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absolutely free from chauvinism, breathes through
his work, which is informed, moreover, with a sane
and bracing view of life and of human destiny, and
of the relation between human and Divine. The pro-
duction of poems such as his, with all they imply of
national strength and nobility of aim, justifies the
claim of Finland to an independent national exist-
ence at least as much as the documents signed by
successive Tsars.



CHAPTER III

THE RACIAL STRUGGLE

THE Finnish Nationalist movement had to pass
from the ideal stage in literature and thought
to the practical stage in politics. In this field its
great exponent was Johan Vilhelm Snellman, per-
haps the most discussed personality in Finnish his-
tory, and the one who provoked the bitterest hatred
and inspired the most reckless devotion. Snellman,
like Runeberg and other members of the Saturday
Club, belonged to the district of Osterbotten and
was endowed with the impulsiveness and the rather
choleric temperament which is characteristic of its
inhabitants. He was born, however, in Stockholm
in 1806, his father, a sea-captain, having settled
there three years earlier. He was the second son
of a numerous family. The events of 1809 forced
his parents to choose definitely between Finland and
Sweden, and they chose the former country, settling
at the seaport of Gamla Karleby in 1813. Although
poor, Snellman was able to study at the University
of Abo, where he met Runeberg, Lonnrot, and
others, and with them passed later to Helsingfors,
where he became an important member of the Sat-
urday Club. He was one of the twenty-eight Oster-
bottnian students who in 1834 promised not to leave

47



48 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

the University without having passed an examina-
tion in the Finnish language a promise, however,
which he failed to keep. In 1835 he became a philos-
ophy lecturer at the University and showed himself
an enthusiastic Hegelian. He early laid stress on
the doctrine thatlKe^ighest duty of the individual
is to work for the good of the whole, and that if a
clash of interests arises between the citizens and
society, the former must voluntarily give way to the
latter. The doctrine was to have profound practical
consequences. At the same time Snellman was per-
petually himself in conflict with that part of society
which was represented by the University authori-
ties, who regarded with the deepest disfavour the
new movement that was making itself felt among
the students as a result of the efforts of the Satur-
day Club. Storm followed storm in the University.
Snellman was forbidden to lecture, and in 1838 he
was suspended from his lectureship for six months.
He retired to the country and presently shocked
Finnish opinion by publishing three numbers of a
paper entitled The Spanish Fly (Spanska Plug an),
the first of his great series of journalistic undertak-
ings. The Press was attacked, the exclusiveness of
the University was exposed, and scathing criticisms
of the general condition of the country abounded.
After publishing the first number Snellman retired
to Stockholm, where he got in with the " Young
Sweden" movement, wrote copiously in the news-
papers and composed novels, besides finding time to
visit Germany. Meanwhile he was working at his
most famous book, Ldran om Staten (The Theory



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 49

of the State), which appeared in 1842 and contained
a development of the Hegelian ideas already re-
ferred to. His thoughts were much with Finland,
not always hopefully. "The mass of the people,"
he writes to friends in 1846, "is from long-
established oppression turned only inwards. It may
possibly find fault with a bailiff or a priest, but
even a provincial governor is a little god, and a sen-
ator a non plus ultra. The thought of anything bet-
ter, an interest in the commune, parish, province or
country, it has hardly ever had except as a savage
has it i.e. in open war." To raise the people is
impossible "as long as the language of administra-
tion and instruction is Swedish." This the educated
classes cannot understand, "and, if they did, it is
against their interest to work for it. J ' He concludes
pessimistically that "the Finnish nation is in its
grave. ' '

Probably his pessimism was partly due to the
contrast he found between the poverty of Finland
and the old culture and gathered wealth of Sweden
and Germany. At any rate, when two years later
he was practically promised a professorship of phi-
losophy in Sweden, where he had already made a
considerable reputation, he refused, in order to be
free to return to his native country. He meant to
put his theories to the test. "One must leave ab-
stractions and go deep into facts," he writes. He
crossed to Finland in November, 1842, but in spite
of his friends ' efforts failed to get an appointment
at the University and had to be content with the
post of Head Master of the High School at Kuopio,



50 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

a town of some 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants in the heart
of Finland. In the days before railways Kuopio
was considerably isolated, and in the 'forties only
enjoyed one post a week. But Snellman was a man
who made circumstances rather than submitted to
them. In 1846 he founded there the first Finnish-
speaking school in the country, an elementary school
for girls. As it proved successful, he established a
similar school for boys soon afterwards. He was,
moreover, the centre of a considerable intellectual
circle in this remote town. Here, too, he found a
wife, Jeannette Vennberg, whom he married in 1845
and who bore him six children.

What is especially associated with the Kuopio
days was Snellman 's work as a publicist. Working
like the engineers in a ship, remote and in isolation,
he was here producing the motive force that was
to carry on the National movement to a successful
issue. Snellman 's study at Kuopio was the prac-
tical workshop of the movement in these days. In
it, conceptions which had earlier been vague hard-
ened and took definite form. His first venture was
Maamiehen Ystava, a weekly paper in Finnish,
which aimed at spreading education among the
people. Before its appearance only seven papers
were being issued in the whole of Finland, all being
written in Swedish. Far more important, however,
was Snellman 's new Swedish paper, Saima, which
first came out in 1845. It was addressed to the up-
per classes, and expounded week by week Snellman 's
views of the future of Finland. The gospel he
preached was the need for a national culture and a



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 51

i' national spirit. At present there was neither. Be-
/ tween the educated Swedish-speaking class and the
uneducated Finnish-speaking class there was a great
gulf fixed, which, if it were not soon bridged, would
destroy the country. A house divided against itself
cannot offer a strong resistance in a crisis, and when
might not a crisis arrive for Finland? What was
to be done? The Finnish race must be elevated, and
this in turn involved the elevation of the Finnish
language. Finnish must be used equally with Swed-
ish in the law-courts, in all branches of the admin-
istration, and in the schools. In a word, Finnish
must become a civilized language, and the Finns
must feel that they had no less an interest and stake
in their country's fortunes than had the Swedish-
speaking upper class. And this great change must
be brought about by that class itself as a patriotic
duty. It was to urge this duty upon them that
Saima existed.

So far Snellman had not exceeded the programme
of many of his contemporaries, and he received a
great deal of support from the more progressive
Swedish Finns. But he pushed his demands a point
farther, and proceeded to argue that national unity
j could not be achieved completely when a nation had
I two languages, and therefore one must look forward
to the day when Swedish would entirely disappear
and make way for Finnish. And here came in the
Hegelian theory of the duty of the individual to
sacrifice himself for the whole. The numerically in-
ferior Swedes were required in the interest of the
whole country to abandon their language for that of



52 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

the Finnish majority. It is only fair to Snellman
to remember that he was more moderate in his prac-
tical proposals than in his philosophic theory. He
did not stand for an immediate but for a gradual
introduction of Finnish into public life, and he seems
to have expected that the Swedish-speaking class
would consent to the ultimate abandonment of Swed-
ish as a result, not of compulsion, but of convic-
tion. Rooted firmly in the belief of the essential
Tightness of his opinions, he failed to realize that
these would strike others in a totally different light.
In pleading for the necessity of raising the Finns
to a higher level and putting their language on an
equality with Swedish, it can hardly be disputed to-
day that Snellman was absolutely and entirely
right. With the gradual rise of democracies after
the French Revolution, it became inevitable that the
Finns also should emerge from the state of tute-
lage in which they had lived for so many centuries
and come into line with the democracies of West
Europe. Moreover, there were reasons peculiar to
Finland which made this desirable. The contention
that after Finland had passed from Sweden to Rus-
sia in 1809 she had no national basis, and that this
constituted a serious danger to her future, was a per-
fectly just one. We may repeat Arvidsson's dictum
that Finland was no longer Swedish, she did not
want to become Eussian, and therefore the only al-
ternative was to become Finnish. And in order to
do so, the great mass of the population must be
given an interest in their country by sharing more
fully in its duties and privileges, in the advantages



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 53

of its education and the responsibilities of its public
life. A hundred years ago, however, it was in-
evitable that even such a claim as this should pro-
voke the bitterest resistance among the majority of
the privileged class. To the aristocratic Swede, liv-
ing the life of a country gentleman, with rather ex-
clusive traditions and conservative both by interest
and temperament, the talk of Finnish Nationalists
seemed at first utterly absurd and later on almost
impious. The idea that the stolid-looking and
rather unkempt Finn who worked on his estate and
spoke a barbarous-sounding language should aspire
to a practical equality with a race boasting a pol-
ished and ancient culture and an honourable name
in history seemed preposterous. Even to-day
Swedes of the old school sometimes speak of the
Finns contemptuously as an inferior race, and a
century ago the majority of the Swedes were of that
school. The Finns were regarded as ugly and
stupid. When they desired Finnish to be the lan-
guage of instruction in the schools, the Swedes re-
plied that one simply could not imagine instruction
being conveyed in so gross a tongue. The idea of
a literature in Finnish seemed equally grotesque.
No educated person would ever employ such a lan-
guage. As to Finnish being used as the official lan-
guage, this was pure madness.

Nor were the Swedes altogether wrong. Finnish
really did require to be developed before it could
well serve for these ends. When the demand for
Finnish as the language of instruction first arose,
no Finnish schoolbooks were yet in existence, nor



54 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

was the language subtle enough for official use. It
had to be remoulded and extended by the efforts of
the Finnish Literature Society before the dreams of
the early Nationalists could be realized.

The feelings of the Swedes in face of the Fenno-
man movement may perhaps best be realized if we
say they felt themselves threatened by a barbarian
invasion. The Swedes, they considered, whatever
their faults, had brought to Finland the great gift
of civilization. They may not have extended it high
and low throughout the land, they may have laid
themselves open to the charge of exclusiveness, but,
after all, what more could they have done? Their
numbers were small, and historical and natural cir-
cumstances had rendered the pioneer work of civi-
lization peculiarly difficult. They had succeeded in
erecting an edifice of Swedish culture in a barren
land, and if they had not been able to build wide
enough to include the mass of the Finns within its
sheltering and refining influence, that was not their
fault. And now their edifice was to be pulled down
by the Finns, their cultivated flower-garden was to
be trampled into mud under the heels of an invading
horde who neither possessed nor cared for culture.
At all costs the invaders must be repulsed or civili-
zation would "go under. " When the servants be-
come masters, there is an end of the house. In the
vigorous newspaper campaign which raged about
the claims made for Finnish occur numerous letters
illustrating the temper of the time. Thus some one,
writing to an Abo paper in 1844, denied that Fin-
nish nationality was doomed to destruction on ac-



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 55

count of the neglect of its language, customs and
institutions. One had a proof of this in, e.g., the
Iroquois and Chippeways, Gaels and Irish (one is
reminded of Lord Salisbury's "Hottentot" speech).
The advocates of Finnish were called "pro-
Iroquois." Other writers insisted upon the sheer
impossibility of Finnish as a civilized language.

It was regrettable, but perfectly natural and in-
evitable, that the majority of the Swedes should be
unable to discern the light and promise that shone
in the National movement, and should fail to realize
that the Finns were not enemies of culture but
merely desired to broaden its basis by themselves
sharing in it. No privileged class can ever contem-
plate with satisfaction the loss of its privileged posi-
tion. But even the more far-sighted and generous-
minded minority which supported Snellman 's orig-
inal contention was inclined to dispute his further
proposition that Swedish must eventually be re-
placed by Finnish. They maintained that it was
ridiculous to speak of Swedish, the language spoken
for centuries by a considerable part of the popula-
tion, as a foreign tongue, and held that Snellman
was wrong in identifying "nation" with "lan-
guage," arguing that it was perfectly possible to
have one nation speaking two different languages.
Thus a young man, Robert Tengstrb'm, wrote to
Snellman deprecating the emphasis laid by him on
the necessity of making Finnish supreme in order
to attain his ideal, and asking with some justice
whether he, Castren, Lonnrot, Runeberg, and Nord-
strom, all of whom spoke Swedish, were not, by



56 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

spreading culture and developing a spirit of self-
reliance and self-respect among the people, doing
more for Finnish nationality than all the teachers
of the Finnish language put together.

Snellman did not confine himself in Saima to a
discussion of the language question. He pleaded
powerfully for an improvement of the Press, and set
an example by himself dealing with all the more
important questions of the day, which had hitherto
been left almost entirely untouched by Finnish
newspapers. He advanced his views on education
in all its branches, advocated the separation of edu-
cation from the control of the Church and pleaded
for a higher education for women. Industrial and
commercial matters were also dealt with. A later
generation was to adopt many of Snellman 's ideas
and carry them out in practice. But in the 'forties
they were regarded with the greatest disfavour.
Time after time he got into trouble with the censor-
ship, and finally Saima, after having marked an
epoch in Finnish history, was forced to come to an
end in December, 1846.

After the suppression of Saima, Snellman pub-
lisred the far less polemical Litter aturblad. In 1849
he left Kuopio and came to Helsingfors. In spite
of the difficulty of getting work there, owing to the
persecution to which he was still subjected, he re-
sisted the temptation to abandon Finland. The
Chair of Philosophy at the University had been can-
celled since 1852 and it was this to which Snellman
was finally elected. But it was considered dangerous
to retain the name of Philosophy. Accordingly



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 57

Snellman became "Professor of Ethics and the Sys-
tematization of the Sciences. ' ' He did not, however,
abandon his journalistic work and remained in the
very thick of the fray, fighting for his ideals.

The moment of realization came in 1863, a great
year in the history of Finland. In it the Diet was
summoned for the first time since 1809 and the fa-
mous Imperial Rescript was issued, which the Finns
regard as their Charter of Equality. This Rescript
enacted that within a period of twenty years Fin-
nish should occupy a position equal to that already
occupied by Swedish in public life. Alexander I had
already received several deputations of Finnish
peasants who brought petitions in favour of their
language, and a committee appointed in Helsingf ors
in 1862 had reported that something ought to be
done, without, however, fixing any date for making
a change, a fact which caused great dissatisfaction
among the Finns. Snellman, who was appointed a
Senator in 1863, went to see the Emperor, then in
Finland on a tour of military inspection, put the mat-
ter before him, and the Rescript was the result.
Snellman 's action has been severely criticized on the
grounds that the settlement of such a question by
Imperial Rescript instead of by legislation created
a most undesirable precedent. The criticism ap-
pears to be a just one. The temporizing of the
Swedish party must have been excessively irritating
to the Finns, but the claims of the latter were bound
to be conceded before long, and therefore the wis-
dom of employing such a dangerous weapon seems
highly questionable.



58 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

This is not the place to describe the successes and
checks the Nationalist movement had to chronicle
during the next decades. It must suffice to say that
the Swedish-speaking authorities were anything but
eager to carry out the Ee script and by their con-
stant obstruction went some way towards justifying
Snellman's forcing tactics. They succeeded in seri-
ously hampering the spread of Finnish schools,
which was effected only by the self-sacrificing ef-
forts of private individuals, who founded the
schools, made them a success, and eventually com-
pelled the State to recognize their value and take
them over or support them. As the twenty years
named in the Ee script approached completion little
had been done to fulfil its aim, and it was not until
j March, 1886, that the Tsar, by another Imperial Ee-
script, definitely secured for the Finnish language
the coveted position of absolute equality with
Swedish.

At the present day the old relationship between
the Finn and the Swede has been reversed and the
Swedes are now on the defensive. All along the
line the Finnish attack has proved victorious. A
Finnish-speaking educated class has been brought
into existence, which, in virtue of the huge prepon-
derance of the Finnish-speaking population, success-
fully claims to take an ever-increasing share in the
government and administration of the country out
of the hands of the Swedish-speaking element.
Similarly in trade and finance the old Swedish su-
premacy has had to yield to the onrush of Finnish
nationalism. Thus both political and economic



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 59

power are changing hands. Even racially fortune
seems to favour the Finns, for investigations into
/ the birth-rate show that the rate of increase among
them is slightly higher than that among the Swedes,
so that the proportion of the former to the latter is
likely to become still greater.

The change may be vividly realized by bearing in
mind three things. Firstly, Helsingfors was some
thirty years ago almost exclusively a Swedish-
speaking town, while to-day the Finns outnumber
the Swedes there. Secondly, when the Single Cham-
ber Diet and Proportional Representation were in-
troduced in 1906, the Swedes, who had previously
controlled two out of the four Estates, could only
claim one-eighth of the seats in the new house.
Thirdly, Finnish schools now enormously outnum-
ber Swedish schools, so that coming generations are
likely to be more Finnish than past ones. This
change is illustrated at the University. In 1860
practically all the students were Swedish-speaking,
whilst to-day nearly three-fourths of them have Fin-
nish for their mother tongue.

It might have been hoped that with the full en-
franchisement of the Finns the racial conflict would
die out. But this was not to be. Feelings had risen
too high to subside easily, and although a portion
of both Swedes and Finns desired reconciliation, an-
other portion desired war to the knife. Many of the
Finns argue that the Swedes cannot possibly re-
cover control of the country and therefore should
be left in peace. Finnish must of course be the first
language of the country, but they have no objec-



60 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

tion to the retention of Swedish as the second lan-
guage, and desire co-operation between Swede and
Finn. But others cling to the view maintained by
Snellman in his most uncompromising moments,
that the country must have but one language, and
that Finnish. With extremists of this party Swed-
ish is synonymous with anti-nationalism and anti-
patriotism, and some of them even refuse to speak
Swedish, though they may know the language per-
fectly well. This party will have no truckling with
Swedish culture and tradition, seeing in it the great-
est hindrance to the development of a truly Finnish
culture and tradition, and regarding the Swedes as
the historical oppressors of everything Finnish in
the past.

The Swedes replied to this attitude by drawing
closer together and forming organizations for self-
defence. There has been a tendency in one party
among them to withdraw from public life, where this
involves close co-operation with the Finns, and to
emphasize their kinship with Sweden and their dif-
ferences from the Finns.

It is not our business here to describe the struggle
in its smaller details. To do so would be the reverse
of pleasant, because the conflict, like all of its kind,
is full of pettiness and there is much to take excep-
tion to in the attitude of the extremists of either
party. Let it suffice to say that whatever may be
the future of the Swedish Finns whether, like the
Normans in England, they abandon their mother
tongue for that of their adopted country, or whether
they cling to it at all costs they will always be



THE RACIAL STRUGGLE 61

nobly associated with the past history of Finland.
This may seem a hard saying to persons whose vi-
sion under the stress of conflict has been focused
too exclusively upon the evils of Swedish rule in the
past. Many evils may freely be admitted there has
been plenty of pride, exclusiveness, selfishness. But
the good that has come to Finland from the
Swedes far outweighs the bad. At a time when
there is a tendency unchivalrously to throw over-
board the past, it may be well before leaving the
subject briefly to summarize it.

It was from Sweden that the Finns received the
structure on which their national life is based on
the religious side Christianity, on the political side
the free institutions of the Scandinavians. Without
the latter it is highly problematical whether Finland
would have been able to offer her stout resistance
to Russia to-day. In other parts of Russia the Finns
have failed to show any capacity for political co-
hesion, and probably the crossing of Finnish with
Scandinavian characteristics is the essential differ-
ence between Finnish character in Finland and out
of it. It was the work of the National movement to
set the seal on Finnish liberties by extending the full
advantages of Swedish institutions from the priv-
ileged class to the mass of the nation.

Nor should the advantages of the Swedish lan-
guage be overlooked. For centuries it was the only
channel through which culture came to Finland, and
even to-day it seems fully to justify itself as the
country's second language. It does indeed form
part of the heavy burden of tongues that the unf or-



62 FINLAND AND THE FINNS

tunate Finnish school-child is called upon to bear,
but it brings with it commensurate benefits. Not only
does it open the rich treasures of Norwegian, Swed-
ish and Danish literature to him who masters it,


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Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 4 of 22)