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Österland, or Österlanden, is a historical land of Sweden. Österland, which literally means eastern lands, is the old name for what today geographically is the southern part of the Republic of Finland. It is bounded to the north by the sparsely populated Norrland.


The following seven provinces formed Österland:

Alandia Finland Proper Karelia Nylandia
Satakunda Savonia Tavastia


Traditional "lands" of Sweden. (Different stages of expansion marked by shades. Borders as of year 1700.)
Traditional "lands" of Sweden. (Different stages of expansion marked by shades. Borders as of year 1700.)

From early middle ages the Swedish Vikings had been settled on both sides of the Baltic sea. Following this long standing Swedish presence along the coast of southern Finland, in the 12th century the kings of the recently christianized Svealand, under influence from the Church, launched "crusades" which eventually resulted in the conquest of the entire Finland. The conquest took place at the same time as Sweden was united under one king; and Österland was seen as a constituent part of the Swedish kingdom, although represented in the elections of Swedish kings first in 1362.

In 1581, the provinces of Österland were declared a Grand Duchy by King John III of Sweden, who as a prince, in 1556, had been granted that territory as a duchy created beside other duchies ruled by his brothers. The creation of the Grand Duchy was chiefly a part of the infighting between the late King Gustav Vasa's sons, and had no lasting effects.

The notion Österland(en) fell gradually off use. In the 17th century often substituted by "Finland and Ostrobothnia", letting the coastal provinces Finland Proper and Ostrobothnia lend their names to their large backlands, although Viborg's and Kexholm's provinces were occasionally mentioned separately. During the parliamentary era of the 18th century, by the Swedes known as the Age of Liberty, virtually the whole of present-day Finland was twice occupied by Russian forces (17141721 and 17421743), by the Finns known as the Greater Wrath and the Lesser Wrath . After that, "Finland" became the predominant term for that area — both in domestic Swedish debate and in Russian propaganda promising liberation from Swedish oppression.

Österlanden remained part of Sweden until the Finnish war of 180809, when it was ceded to Russia along with eastern Norrland and came to constitute the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

See also: Historical provinces of Finland

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45