Russian Grand Duchy

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.

Finland nevertheless enjoyed a high degree of autonomy, until its independence in 1917. In 1917, after the February Revolution in Russia, Finland's government worked towards securing and perhaps even increasing Finland's autonomy in domestic matters. On December 6, 1917, shortly after the October Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. After the Finnish Civil War, which led to a temporary majority of monarchists in the parliament, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse was elected the new monarch as king instead of grand prince, marking the new status of the nation, but he never reigned, as a republic was proclaimed.

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1809 and 1917 in Finland

Senate Square

Senate Square (Senaatintori) presents Carl Ludvig Engel's architecture as a unique allegory of political, religious, scientific and commercial powers in the centre of Helsinki. It has been the centrum of Helsinki since the city was established in 1640. Russians destroyed Helsinki entirely during the Great Northern War (1713-1721).When the Finland became an autonomous part of Russia in 1812, the capital was moved from Turk ...
Founded: 1816-1852 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral is a distinct landmark in the scenery of central Helsinki, with a tall green dome surrounded by four smaller domes. It was built in 1830–1852 in neoclassical style to replace an earlier church from 1727. The cathedral was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, to form the climax of the whole Senate Square laid out by Engel, surrounded by a number of buildings all designed by him.Today the cathedral is one ...
Founded: 1830-1852 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Havis Amanda

Havis Amanda is a nude female statue sculpted by Ville Vallgren (1855-1940). He made it 1906 in Paris, but was not erected at its present location at the Market Square in Kaartinkaupunki until 1908. Havis Amanda is one of Vallgren's Parisian Art Nouveau works. She is a mermaid who stands on seaweed as she rises from the water, with four fish spouting water at her feet and surrounded by four sea lions. She is depicted ...
Founded: 1906 (erected 1908) | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Presidential Palace

To the north of Kauppatori Square stands the Presidential Palace, one of C. L. Engel’s grand neo-classical buildings. Originally at the beginning of 19th century, a salt storehouse stood on the site. The entire lot was bought by merchant Johan Henrik Heidenstrauch who built the first palace in 1820. He had to sell it to the senate of Finland in 1837 and the building was moved to the official residence of the Tsar or Rus ...
Founded: 1816-1845 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Ateneum Art Museum

Ateneum is the national gallery of Finland presenting the most important art collection in Finland. Ateneum's collections includes several classics from most well-known Finnish artists like Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Helene Schjerfbeck and Albert Edefelt. There is also a fine collection of international art, among its gems the works of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.The museum building itself was designed by Theodor H& ...
Founded: 1887 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Uspenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary). The cathedral was designed by the Russian architect Alexey Gornostaev (1808–1862), but it was built after his death in 1862-1868. It was made of bricks brought mainly from Bomarsund fortress in Åland which had been destroyed during the Crimean War in 1854.Uspenski cathedral represents the Slavonic architec ...
Founded: 1862-1868 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Hakasalmi Villa

Hakasalmi Villa was built in 1843 by the procurator and privy counsellor Carl Johan Walleen as a combined city and country residence. The architect was E.B. Lohrmann from Berlin. Two wings were added to the front of the main building in 1847, the north one served as a bakery and the south one as a greenhouse. The villa was surrounded by a large English garden.The municipality of Helsinki bought Hakasalmi from Aurora Karam ...
Founded: 1843 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

The National Museum of Finland

The National Museum of Finland presents Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present day, through objects and cultural history. The permanent exhibitions of the National Museum are divided into six parts. The Treasure Troves presents the collections of coins, medals, orders and decorations, silver, jewellery and weapons. Prehistory of Finland is the largest permanent archeological exhibition in Finland. The Realm pre ...
Founded: 1905-1910 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

The Old Church

The old church of Helsinki was designed by famous architect C. L. Engel and completed in 1826. It was originally mentioned to be temporary church for the construction time of new cathedral in Senate Square. When the old Ulrika Eleonora Church was demolished, the recovered building materials and part of the movables were auctioned but some of the furnishings including the pulpit, benches and chandeliers as well as the org ...
Founded: 1826 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Tampere Old Church

The old church of Tampere is a wooden cruciform shape church built in 1824-1825. It’s the oldest public building in the downtown. The church was designed by Carlo Bassi. The belfry was added in 1828-1829. The first public park in Tampere was built around the church in 1835.The old church is popular for weddings and it’s open around the year from Wednesday to Sunday.
Founded: 1824-1825 | Location: Tampere, Finland

Tampere City Hall

Tampere neo-renaissance city hall was built in 1890 and was designed by Georg Schreck. At first all city bureaus were located to the city hall. During the Great Strike in 1905, the so-called "Red Manifest" was read from the balcony of the Tampere City Hall. The manifest was drawn up on behalf of the strike committee by several leaders of the Finnish Social Democrats. Among the demands made in the manifest were the resigna ...
Founded: 1890 | Location: Tampere, Finland

St. John's Church

St. John’s Church was built between 1888-1891. It was designed by A. E. Melander, who win the design competition in 1878. St. John’s Church is most remarkable sample of neo-gothic church architecture in Finland. It’s also biggest stone church in Finland with 2600 seats.The twin towers are 74 metres in height, and the church has excellent acoustics. It’s therefore used for big concerts and events as well as service ...
Founded: 1888-1891 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Observatory Hill

This 30 meters high rock hill was used as guard hill in the Middle Ages. If enemy ships were seen coming from the sea, fire was lighted to the hill to warn local people. After the great fire in Turku (1827), instruments and astronomical books of Turku University observatory were transferred to Helsinki.The Helsinki astronomical observatory was built to the hill in 1834. It designed in cooperation by professor Friedrich Wi ...
Founded: 1834 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Hatanpää Manor

First record of Hatanpää dates back to year 1540 and the first manor was built in the 1690s. Hans Boije (1717-1781) improved the farming business and increased Hatanpää prosperity significantly. He also built an English garden to Hatanpää with and hired 30 gardeners to maintain it. Boije was a freemasonry and added an stone to the park with Greek engraving Egno Kyrios tous ontas antou (Lord k ...
Founded: 1883-1885 | Location: Tampere, Finland

Finlayson

Finlayson ironworks and metallurgy factory was established in 1820 by the Scottish industrialist James Finlayson when he was noticed the energy potential of the free rapids in Tampere. Machine business was not very profitable and Finlayson started to manufacture and weave cotton yarn and textiles. James Finlayson sold the factory to Carl Samuel Nottbeck and Georg Rauch already in 1836. Oldest still existing building, "Kuu ...
Founded: 1820-1920 | Location: Tampere, Finland

German Church

The neo-gothic German Church was built in 1864 by Harald Bosse and C. J. von Heideken. The tower was added in 1897. It’s popular venue for weddings and concerts.
Founded: 1864 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Prison Museum

The prison museum introduces to the visitors the history of correctional treatment in Finland and the prison life in the past and these days. The most valuable item is the museum building itself with its authentic premises that have been maintained in their original condition since the time when the building still functioned as a prison. The building and the exhibition consist of three floors.The prison museum functions i ...
Founded: 1871 | Location: Hämeenlinna, Finland

Kallio Church

The spectacular Kallio church, designed by Lars Sonck and built in 1908–1912, represents the Finnish national romantic school of architecture, as well as a change to Art Nouveau. The bells of the tower play a melody composed by Jean Sibelius. Inside the church are numerous interesting details such as a crucifix and relief made by sculptor Hannes Autere.In the beginning of independent Finland Tolstoyan movement took ...
Founded: 1908-1912 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Oulu City Hall

The Oulu City Hall was completed in 1886 as a restaurant (“Seurahuone”). The neo-Renaissance building was designed by J. E. Stenberg. The city council moved to the house in 1921.
Founded: 1886 | Location: Oulu, Finland

Hietaniemi Cemetery

The Hietaniemi cemetery is the location for Finnish state funeral services and most remarkable cemetery in Finland. The cemetery was placed to Hietaniemi in 1829. It was originally a military cemetery for the Finnish Guard, which was part of the Russian army.The cemetery includes still a large military cemetery section for soldiers from the capital fallen in the wars against the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany: in the Winte ...
Founded: 1829 | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Tampere Orthodox Church

The Orthodox church of Tampere was built in Russian romantic style, with onion style cupolas, and was completed in 1899. The architect of the Russian army, T.U. Jasikov, drew the floor plan. The church was consecrated in 1899 to Saint Alexander Nevsky, a Novgorodian who in 1240 fought against the Catholic Swedes and two years later the Catholic Teutonic Knights with equal success, and was accordingly canoniced for these n ...
Founded: 1896-1899 | Location: Tampere, Finland

Military Museum of Finland

The Military Museum of Finland was earlier located in a garrison building designed by Evert Lagerspetz in 1883. This site was closed in 2016.
Founded: 1883 (Museum opened in 1948) | Location: Helsinki, Finland

Tampere Art Museum

The Tampere Art Museum was established in 1931. It was founded by the Tampere Art Society which had already been collecting art and arranging art exhibitions in Tampere since the beginning of the last century.The museum is renowned for its active exhibition policy, especially exhibitions presenting ancient cultures, wide-ranging publication activities, the Young Artist of the Year event and Moominvalley, which can be foun ...
Founded: 1838 (Art Museum 1931) | Location: Tampere, Finland

The Old Courthouse

The empire style Old Courthouse in Pori was built in 1839-1841. It is designed by the famous architect C. L. Engel who has also created the empire style Helsinki Senate Square and Cathedral. In the beginning the building functioned as an office of the municipality administration, but also as jail and fireguard’s house. The City Hall was damaged by fire in 1852. It was renovated to the original shape some years later ...
Founded: 1839-1841 | Location: Pori, Finland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Church of the Savior on Blood

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.