On September 17, 1809, 210 years ago today, Sweden and Russia signed the Treaty of Fredrikshamn (Finnish: Hamina), marking the end of the Finnish war of 1808-1809 and also the end of the Sweden-Finland era.
Finland had been part of Sweden since 1323, when another peace treaty between Novgorod (Russia) and Sweden, the Peace of Pähkinäsaari or Treaty of Nöteborg, was signed. Then in 1809, following the Napoleonic wars, Sweden lost Finland to Russia in the Russian-Swedish War of 1808-1809, and Finland became officially known as the Grand Duchy of Finland. Article five of the peace treaty set out the new borders between Sweden and Russia, whereby Finland and the Åland islands became Russian terriotry. The Russian Tsar, Alexander I, promised to let Finland keep its law, language, and religion. A promise that was largely kept; for example, Finland kept the Law of 1734, the Swedish-Finnish Civil Code.
Finland attained independence from Russia in December 1917, when the Russians were preoccupied with a civil war. Finland celebrated its centennial as an independent state last year (2018).
One visible effect of the transfer of Finland to Russia in 1909 can be seen in our Finnish law collection. Laws from this period (1810 through 1917) are produced in three languages, Finnish, Russian, and Swedish, then the three official languages of Finland. Still today, Swedish remains an official language of Finland, and Swedish-speaking Finns (Finlandssvenskar) make up approximately 5% of the population. Åland is a Swedish-speaking, autonomous, and demilitarized, region of Finland.
Law Library of Congress Online Resources:
- How to Research Russian Law
- Guide to Law Online: Finland
- Guide to Law Online: Sweden
- Guide to Law Online: Russia
- Swedish Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights
- Finland: 100 Years of Independence – Global Legal Collection Highlights
Library of Congress Collection: