History of Finland between 1809 - 1917
The Grand Duchy of Finland (literally Grand Principality of Finland) was the predecessor state of modern Finland. It existed 1809–1917 as part of the Russian Empire and was ruled by the Russian Emperor as Grand Prince. 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 who in return guaranteed that the laws and liberties as well as religion would be left unchanged. 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 principality, a constitutional monarchy within the autocratic Russian Empire although the usual balance of power between monarch and diet resting on taxation was not in place since the Emperor could rely on the rest of his vast Empire. The title "Grand Prince of Finland" was added to the long list of titles of the Russian Tsar. After his return to Finland in 1812, the Finnish-born Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt became councillor to the Russian emperor. Armfeldt was instrumental in securing the Grand Principality as an entity with relatively greater autonomy within the Russian realm, and for regaining the so-called Old Finland that was lost to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad in 1721.
The history of the Grand Principality can briefly be characterised as:
The constitutional status of Finland was not codified in Russian law before the February Manifesto of 1899, by which time Finns and Russians had developed quite different ideas about the status of Finland. The autonomy of Finland was at first encouraged by the Russians in part due to the relatively developed governmental structures in Finland (as compared to the emperor-centered Russia of early 19th century) and in part as a deliberate policy of goodwill to win over the minds of the Finnish people. The autonomous status led Finns to develop their own ideas of nationalism and constitutional monarchy, which they could to a large extent implement in practice with the assent of the Tsar. However, while each tsar at the time of his coronation did agree to uphold the special status of the local laws in Finland, there is no evidence that they understood their position as one of a constitutional monarch, despite the growing prevalence of such an interpretation in Finland in the latter part of the 19th century. As governmental organizations developed in Russia, and unity of the empire became one of the leading tenets of Russian politics, clashes between the Russian and Finnish governmental organizations grew frequent and led to the attempted russification.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.