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rose from 670,000 in 1865 to about 1,110,000 in 1907.


In the latter year the number of cows per thousand
inhabitants was 374. Mention is made in another
chapter of the large butter export. The number of
horses rose from 260,000 in 1865 to about 330,000 in
1907. The horses are usually of a light build and
are very lively. They have run successfully abroad.
Most of the farm work is done with their aid, oxen
being but little used for drawing purposes. The
Finns as a rule treat their animals well. Sheep play
a decreasing role in Finnish farming. In 1907 they
numbered about 900,000, or rather less than in 1865,
in spite of the great increase of Finland's popula-
tion since that time. Nor do Finnish farmers seem
to have realized the economic possibilities of the
pig, in spite of the efforts of the State to induce
them to improve the breed. There are great oppor-
tunities for enterprise in this direction. Bee-keep-
ing and poultry are also practised but little, but the
prospects of both would be excellent if more atten-
tion were devoted to the subject.

The total value of the stock reared on Finnish
farms in 1907 is estimated at not less than 211 mil-
lion marks.

There is every reason to suppose that the produc-
tion of Finnish farming, both in crops and cattle,
could be largely increased. In the first place far
more land could be cultivated. Most of the unculti-
vated land consists of forests, but there are also
great tracts of bog-land, which would provide good
soil for cultivation if they were properly drained, as
they doubtless will be when sufficient capital can be
found. In the second place, better methods of cul-


tivation could be applied. Until recent times Fin-
nish agriculture was extremely primitive. A wood
was burnt down and the soil thus reached was culti-
vated as long as it repaid the labour, when the peas-
ant proceeded to burn down a new wood and repeat
the process of cultivation. This wasteful method
is little in use to-day, however, and the Government
has intervened with various restrictions. The old
rotation of crops, namely, the growing of grain on
two fields out of three, still prevails largely through-
out the country, though in certain parts a more
complex system has been introduced. The State is
doing its best to further agricultural development.
The grant for agricultural purposes in 1909 was
over five million marks, of which nearly two mil-
lions was devoted to education and one and quarter
millions to Farmers' Associations, which latter are
private societies for the spread of agricultural
knowledge, both theoretical and practical. Numer-
ous schools of agriculture exist, and the University
has an agricultural section to which about three
hundred students belong. The State has created
"The Institute for Agricultural Experiments in Fin-
land " on a property near Helsingfors, and supports
a society for the draining of marsh-land, which has
two different establishments in the country. Four
agricultural laboratories have been founded, besides
one at Hango for the analysis of butter. But a list
of all the agricultural societies would be as tedious
to the reader as it is creditable to Finland. An in-
tersting study of State aid in Finland might be



Thirdly, a great increase in production would
probably take place if the system of land tenure
were altered, so that large estates were broken up
and an increase took place in the number of small
holdings. 1

Dotted about the country-side in most parts of
Finland one sees the cottages of the agricultural
labourers. Their position is in some ways a curious
one and only becomes clear when we have obtained

1 We find in the Agricultural Eeport already quoted that the
proportion of land under cultivation in

Small estates (less than 50 hectares)
Medium estates (50-250 hectares)
Large estates (250-1,000 hectares)
Very large estates (over 1,000 hectares)

was 25.1 per cent.
" 17.1 "
" 11.1 "
" 9.7 "

In other words, small properties are more highly cultivated than
large ones. The same thing holds good of the raising of cattle.
Compare the following table from the same Report


Less than
3 Hectares




Over 100

Horses ...






Cows ...


















Small holdings are advocated not only on agricultural
grounds, but also as a means of redressing the economic griev-
ances of large classes of the country people.


an idea of the country-side as a whole, and of how
the land is owned and held. The greatest land-
holder of all is the State, which owns nearly 40 per
cent, of the land surface of Finland. Most of the
State land, however, consists, as we shall see, of
forests, and lies in the north and east of the coun-
try. It may be ruled out of account in the present
connexion. What really concerns us is the land
which is privately owned. First of all there are the
great estates. Although they number only 1.4 per
cent, of the total number of estates, their area is
nearly 18 per cent, of the land privately owned.
Most of them are situated in the centre of Finland,
where the land is but thinly populated and little
cultivated, or in the south and southwest, where the
population is comparatively dense and the land is
cultivated proportionately. Their growth is ex-
plained in two ways. Firstly, even as late as the
close of the Middle Ages, the land north of the 62nd
degree, save for the coast, was uninhabited, and it
became the policy of the Swedish kings to colonize
North Finland with people from the south. These
colonists maintained themselves by fishing, hunting,
and the primitive form of agriculture associated
with the burning down of forests. They therefore
required very lage areas of land, and as there was
in early times no lack of it, the State allowed them
to acquire as much as they liked, free of cost. Sec-
ondly, during the nineteenth century rich men
bought up small estates, especially in South Fin-
land, and converted them into large ones, while in
the north, centre and east speculators and saw-


mill companies bought up enormous tracts of forest
land at low prices from the peasants, who sometimes
were not fully aware of their value.

The life of the wealthy landowners is similar to
that lived on great estates all over the world. The
houses are usually large wooden structures with
spacious and airy rooms and plenty of verandas.
They are specially designed as summer residences.
The gardens are not comparable with English gar-
dens, but have a wild beauty of their own derived
from their close relationship with uncultivated
Nature. Little game is reared, and altogether sport
plays a smaller part than in the life of English
gentry. The estate is usually within easy reach of
its own farm, which provides it with most of the
necessaries of life. The relationship between the
landowner and the tenants varies a great deal; in
some cases it still seems quite patriarchal.

The agricultural labourers may be divided into
two classes, according to whether they hold land as
tenants or have no access to the land at all. The
former are usually known as torpare. The system
which produced them was in origin as follows. The
larger landowners found their arable land separated
by natural causes into a patch here and a patch
there, with lakes and stretches of forest lying in be-
tween. It was consequently difficult for a single
man to superintend their cultivation, and holdings
were let out to tenants (torpare), -who usually paid
their rent, not in money, a scarce commodity, but
by doing so many days' work per annum on the
landlord's own farm. The position of the torpare


naturally varies considerably, and the system is far
more developed in some parts of the country than in
others. It has many drawbacks. The principal
claim of the torpare, taken up by the Socialist party,
is that landowners must either cultivate their land
themselves or let others cultivate it on legally estab-
lished conditions, and that no land must be left idle
while there is any one who desires to cultivate it. It
is maintained that it would not only enormously
benefit the torpare themselves, but that it would go
far towards providing land for the very large land-
less population; that it would increase the total
wealth of the country and do away with the necessity
which exists to-day of importing food on a large
scale ; that it would benefit not only the country but
also the town population, whose position is at pres-
ent threatened by the influx of masses of unem-
ployed persons, attracted thither from the country
by the hope of high wages, finally, that it would de-
crease emigration, which has in recent years as-
sumed large proportions.

An important law of 1909 provides for a tenure
of from fifty years (minimum) to one hundred years
(maximum), and secures to the tenant adequate
compensation for the improvements carried out by
him during his tenure. These concessions are far
from satisfying the torpare, but are admitted by
them to be a great improvement on the old system.
But there are difficulties from the side of the land-
lords, who are dissatisfied with the fifty years'
leases, and often prefer, therefore, not to contract
with their torpare for a new lease, but either to sell


the land or work it themselves. This may easily
lead to a further increase of the landless population.
It seems clear, therefore, that the law of 1909 does
not provide a permanent solution, and that the
problem has still to be faced.

Finally we come to the agricultural labourer who
has no land to cultivate at all and is unable to get
any. This class has increased very rapidly during
the last few decades, on account both of the general
growth of the population and of the rising value of
timber, two circumstances which have sent up the
value of land.

The landless population accounts for no less than
43 per cent, of the inhabitants of Finland, and but
few of these can find an outlet in industry, which
plays but a small part in the country-side. They
live mainly as agricultural labourers and by work-
ing in the forests, much of their employment being
casual. It is from this class that most of the emi-
grants come, and they form the chief contingent of
the country people who stream into the towns.

The general situation in the country-side as re-
gards landholding is summarized in the following
table from the report of 1901 already referred to:

Households owning their holdings . . . 110,629 or 23 per cent,
renting " " ... 160,525 " 34 "
without any land 206,988 " 43 "

The poorer peasants, like the farmers, are very
hospitable, and there is something of the grand
seigneur in the simple and dignified way they enter-
tain one. Their usual mode of living, however, is
simple in the extreme. They eat mostly rye bread,


porridge, salt fish and meat, potatoes and curdled
milk, and their usual drink is coffee. Alcohol is
rarely obtainable in the country, but smoking is very
largely indulged in. Among the poorest people the
housing conditions are often very bad. The cot-
tages I have seen often seemed stuffy and dirty, and
there was a lamentable failure to appreciate the
advantages of fresh air and light. A lack of energy
and hopefulness characterized many of the men and
women, while the children were often pasty-faced
and thin. The latter looked as if they required more
air and better food, the former as if they needed
some one to give them a lead.

Not only is the air in the houses often extremely
stuffy, but there is much overcrowding. This is
partly due to failure of the landlords to provide
proper accommodation, but partly also to a genuine
preference of the peasants for the cosiness of living
all together, many of those who actually have, or
could afford, greater space not caring to avail them-
selves of the possibility. In former times it was
the custom to build a house as one large room, with
a hole in the roof through which the smoke could
ascend. In this room all the varied life of the house-
hold took place, and the hole in the roof kept the
air sweet and fresh. Nowadays houses are built
with separate rooms, and sometimes with windows
that cannot be opened and with stoves instead of
open fireplaces. In the absence of fresh air con-
sumption results. The disease increases and sana-
toria are built to combat it, but until people live
more healthily, the disease will prevail.


These remarks will fail of their purpose, however,
if they give the impression of the Finnish peasants
as being sickly people. They are, as a rule, remark-
ably strong and sturdy, although one cannot help
feeling that if they had more fresh air in their
houses, and did not live so much on salted food, they
would be still stronger and sturdier. Through the
long battle with adverse conditions they have ac-
quired some of the best qualities of the Scotch, in-
cluding a remarkable tenacity, endurance and thrift.
This is, among the best of them, combined with a
faith in God which has stood them in good stead in
their exceptionally hard struggle against the in-
tractable forces of Nature. Euneberg has expressed
this side of their nature admirably in the following
poem. "The Peasant Paavo" 1 :

High, among the moors of Saarijarvi,

On his frosty farm, lived peasant Paavo,

Diligently managing his farming,

But his fruits he from the Lord expected.

There he dwelt in peace with wife and children;

Earned for them their bread, a scanty living;

Dug his ditches, ploughed his fields and sowed them.

Springtime came, and from the sprouting corn-plot,
Half the crops went off with melting snow-drifts:
Summer camq and then the pelting showers
Beat the ears to earth just half the harvest;
Autumn came the frost took the remainder.

Paavo's wife now tore her hair, lamenting:
"Paavo, Paavo, thou ill-fated husband!

1 1 have taken the translation appearing in Finland an Eng-
lish Journal devoted to the Cause of the Finnish People, some
numbers of which appeared in 1899 and 1900.


Seize thy staff, the Lord hath us forsaken;
Begging bread is hard, but worse is dying!"
Paavo grasped his spouse's hand and uttered:
"The Lord is trying us, and not forsaking.
Thou must mix with bark our bread together;
Ditches I will dig in double numbers;
From the Lord will I expect a blessing."

So she mixed with bark their bread together;
Ditches dug he then in double numbers ;
Sold his flocks, and buying grain he sowed it.

Springtime came, and from the sprouting corn-fields
Nothing floated off with melting snow-drifts;
Summer came and now the pelting showers
Beat the ears to earth just half the harvest ;
Autumn came the frost took the remainder.

Paavo's wife then beat her breast, lamenting:
"Paavo, Paavo, thou ill-fated husband!
Let us die, the Lord hath us forsaken!
Death is hard, but ten times worse is living!"
Paavo grasped his spouse's hand and uttered :
"The Lord is trying us, and not forsaking.
Twice as much of bark thou must be mixing
With the bread; I'll dig as many ditches.
From the Lord do I expect a blessing."

Twice as much of bark the wife now mixed
With the bread; he dug as many ditches;
Sold his kine, and buying corn he sowed it.

Springtime came, and from the sprouting corn-field
Nothing floated off with melting snow-drifts ;
Summer came and now the pelting showers
Beat no ears to earth in ripening corn-fields;
Autumn came the frost, no more destroying,
Left the golden crops to greet the reaper.

Peasant Paavo bowed the knee, and uttered:
"The Lord hath tried us only, not forsaken."


And his wife knelt down, and murmured with him
"The Lord hath tried us only, not forsaken."
And with joy spoke she unto her husband :
"Paavo, Paavo, seize thy scythe, rejoicing;
It is time to live a life of gladness,
It is time to leave the bark for ever,
And to make our bread of pure corn only." 1 '
Paavo grasped his spouse's hand and uttered:
"O Woman, no one bears his trials so calmly
As the man who ne'er forsakes his brother;
Twice as much of bark with bread then mix thou,
For frost-bitten stands our neighbour's cornfield."



WE should be making a mistake if, relying on
our impressions when travelling through
the country, we condoled overmuch with the Finnish
peasant on the loneliness and monotony of his life.
He has interests and resources of which we towns-
folk know nothing. His inner life is far richer than
we suspect. He reads Nature "as a scholar who
reads a book'* and sees things in her which to us
are quite hidden. He has the freedom of the lakes
and forests a freedom only to be won by a life
lived among them. He has the peasant's profound
interest in all the works of Nature around him, in all
the simple and necessary processes of life as lived
in the days before towns were. He has the lore of
the hunter and the trapper. At the very gate of his
farm or holding lies the forest, still teeming with a
life of which town-dwellers have lost the secret, still
teeming, moreover, with animal and bird life. Eng-
land may have been something like it in the days
when it was covered with forests and a price was
paid for every wolf -skin. To-day the wolf is but
little seen in Finland, only coming in the winter and
returning to Russia with the approach of summer.



Nevertheless, it is not so long ago that the peasants
still constructed wolf -traps. A deep pit was dug and
covered with fir branches, and in the middle was
erected a pole to which was attached a cage contain-
ing a duck. The wolf jumped to seize the duck and
fell into the pit. Sometimes two or three were
caught in a single night. The bear, like the wolf,
is disappearing from Finland. He rarely molests
the peasants unless he is first disturbed, and one
could wish that he were left alone. As it is, his
winter home is marked by the peasants, who sell the
information to persons desirous of bagging a bear-
skin. In the old days bear-hunting was a great occu-
pation, partly because at that time the bears were
often destructive of crops and cattle. Many stories
are told of adventures with bears. A famous old
hunter, who in the course of his life killed 198 of
them, was once pursued by one up a tree. The bear
bit his leg and he fell on to its back, but with great
presence of mind he seized its fur and yelled out
" March !" upon which the frightened beast galloped
away, and the hunter slid off its back and escaped.
On another occasion, when his gun missed fire, the
same man saved his life by thrusting his arm right
into the open mouth of the bear that rushed at him.
This unnerved the bear and the hunter escaped with
a bad bite. In the old days the killing of a bear
was celebrated as a very important event, and his
deeds were sung over his dead body, as if he had
been a great human hero. 1

The elk is another creature which is fast disap-
1 Of. the description in the "Kalevala," Euno 46.


pearing, in spite of its being protected by law. It is,
in a sense, a foe to the peasant, being very destruc-
tive of crops and young trees. The lynx is still to
be met within the depths of the forest, and every-
where foxes abound. One can still see in places an
interesting old type of fox-trap. A long stake is
fixed in the ground, and is shaped at the top like a
three-pronged fork, the central prong being the long-
est. The edges of the prongs are sharp, like knives.
Some bait is fixed at the top, and when the fox jumps
for it, his paws are caught between the prongs and
he cannot escape.

Of the birds of the country, the commonest are
the blackcock, the partridge, the hazel-grouse and
the capercailzie, in shooting which the peasant is
accompanied by his sporting dog, a kind of wolf-
hound. In the far north are swans and wild geese
and eider-ducks in great quantities, nor is the eagle
unknown. Near the coast wild ducks abound. Fish-
ing is carried on both in the sea and in the great
lakes and rivers. Salmon-fishing on a large scale
takes place on many of the latter, especially in the
north, the fish being caught in pens. This practice
has much spoiled the country for the angler. Never-
theless, angling is a very popular pursuit among
the peasants, especially among those living near the
great lakes. The Finnish temperament finds in
angling a particularly congenial recreation. The
coast population naturally rely upon sea-fishing for
a large part of their livelihood, the Baltic herring
being the principal catch.

In winter, fishing is carried on extensively


through holes in the ice. Large colonies of fisher-
men camp out on the frozen sea, often having horses
and sledges with them. It happens nearly every
winter that the ice cracks and one or more fishing
colonies are carried out to sea on gigantic icefloes.
They are then at the mercy of wind and wave; if
they are fortunate, the wind that has blown them out
to sea will change, and they will be blown ashore
again. But it often happens that they are on the
floe for days before being picked up by passing ves-
sels or by the boats that go in search of them.
Sometimes the floe may break up into several pieces,
each with its contingent of human beings. The men
take it all very coolly. Like miners, they seem to
be indifferent to the great perils they are exposed
to, and often they are carried out to sea because they
have been too careless to set a proper watch. If the
crack were reported at once they could, of course,
get ashore before it became too wide.

Seal-shooting on the frozen sea is an important
winter pursuit. The peasant lies flat on a sledge
which he propels with his feet. In front of the
sledge is fixed a white board or sheet, so that the
seals may not notice the approach of the sledge
across the snow. The peasant then stalks the seal
till he is near enough to get a shot. Sometimes the
sledge is dispensed with, in which case the hunter
wears a white overall and a white cap and creeps
along on his stomach.

Of the felling of timber and its transport to the
coast we shall speak in another chapter. But there
is one other pursuit of the Finnish peasant of which


a word should be said here, namely, tar-burning.
Tar-pits used to be common throughout the country,
and even to-day a great deal of tar is burned in the
north chiefly for purposes of export. The method
is to extract the tar from the wood by means of heat.
When the tar has been extracted, it is run into bar-
rels, which are sometimes attached to shafts, so that
a horse can draw them along as if they were car-
riages composed solely of large wheels. If it is not
wanted for home use, the tar is taken to the nearest
waterway and put into boats for transport to the
coast. These boats are designed to shoot the numer-
ous rapids en route. They are about 30 feet long
and only 3 feet broad, very lightly built so as to
yield before a slight shock, but with lofty sides to
keep out the foaming water. The skill and nerve
required for steering these boats are very^ great,
but accidents very seldom occur. The first plunge
into a rapid, the noise of which you have heard for
several minutes before, is a fine sensation. The
boat seems like a wild creature released, speeding
along in the first ecstasy of freedom; it seems to
have acquired a life of its own, to exercise choice,
to take pleasure in the sinuous curves of its body as
it neatly shaves the foam-capped rocks and threads
its way between the dangers that menace it. At
times, especially if you have your eye fixed on the
banks, you seem to be gliding forward with astound-
ing velocity. At other times, it seems as if your
boat, save for the tossing, stood still in a rough sea,
the crested waves of which rushed upon it with the
intent to destroy. Look at the banks, however, and


the illusion vanishes. When you emerge from the
rapids to smooth water the silence is overwhelming.

For the peasant the country-side is still alive with
spirits which townsfolk have lost the power of

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Online LibraryArthur ReadeFinland and the Finns → online text (page 7 of 22)