The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Grand Duchy of Finland

The Grand Duchy of Finland was a state that existed 18091917.

Storfurstendömet Finland
Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta
Official languages Swedish and, from 1883, Finnish
Established church Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox
Capital Turku (1809-1812)
Helsinki (1812-)
Head of state Grand Duke of Finland
Area - km² (-)
Population 1 636 900 (1850)
Currency Before 1840 old Swedish money, Russian money and Finnish 'kopeekka' issued in Turku since 1811.
Ruble (1840-1859),
Markka as manifestation of quarter ruble (1860-1865),
Markka (1865-)
Existed 1809-1917


Finland was made a titulary Grand Duchy in 1581, when king John III of Sweden, who had been royal duke of Finland since 1556, made himself Grand Duke.

During the Finnish War between Sweden and Russia, the four Estates of occupied Finland were assembled at the Diet of Porvoo on March 29, 1809 to pledge allegiance to Alexander I of Russia. Following the Swedish defeat in the war and the signing of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn on September 17, 1809, Finland became a true autonomous grand duchy tied to the Russian Empire by means of personal union. For the foundation of the Grand Duchy as an entity with relatively great autonomy within the Russian realm, and for the regain of the so called Old Finland, that was lost to Russia in the previous century, the Finland-born Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, councillor to the emperor, was instrumental.

The history of the Grand Duchy can briefly be characterized as:

  • 1809–1862: fifty years of consolidation, during which the Grand Duchy's authorities succeeded in convincing the Russian court of not only their but of all Finns' loyalty
  • 1863–1898: thirty-five years of increased independence, including the re-establishment of the Diet of Finland and the elevation of Finnish from a language for simple people to a national language equal to Swedish
  • 1899–1917: twenty years of attempted russification, although ultimately unsuccessful, nevertheless detrimental for Finland's relationship with the Soviet Union

In 1917, after the February Revolution in Russia, Finland's government made a unsuccessful attempt to secure Finland's autonomy in domestic matters. On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence.


The Russian Emperor ruled as the Grand Duke of Finland and was represented in Finland by the Governor-General of Finland. The Senate of Finland was the highest governing body of the Grand Duchy. In St. Petersburg Finnish matters were represented by the Finnish Minister Secretary of State . From 1863 and onwards the Diet of Finland convened regulalry.


Main article: Counties in Finland

The administrative division introduced during the Swedish era in 1634 was continued with little changes.

  • Nyland County Nylands län/Uudenmaan lääni
  • Tavastehus County Tavastehus län/Hämeen lääni
  • Åbo and Björneborg County Åbo och Björneborgs län/Turun ja Porin lääni
  • Vyborg County Viborgs län/Viipurin lääni
  • Mikkeli County St. Michels län/Mikkelin lääni
  • Kuopio County Kuopio län/Kuopion lääni
  • Vaasa County Vaasa län/Vaasan lääni
  • Oulu County Uleåborg län/Oulu lääni


Main article: Geography of Finland


Main articles: Flag of Finland, Coat of Arms of Finland

The arms were granted at the burial of Gustav Vasa in 1560 and still remain the arms of the Republic of Finland.

In the 1860s talk about a Finnish Flag started in the fennoman movement. In 1863 numerous proposals were presented for a national flag. [1] The two main proposals were flags based on red/yellow and blue/white. Unfortunately the flag proposals never had a chance to be presented to the Diet so none of them ever became an official flag. That didn't stop people from using different designs for flags of their own choosing.

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Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04