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30.11.2017

Pro Finlandia. Finland's road to independence. Perspective: Russia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

The fourth part of the Pro Finlandia exhibition series about Finland's path towards independence opens at the National Archives at Rauhankatu 17 in Helsinki on 5 December 2017.

The exhibition is the last installation in a series of four that shows how Finland, the Finns and Finland's aspirations were perceived in other European countries in the decades preceding our independence, as well as during its first years. The last part opening in December delves into Finland as a part of the Russian empire, as well as Finland's relationship with the other states separating from the empire: Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The exhibition series is a Finland 100 project. 

The grand duchy of Finland was granted extensive autonomy when it was annexed by Russia in 1809. Finland got to keep its laws and judicial system from the Swedish period, as well as the Lutheran faith, the status of Swedish and Finnish, and strong connections with the other Nordic countries and western Europe. The autonomy allowed Finland to progress towards an independent state, although the autonomy was tested towards the end of the grand duchy. The new "buffer zone" of Russia was mostly given free rein, and the grand duchy being allowed to keep the taxes collected from its area created a solid foundation for economic development. The rich economic region of Saint Petersburg increased exports while great numbers of Finns headed abroad and to Saint Petersburg in particular due to the economic opportunities available.

Finns could access the world in the 1800s like never before. Finnish ships would sail the seas and Finnish consuls would assist the shipping and the creation of trade connections around the world. Large Finnish communities were founded outside Europe in Siberia, the oil-rich city of Baku and Alaska. The vast empire was full of lucrative opportunities for those with an enterprising spirit and not shy of new challenges.

The strongest connections formed with the neighbouring areas. The bardic villages in Karelia on both the Finnish and the Russian side of the border were a source of national inspiration built around the Kalevala epic. The awakening of national culture was reflected in many fields: art, architecture, music and folkloristics. The Lutheran church would bring together the population of Finland and the Ingrians living around the Gulf of Finland and Saint Petersburg. Migrating Finns also reached the shores of the Arctic Ocean, the Kola Peninsula and Petsamo.

The connections with Poland and the Baltic region remained few. One reason for this may be the fact that the local high society and learned people mostly spoke German, and only the nobility in Finland, few in number, felt any connection to them. For Poland, the situation was complicated by the Finnish Guard having participated in the quelling of the Polish uprising between 1830 and 1831.

The exhibition includes original documents, publications, photographs, paintings and artefacts from the period. The central themes are the annexation of Finland by Russia in 1809, Finland's position in the empire, the opportunities offered to Finns by the grand duchy's position, artist connections, and the events that led to the collapse of the Russian empire.

The exhibition is open Tue, Thu, Fri 10-16, Wed 10-18. Entry is free. Please note that the building is not fully obstacle free. Guided group tours can be arranged upon request.

The fourth part of the Pro Finlandia book series will be published during the opening ceremony of the exhibition. The work is a joint creation of the National Archives and Edita Publishing Ltd, available for purchase on the National Archives' website.

The main exhibition at the National Archives will be supplemented by a 15-poster touring exhibition on display in provincial archives throughout 2018.

For further information, please contact

Jussi Nuorteva, Director General, jussi.nuorteva@arkisto.fi, tel. +358 29 533 7001
Päivi Happonen, Research Director, paivi.happonen@arkisto.fi, tel. +358 29 533 7018
Pertti Hakala, Researcher, pertti.hakala@arkisto.fi, tel. +358 29 533 7014

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