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 Ehrensv&aum ...
Founded: 1748-1917 | Location: Helsinki, 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

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

Teisko Church

Teisko church was completed in 1788, but it was inaugurated and taken into use in August 1787 while the construction work was still incomplete. This was necessary due to the poor condition of the previous church. The bell-tower was made ten years later by Åkerblom. The basic form of the church is a cross with sloped inside angles. Of the many repairs performed on this wood-framed church, the overall look of the bui ...
Founded: 1788 | Location: Tampere, 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

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

Tohmajärvi Church

The wooden church of Tohmajärvi the oldest church in North Carelia. The church was built in 1756 and the bell tower couple of years later. The altarpiece is painted by Mikael Toppelius. The location on the small peninsula is one of the most beautiful church sites in Finland. Other monuments in church grounds are a memorial to those who fell and were left behind in Carelia, (now Russian Republic of Karelia) and Bisho ...
Founded: 1756 | Location: Tohmajärvi, 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

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

Lemi Church

Construction of the first church in Lemi was started in 1668, but it was destroyed by arson already in 1670. The next one was completed in 1688 and used for one hundred years. The present one was built in 1786 by the local church builder Juhana Salonen. The wooden crusiform-shaped church is one of the most valuable wooden churches in the Europe.
Founded: 1786 | Location: Lemi, 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

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

Kuru Church

The wooden church of Kuru was completed in 1781. It is designed and built by Matti Åkerblom and has 700 seats. In 1848 a sacristy was built on the east side of the church. The altarpiece is painted by B. A. Thule in 1852.The Kuru Church is a well-preversed and good sample of wooden church architecture in Southwest Finland.
Founded: 1781 | Location: Ylöjärvi, Finland

Luoto Church

Luoto Church was built in between 1785 and 1789 by Jacob Rijf, the church builder from Pietarsaari. The nearby Marieholm manse dates back to the 19th century. There has been also one of the first post offices in Finland.Luoto church environment is exceptionally well-preserved milieu in the Ostrobothnia area. It is defined as a national built heritage by National Board of Antiques.
Founded: 1785-1789 | Location: Luoto, Finland

Haukipudas Church

The first church in Haukipudas was probably built in the Middle Ages and it was located to the Kello village. The church or chapel was mentioned in the letter dated back to the year 1488 (found from the Vatican archives of Pope Innocent VIII).The present wooden cruciform church was completed in 1764. It is designed by Matti Honka and built by Jaakko Suonperä. Originally Haukipudas church was named as Ulrika’s C ...
Founded: 1762-1764 | Location: Haukipudas, Finland

Soini Church

The wooden church of Soini municipality was built by Yrjö Lepistö and in completed in 1793. The present appearance date mainly from the restoration made in 1885. The bell tower was erected in 1795. There is an old cemetery surrounding the church with a monument erected for people died of starvation in the 19th century. National Board of Antiques has defined Soini church site as a national built heritage. The un ...
Founded: 1793 | Location: Soini, Finland

Nötö Village & Chapel

Because of its central location, the island has been important to the communications and commerce in the region. The settlement of Nötö has been dated to the early 11th century, and the assumption is that vikings stopped by during their travels and possibly even settled on the island.A culturally and historically valuable village consisting of old farms ('hemman') still exists on the island. In the centr ...
Founded: 1757 (the chapel) | Location: Länsi-Turunmaa, Finland

Loviisa Fortress

After the Sweden's defeat in Russo-Swedish War 1741-1743 (also known as the Hats' Russian War) eastern border of Finland was moved to west. Important fortresses of Hamina, Lappeenranta and Savonlinna were left to Russian side of border. The city of Loviisa was established in 1745 to handle a international commerce in Finland. Planning of the new fortification system started concurrently, because Loviisa was located alongs ...
Founded: 1748-1757 | Location: Loviisa, Finland

Lohtaja Church

The present church of Lohtaja was completed in 1768 and it is fourth or fifth in Lohtaja. The latest church was located to the higher place as the landmark for seafarers. There are several artefacts originating from the previous church built in 1644.
Founded: 1768 | Location: Kokkola, 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

Provincial Museum of Southern Ostrobothnia

The provincial museum is located in the Östermyra ironworks and manor site. The ironworks was founded in 1798 and the manor house was built in 1806. The museum area consists several buildings and the main building is an old stone cowshed. The basic exhibitions present the life of agrarian communities, rural trade and handicraft skills, a countryside pharmacy and a gunpowder museum.
Founded: 1798 | Location: Seinäjoki, Finland

Velkua Church

Velkua Church, also known as St. Henry’s Church, was built in 1793. The wooden church is the only one ever built to Velkua. After the Palva sea battle in 1808 Russian soldiers robbed all movable inside the church. Only the original altarpiece survived and is still in the church. New church bells were added in 1813. Today the church site is marked as national built heritage by National Board of Antiques.
Founded: 1793 | Location: Naantali, Finland

Kustavi Church

There were originally two wooden chapels in Kustavi, one in Vartsala (first record from the year 1554) and another in Kunnarainen (1675). In 1783 Kunnarainen chapel was moved to the current site and reconstructed by J. Höckert. The new parish church was named after the king of Sweden, Gustaf III. The church was enhanced between years 1876-1879 and again in 1928.The pulpit dates back to the 1640s. There are also coupl ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Kustavi, Finland

Iniö Church

Iniö stone church was built in 1797-1800 by architect Mikael Piimänen. It’s named after Sophia Wilhelmina, the princess of Sweden. In 1880 the church was damaged badly by fire, but it was restored soon. The altarpiece was made by Wivi Munsterhjelm (1907). Iniö church and the village are defined as national built heritage.
Founded: 1797-1800 | Location: Kustavi, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle de Haar

Castle de Haar is the largest and most fairytale-like castle in the Netherlands. The current buildings, all built upon the original castle, date from 1892 and are the work of Dutch architect P.J.H. Cuypers, in a Neo-Gothic restoration project funded by the Rothschild family.

The oldest historical record of a building at the location of the current castle dates to 1391. In that year, the family De Haar received the castle and the surrounding lands as fiefdom from Hendrik van Woerden. The castle remained in the ownership of the De Haar family until 1440, when the last male heir died childless. The castle then passed to the Van Zuylen family. In 1482, the castle was burned down and the walls were torn down, except for the parts that did not have a military function. These parts probably were incorporated into the castle when it was rebuilt during the early 16th century. The castle is mentioned in an inventory of the possessions of Steven van Zuylen from 1506, and again in a list of fiefdoms in the province Utrecht from 1536. The oldest image of the castle dates to 1554 and shows that the castle had been largely rebuilt by then. After 1641, when Johan van Zuylen van der Haar died childless, the castle seems to have gradually fallen into ruins. The castle escaped from total destruction by the French during the Rampjaar 1672.

In 1801 the last catholic van Zuylen in the Netherlands, the bachelor Anton-Martinus van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1708-1801) bequeathed the property to his cousin Jean-Jacques van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1752-1846) of the catholic branch in the Southern Netherlands. In 1890, De Haar was inherited by Jean-Jacques' grandson Etienne Gustave Frédéric Baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt van de Haar (1860-1934), who married Baroness Hélène de Rothschild. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers in 1892 to rebuild the ruinous castle, which took 15 years.

In 1887, the inheritor of the castle-ruins, Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt, married Hélène de Rothschild, of theRothschild family. Fully financed by Hélène's family, the Rothschilds, the couple set about rebuilding the castle from its ruins. For the restoration of the castle, the famous architect Pierre Cuypers was hired. He would be working on this project for 20 years (from 1892 to 1912). The castle has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, of which only a small number on the ground floor have been opened to be viewed by the public. In the hall, Cuypers has placed a statue with his own image in a corner of the gallery on the first floor.

The castle was equipped by Cuypers with the most modern gadgets, such as electrical lighting with its own generator, and central heating by way of steam. This installation is internationally recognized as an industrial monument. The kitchen was for that period also very modern and still has a large collection of copper pots and pans and an enormous furnace of approximately 6 metres long, which is heated with peat or coals. The tiles in the kitchen are decorated with the coats of arms of the families De Haar and Van Zuylen, which were for this purpose especially baked in Franeker. Cuypers marked out the difference between the old walls and the new bricks, by using a different kind of brick for the new walls. For the interior Cuypers made a lot of use of cast iron.

In the castle one can see many details which reminds one of the family De Rothschild, such as the David stars on the balconies of the knight's hall, the motto of the family on the hearth in the knight's hall (A majoribus et virtute) and the coat of arms of the family right underneath on the hearth in the library.

The interior of the castle is decorated with richly ornamented woodcarving, which reminds one of the interior of a Roman Catholic church. This carving was made in the workshop of Cuypers in Roermond. The place where later also the interiors of many Roman Catholic churches were made, designed by Cuypers. Cuypers even designed the tableware. The interior is also furnished with many works of the Rothschild collections, including beautiful old porcelain from Japan and China, and several old Flemish tapestries and paintings with religious illustrations. A showpiece is a carrier coach of the woman of a Shogun from Japan. There is only one more left in the world, which stands in a museum in Tokyo. Many Japanese tourists come to De Haar to admire exactly this coach, which was donated from the Rothschilds collections.

Surrounding the castle there is a park, designed by Hendrik Copijn, for which Van Zuylen ordered 7000 fully grown trees. Because these could not be transported through the city of Utrecht, Van Zuylen bought a house and tore it down. The park contains many waterworks and a formal garden which reminds one of the French gardens of Versailles. During the Second World War many of the gardens were lost, because the wood was used to light fires, and the soil was used to grow vegetables upon. At this time, the gardens are restored in their old splendor.

For the decoration of the park, the village Haarzuilens, except for the town church, was broken down. The inhabitants were moved to a place a kilometer further up, where a new Haarzuilens arose, where they lived as tenants of the lord of the castle. This new village was also built in a pseudo-medieval style, including a rural village green. The buildings were for the most part designed by Cuypers and his son Joseph Cuypers.