive love of uniformity and centralization, at the
exception forced upon its notice by the Finnish
Constitution was not, however, the only element of
danger to the Grand Duchy. The whole course of
Russian policy in her frontier provinces constituted
a menace to Finland. The russianization of Poland,
which had long been proceeding, was carried out at


redoubled speed, and with appalling rigour, after
the unsuccessful rising of 1863. The Polish lan-
guage was persecuted and Eussian officialdom ruled
the country. A similar fate befell the Lithuanians,
the Little Russians and the inhabitants of Caucasia.
Then Eussia turned her attention to the Baltic prov-
inces, on the southern side of the Finnish Gulf.
Almost the entire system of education in those prov-
inces was made Eussian, the political rights of
estates, cities and corporations were arbitrarily
withdrawn, and the racial strife between the Ger-
man nobility and the Letts and Esthonians was ex-
ploited in such a way as to place the country more
and more at the mercy of the Eussian bureaucracy.
How was Finland to escape a similar fate?

Further, a Nationalist movement in Eussia had
also to be reckoned with. Finland is anathema to
a large body of opinion in Eussia because in virtue
of her Constitution she enjoys a separate position.
This offence is aggravated by the fact that the Finns
are one of the many non-Eussian nationalities within
the Empire. Perhaps the leading idea among the
Eussian Nationalists is a chauvinistic hatred of the
foreigner. From this root has sprung the persecu-
tion of the Jews, Poles, Georgians and other non-
Eussian nationalities. The famous writer Katkoff
had already in the 'sixties marked out Finland for
destruction, and in the early 'eighties a vehement
Press campaign, probably originated by Ministers
who knew well how to inflame the worst feelings of
the Nationalists, began to be directed against Fin-
land. The argument ran that Finland's rights were
purely illusory and based on misrepresentation and


even forgery; that Alexander I had not understood
what he was doing, or had not meant what he had
said; and his successors were urged in the name
of Russia's interests to make an end of Finland's
special position and extend to her the principles
of autocracy as they existed in the rest of the

The Russian articles and brochures were repeat-
edly answered from Finland, and their arguments
were refuted by Senator Mechelin and Professors
Hermanson and Danielson. Nevertheless, the Rus-
sian Government proceeded to commence the work
of russianization by issuing a manifesto on June 2,
1890, by which the Finnish Post Office was subordi-
nated to the Russian Ministry, while in December of
the same year another manifesto suspended the ap-
plication of the new Criminal Law recently adopted
by the Diet and sanctioned by the Emperor. Other
ordinances were issued the next year tending in the
same direction.

The accession of the young Tsar Nicholas II, in
November, 1894, was the signal for great hopes in
Finland, as well as in Russia. He, like all his pre-
decessors since Alexander I, solemnly guaranteed
Finland's Constitution, but that he was no friend
to the constitutional idea early became manifest.
The dreams of constitutional rule nourished by
Alexander I and Alexander II were entirely aban-
doned, and the spectacle of a flourishing constitu-
tional monarchy like Finland, on the borders of
Russia and actually within the Empire, must have
seemed not merely an eyesore to the Russian Court,
but ^ positive danger, inasmuch as it afforded to


the discontented masses in Eussia a working model
of democracy at their very doors. It is hardly sur-
prising, therefore, that the attack on Finland became
far more vehement than ever before.

It was the military question on which Eussia de-
termined to fight. She decided upon the extension
of the Eussian military system to Finland. The
latter 's army consisted mainly of nine battalions
of infantry, so-called sharpshooters, who served
three years, and a reserve which met for ninety days
during three successive summers. The troops were
drilled according to the rules of the Eussian army
and commanded in Eussian, but the language of
the military education was Swedish and Finnish.
Eussian investigators could find no fault with the
Finnish army, and the Tsar Alexander III had
officially declared that during manoeuvres the Fin-
nish troops had perfectly well collaborated with the
Eussian army.

The man chosen to carry out the Eussian Nation-
alist programme in Finland was General Nicolai
Ivanovitch Bobrikoff, who was appointed Governor-
General of Finland in August and reached Helsing-
fors on October 12, 1898. A few days before his
appointment the Tsar had issued his famous Peace
Manifesto. Yet Bokrikoff was sent to Finland to
force upon the people a military system by which
the army would be quadrupled. His first hectoring
speech to the Senate and provincial governors at
once showed what Finland had to expect, and the
impression was confirmed on January 24, 1899, when
the Diet was opened and he read out on behalf of
the Tsar the speech from the throne. In it the ffinns


were treated as a number of Russian subjects liv-
ing in a number of Russian " governments, " and
the Diet's constitutional right to decide legislative
matters was completely denied. Moreover, the Mili-
tary Bill laid before the Diet was extremely objec-
tionable, being the military law of Russia; officers/
were to be Russians ; courts martial and the military j
criminal code were to be Russian ; the Finnish levies
were to be sent to Russia and divided between Rus-
sian regiments and fed by Russian authorities.

While the Diet was still discussing this Bill, a
new and crushing blow fell upon Finland. On Feb-
ruary 15th General Bobrikoff arrived from Peters-
burg with the famous February Manifesto, the
essence of which was as follows: Finland's Consti-
tution was no longer to be observed where Imperial
interests were concerned. On such matters the Diet
might express an opinion but not decide. It lay
exclusively with the monarch to determine what
matters should be considered of Imperial interest,
and consequently decided by him alone. The mani-
festo thus struck a fatal blow at the Constitution.

By a majority of ten votes to nine the Senate, the
central administrative body of Finland, decided to
promulgate the manifesto, and then proceeded to
send a petition to the Tsar. It was not received,
and a protest from the Diet met with the same fate.
General Bobrikoff: published the following bluff:
"All reasonable people in Finland are satisfied with
the manifesto." But there were no reasonable peo-
ple in the Governor-General's sense. At a meeting
of citizens in Helsingfors it was resolved to collect
signatures for a national address to the Emperor


urging him to revoke the manifesto. Messengers
were dispatched to spread the news far and wide.
The result was astonishing. The signature of any
adult man or woman was accepted, and when on
March 14th the lists were counted in Helsingfors,
the number of names was found to amount to
520,931. To realize the significance of these figures
it must be remembered that all the signatures were
collected in ten days, that the total population of
Finland was only some two and a half millions,
spread over an enormous area, and that hundreds
of villages and islands could only be reached by
sledges or by men on skis, sometimes at the risk of
their lives, owing to the weakness of the ice in the
spring. The immense collection of signatures can
be seen at the State Archives in Helsingfors and is
an eloquent testimony to the Finns ' passionate love
of their country, which, moreover, expressed itself
at this time of national calamity by the ladies ap-
pearing in the streets dressed in mourning. A great
deputation, consisting of five hundred men, elected
by informal meetings in various Finnish communes,
was dispatched to Petersburg on March 15th to
present the address to the Tsar, and in spite of all
his secret police General Bobrikoff knew nothing
of it until it had already started. The Tsar refused
to grant an audience, saying through the Finnish
Secretary of State: "Inform the members of this
deputation of five hundred men that I, of course,
will not receive them, although I am not vexed with
them." The russianization was to go forward.

BobrikofPs central aim was naturally to get the
administration of Finland entirely into his own


hands. Accordingly, the first step to the russiani-
zation of the whole of the country was to be the
russianization of its officials. The rest would follow
naturally, he hoped. The administration of Finland
being legally in the hands of Finns, Bobrikoff had
an alternative. He could either dismiss the Fin-
nish officials and replace them by Russians, or he
could retain them, but try to frighten them into
assisting in the work of russianization. The latter
course had two advantages. By retaining the Fin-
nish officials he would not be violating that para-
graph of the Constitution which requires that the
country shall be administered by Finns. Secondly,
it was much easier to russianize through men who
knew the business of administration and spoke
Finnish and Swedish than through persons abso-
lutely ignorant of the language and conditions of
the country. Accordingly, he embraced the latter
policy, although not exclusively. He used the
weapons both of persuasion and of threat, saying
in effect, "You need not be so excited, gentlemen;
we are not going to destroy Finland's autonomy, but
only to make one or two necessary alterations. But
these little alterations we mean to make, and, if you
resist, it will be the worse for you."

The question of the promulgation of the February
Manifesto had, as we saw, disclosed two currents of
opinion as to the proper attitude of official Finland
to encroachments on the Constitution. The Senate
had been divided, ten Senators voting for immediate
promulgation, nine for delay. When the question
arose of the promulgation of the unconstitutional
Language Manifesto of June 20, 1900 (to which


further reference will be made shortly), a similar
conflict took place, and no less than twelve of the
Senators sent in their resignations. The conflict of
opinion spread from the Senate to the whole official
world, and we see two different theories of Fin-
nish deference develop.

The point of view of the party represented by the
resigning Senators was as follows: Unconstitu-
tional ordinances and commands ought not to be
carried out either by Finnish officials or Finnish
citizens. According to the Constitution, only Fin-
nish law is binding in Finland and Russian law
ought not to be obeyed. If an official receives orders
to do anything that would involve the breaking of
his oath to observe the Constitution, he is bound
to disobey the orders, whatever the consequences
to himself. At the worst, he must resign rather than
assist in carrying out illegal orders from Eussia.
Let Russia do her own work of destruction; she
should receive no help in it from Finns. Finland
might get back what Russia had taken away by
force she would never recover what she had herself
helped to destroy. The supporters of this policy con-
sisted mainly of the Swedish and Young Finnish
parties, who combined against Russian aggression
in the so-called Constitutional party.

The standpoint of the Senators who remained in
office, and of those who supported them, may be
stated as follows : They agreed with the Constitu-
tional party in the desire to preserve Finland's
autonomy but differed as to the means to be em-
ployed, holding that an uncompromising stand on
the strict observance of the Constitution would only


irritate Russia and cause her once for all to make
an end of Finland's liberties. They did not believe
that Russia intended to go beyond a certain point,
and argued that if they gave way a little Russia
would be satisfied and not demand more. Therefore
the Finnish official was not necessarily to resign
if he was ordered to execute unconstitutional com-
mands; he was, in the words of Yrjo-Koskinen, "to
look the truth in the face and, in so far as it was
necessary, yield to the external compulsion of his-
tory." To put the matter in less metaphysical lan-
guage, the Finnish officials "ought to consider the
consequences of their actions in every individual
case, and when they found that, as far as human
eye could see, a temporary subjection was not to
be avoided, they ought to resign themselves to tread-
ing the hard road of history, while protesting all
the time and insisting upon all rights for the fu-
ture." It was felt, moreover, on this side, that it
would be far easier to bring about a return, to con-
stitutional government in the future if only the Rus-
sian tscJiinovnik could be kept out of the country.
Accordingly, Finnish officials were not merely not
to resign when a conflict arose between Russian com-
mands and the Finnish laws, but they were also to
accept vacant posts, if offered them, more especially
in the Senate, the centre of the administration. As
long as this was in Finnish hands a return to legal
conditions would, they held, be possible.

The supporters of this policy, who consisted
mainly of members of the Old Finnish group,
stepped into positions from which members of the
Constitutional party were ejected or had resigned.


A long and bitter controversy has raged as to
which of the two policies the country ought to adopt.
There is much to be said on either side, but to the
writer it seems that the nation showed a sound in-
stinct in supporting the Constitutional party, for
the simple reason that the other policy, while having
undoubted advantages, had the supreme disadvan-
tage of playing into Russia's hands. For, whatever
its other merits or demerits, it enabled Bobrikoff to

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22

Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 19 of 22)