The Age of Enlightenment

History of Finland between 1722 - 1808

The Great Northern War (1700–1721) was devastating, as Sweden and Russia fought for control of the Baltic. Harsh conditions among peasants undermined support for the war led to Sweden's defeat. Finland was a battleground as both armies ravaged the countryside, leading to famine, epidemics, social disruption and the loss of nearly half the population. By 1721 only 250,000 remained. Landowners had to pay higher wages to keep their peasants. Russia was the winner, annexing the south-eastern part, including the town of Vyborg, after the Treaty of Nystad. Sweden's status as a European great power was forfeit, and Russia was now the leading power in the North. The absolute monarchy was ended in Sweden. During this Age of Liberty, the Parliament ruled the country, and the two parties of the Hats and Caps struggled for control leaving the lesser Court party, i.e. parliamentarians with close connections to the royal court, with little to no influence. The Caps wanted to have a peaceful relationship with Russia and were supported by many Finns, while other Finns longed for revenge and supported the Hats. Finland by this time was depopulated, with a population in 1749 of 427,000. However with peace the population grew rapidly, and doubled before 1800. 90% of the population were typically classified as "peasants", most being free taxed yeomen. Society was divided into four Estates: peasants (free taxed yeomen), the clergy, nobility and burghers. A minority, mostly cottagers, were estateless, and had no political representation.

The mid-18th century was a relatively good time, partly because life was now more peaceful. However, during the Lesser Wrath (1741–1742), Finland was again occupied by the Russians after Sweden parliament had made a botched attempt to reconquer the lost provinces. Instead the result of the Treaty of Åbo was that the Russian border was moved further to the west. During this time, Russian propaganda hinted at the possibility of creating a separate Finnish kingdom. Both the ascending Russian Empire and pre-revolutionary France aspired to have Sweden as a client state. Parliamentarians and others with influence were susceptible to taking bribes which they did their best to increase. The integrity and the credibility of the political system waned, and in 1771 the young and charismatic king Gustav III staged a coup d'état, abolished parliamentarism and reinstated royal power in Sweden – more or less with the support of the parliament. In 1788, he started a new war against Russia. Despite a couple of victorious battles, the war was fruitless, managing only to bring disturbance to the economic life of Finland. The popularity of King Gustav III waned considerably. During the war, a group of officers made the famous Anjala declaration demanding peace negotiations and calling of Riksdag (Parliament). An interesting sideline to this process was the conspiracy of some Finnish officers, who attempted to create an independent Finnish state with Russian support. After an initial shock, Gustav III crushed this opposition. In 1789, the new constitution of Sweden strengthened the royal power further, as well as improving the status of the peasantry. However, the continuing war had to be finished without conquests – and many Swedes now considered the king as a tyrant.

With the interruption of the war (1788–1790), the last decades of the 18th century had been an era of development in Finland. New things were changing even everyday life, such as starting of potato farming after the 1750s. New scientific and technical inventions were seen. The first hot air balloon in Finland (and in the whole Swedish kingdom) was made in Oulu (Uleåborg) in 1784, only a year after it was invented in France. Trade increased and the peasantry was growing more affluent and self-conscious. The Age of Enlightenment's climate of broadened debate in the society on issues of politics, religion and morals would in due time highlight the problem that the overwhelming majority of Finns spoke only Finnish, but the cascade of newspapers, belles-lettres and political leaflets was almost exclusively in Swedish – when not in French.

The two Russian occupations had been harsh and were not easily forgotten. These occupations were a seed of a feeling of separateness and otherness, that in a narrow circle of scholars and intellectuals at the university in Turku was forming a sense of a separate Finnish identity representing the eastern part of the realm. The shining influence of the Russian imperial capital Saint Petersburg was also much stronger in southern Finland than in other parts of Sweden, and contacts across the new border dispersed the worst fears for the fate of the educated and trading classes under a Russian régime. At the turn of the 19th to 20th century, the Swedish-speaking educated classes of officers, clerics and civil servants were mentally well prepared for a shift of allegiance to the strong Russian Empire. King Gustav III was assassinated in 1792, and his son Gustav IV Adolf assumed the crown after a period of regency. The new king was not a particularly talented ruler; at least not talented enough to steer his kingdom through the dangerous era of the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars.

Meanwhile, the Finnish areas belonging to Russia after the peace treaties in 1721 and 1743 (not including Ingria), called "Old Finland" were initially governed with the old Swedish laws (a not uncommon practice in the expanding Russian Empire in the 18th century). However, gradually the rulers of Russia granted large estates of land to their non-Finnish favorites, ignoring the traditional landownership and peasant freedom laws of Old Finland. There were even cases where the noblemen punished peasants corporally, for example by flogging. The overall situation caused decline in the economy and morale in Old Finland, worsened since 1797 when the area was forced to send men to the Imperial Army. The construction of military installations in the area brought thousands of non-Finnish people to the region. In 1812, after the Russian conquest of Finland, "Old Finland" was rejoined to the rest of the country but the landownership question remained a serious problem until the 1870s.

Reference: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1722 and 1808 in Finland

Suomenlinna

Suomenlinna ("Sveaborg", "Viapori") sea fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Finland’s most popular tourist attractions. The construction of the fortress started by the king of Sweden in 1748 as protection against Russian expansionism. Suomenlinna was planned to be a principal base for naval military operations and the general responsibility for the fortification work was given to Augustin Ehrensvärd. Th ...
Founded: 1748-1917 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Porvoo Old Town

Porvoo was first mentioned in documents in the early 14th century, and Porvoo was given city rights around 1380, even though according to some sources the city was founded in 1346. Porvoo is famed for its old town (Gamla Stan in Swedish), a dense medieval street pattern with predominantly wooden houses. The town was mainly destroyed by fire in 1760 and current buildings were built after that. Today Porvoo old town is a p ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Porvoo, Finland

Old Rauma

Old Rauma is the largest unified historical wooden town in the Nordic countries. Fire has destroyed it several times since 1500s, last major one occured in 1682. There are 600 buildings in old town, mostly privately owned. Oldest still existing houses are from the 18th century.Locations of special interest include the Kirsti house, which is a seaman's house from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Marela house, which is ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Rauma, Finland

Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum

Luostarinmäki is the only unified part of the Turku city that survived the conflagration of 1827. The area consists of 18 blocks of original 18th century – early 19th century buildings on their original location. Today Luostarinmäki is an outdoor museum that offers over 30 workshops from different fields of craftmanship display the City's handicrafts history and craftsmen's dwellings.During the summer season, the muse ...
Founded: ca. 1800 | Location: Turku, Finland

Hämeenlinna Church

Hämeenlinna Church was built in 1798 as a rotunda modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. It is designed by Frenchman L. J. Desprez, the court architect of Sweden. The altar stood in the middle of the amphitheatre-shaped church, and the pulpit was above the sacristy door. Hämeenlinna church is one of the best samples of so-called Gustavian classism style in Finland.
Founded: 1792–1798 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Oulu Cathedral

The Oulu Cathedral is an Evangelical Lutheran cathedral and the seat of the Diocese of Oulu. The church was built in 1777 as a tribute to the King of Sweden Gustav III of Sweden and named after his wife as Sofia Magdalena's church.The wooden structures burned in the large fire of the city of Oulu in 1822. The church was built again on top of the old stonewalls with famous architect Carl Ludvig Engel as the designer. T ...
Founded: 1777 (restored 1832) | Location: Oulu, Finland

Virgin Mary Church

The Virgin Mary Church of Lappeenranta is the oldest Greek Catholic church in Finland and the second oldest building in Lappeenranta. It was inaugurated in 1785. The narrow church was expanded in 1903, when the Russian cavalry was garrisoned in the city.
Founded: 1785 | Location: Lappeenranta, Finland

Espoo Manor

Espoo estate was established as a 'King's manor' (Kungsgård) by Gustav Vasa, King of Sweden, in 1556. The first bailiff was Peder Mandel in 1557-1558. Later the manor was a residence of famous field marshals and statemen Jacob de la Gardie and Gustav Horn. Espoo manor has been owned by the Ramsay family since 1756. The current manor house was built in 1797. Today Espoo manor provides wedding and event services.
Founded: 1797 | Location: Espoo, Finland

Kuopio Cathedral

The Kuopio Cathedral is a stone Neoclassical style church and the seat of the Diocese of Kuopio. It’s fifth church in Kuopio, the first one was built in 1552.The cathedral was built between 1806 and 1815 by Jacob Rijf (1806–1807) and Pehr Granstedt (1813–1815). The altarpiece has been painted by B. A. Godenhjelm in St. Petersburg. Matthias Ingman donated it to the cathedral in 1843.
Founded: 1806-1815 | Location: Kuopio, Finland

Mary's Church of Lappee

Lappee church is a wooden so called double cruciform church situated in the centre of the city. The church was built in 1794 by Juhana Salonen, a church builder from Savitaipale. During the years the building has gone through many renovation and modification works. Aleksandra Frosterus-Såltin has painted the altarpiece, which represents the Ascension of the Christ, in 1887. The other paintings are made by unknown artist ...
Founded: 1792-1794 | Location: Lappeenranta, Finland

Petäjävesi Old Church

Petäjävesi old church was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994. It was designed and built in 1763-64 by a local peasant master-builder, and in 1821 his grandson added the bell tower at the west end. Petäjävesi was then part of the Jämsä congregation, but the trip to Jämsä church was too long for local people. The Crown of Sweden had accepted the request to build a gra ...
Founded: 1763-1764 | Location: Petäjävesi, Finland

Loviisa Old Town

The city of Loviisa was founded in 1745, as a border fortress against Russia. It is named after Lovisa Ulrika, the Swedish Queen consort of Adolf Frederick of Sweden. The old town survived from the great fire in 1855 and is today one of the most vell-preserved wooden towns in Finland.Narrow sandstone and cobblestone streets and small wooden cottages provide fashionable sights for visitors.The sea stretches all the way to ...
Founded: 18th-19th centuries | Location: Loviisa, Finland

Tammisaari Old Town

The old town of Tammisaari is located to the small peninsula called "Barckens Udde". There has been originally a medieval fishing village. Most of wooden buildings are from the 18th and 19th centuries representing different architecture styles and old tradition of handicraft professions. The old town is fascinating and pictoresque area for walking.
Founded: 18th-19th centuries | Location: Raasepori, Finland

Tuomarinkylä Manor Museum

The history of Tuomarinkylä Manor dates back to the 15th century. The present main manor house was built around 1790. Today the main building is a museum and there’s also a horse farm and restaurant. The fairly small museum has eight room carefully restored in the style of different periods over the last two hundred years.
Founded: ca. 1790 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Kangasala Church

Kangasala grey granite church, with its beautiful baroque star ceiling, was built in 1767. Its rare wooden sculptures, dating back to the 15th century, make the church particularly fascinating. The tower collapsed in 1782 and the new one was completed in 1800.There is a "bleeding stone" in the wall which is known among the local people. According the legend the girl called "Kuussalon Kaarina" was beheaded on it.During the ...
Founded: 1767 | Location: Kangasala, Finland

Svartholma Fortress

Svartholma sea fortress was built by Swedish in the 18th century. Svartholma and near Loviisa land fortress were designated to defence strategic road from Turku tu Viborg and Sweden-Finland's eastern border against Russians. Svartholma construction started in 1748 and it was mostly completed in the 1760's. Svartholma was a typical bastion system including four bastions and an outer fortification.Svartholma played an signi ...
Founded: 1748-1770 | Location: Loviisa, Finland

Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas

The Orthodox Church of Kotka, known also as St. Nicolas church, was built between 1799-1801 under the Russian order. It was designed in accordance with drawings by Jakov Perrin, architect of the St Petersburg Admiralty. The orthodox church is probably the oldest building in Kotka and one of the rare to survive a British bombardment of the town in 1855.The church was built in Russian Neo-classicism style. Differing from a ...
Founded: 1799-1801 | Location: Kotka, Finland

Mustio Manor

Mustio manor ("Mustio Castle", "Svartå Slott") was built in 1783-1792 by Magnus Linder, the owner of the local ironworks. There had been an older manor from the 17th century, but it was dismantled when the present one was built. The manor represents the neoclassical ("kustavilainen") architecture.Today Mustio is a countryside hotel. There are also the old ironworks and one of the biggest private historical parks of Finla ...
Founded: 1783-1792 | Location: Mustio, Finland

Kökar Church

There may have been two or three wooden churches in Kökar since the last half of 14th century. During the 16th century a Franciscan monastery was founded on Hamnö island. This place became a spiritual and cultural centre for the entire archipelago.Today the ruins of monastery share their site with current Kökar's church, which is probably third in this place. It was built between 1769 and 1784 in charge of ...
Founded: 1769-1784 | Location: Kökar, Finland

Kellokoski Ironworks

Kellokoski ironworks was founded in 1795 and it manufactured all kind of agriculture tools until 1963. The wooden church was built in 1800. The nearby Kellokoski manor is functioned as a mental hospital since 1915.Today Kellokoski is a well-preserved milieu representing habitation and industry of the 19th century. The hospital museum, handicraft shops, restaurant and arboretum are located to the old ironworks buildings.
Founded: 1795 | Location: Tuusula, Finland

Tuusula Church

The current Tuusula Church was built in 1729-1734. The interior of this cross-formed wooden church is very ascetic. The builder was probably local peasant Erik Hannula, who also leaded construction. The belfry was added in 1746.
Founded: 1729-1734 | Location: Tuusula, Finland

Paltaniemi Church

First church in Paltaniemi was built in 1599, but it was destroyed by the very unusual earthquake in 1626. The next one was completed in 1665, but again it was destroyed by the Russian forces during the Greath Wrath in 1716. The current wooden church was built in 1726. Probably the oldest artifact inside the Paltainiemi church is the altarpiece from the year 1727. Famous paintings on the ceiling and walls was made by Eman ...
Founded: 1726 | Location: Kajaani, Finland

Nurmo Church

There was originally a small chapel in Nurmo built in 1727. After couple of decades it became too small for increasing population. The chapter denied the building of new church, but local people started however to construct it illegally in 1777. The building master was Antti Hakola, but he accidentally drowned to Nurmo river in 1778. His son, Kaappo Hakola, continued the construction and the church completed in 1779. The ...
Founded: 1777-1779 | Location: Seinäjoki, Finland

Ruotsinsalmi Sea Fortress

Ruotsinsalmi fortress was built by Russians in 1790-1796. It was part of the South-Eastern Finland fortification system which was planned to defence St. Petersburg. The sea fortress was located to islands in front of the city of Kotka and Kyminlinna fortress. It contained three main strongholds (Fort Katarina, Fort Elisabeth and Fort Slava) and several redoubts and artillery batteries.Ruotsinsalmi fortress lost its origin ...
Founded: 1790-1796 | Location: Kotka, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Sirmione Castle

Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.

Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.