Tavastia (historical province)

Tavastia (historical province)

Tavastia, "Tavastland" or "Häme", is a historical province in the south of Finland. It borders to Finland Proper, Satakunta, Ostrobothnia, Savonia and Nylandia.


"For current affairs see: Southern Finland and Western Finland"

Tavastia is divided upon the administrative provinces of Southern Finland and Western Finland. The area of historical Tavastia now belongs to the modern regions of Tavastia Proper, Päijänne Tavastia, Pirkanmaa and Central Finland.


The prehistoric era of Tavastia can be said to end with the Second Swedish crusade in 1239. The construction of the Hämeenlinna ( _sv. Tavastehus) castle began in the 1260s, by orders of the Jarl Birger. It was to be the centre of the three "castle counties", the other two being the castle of Turku ( _sv. Åbo) in Finland Proper and Vyborg ( _sv. Viborg) castle in Karelia. After the peace Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323 the castle lost some of its importance as defense line against the East but remained an administrative centre. The province, which had been a part of Sweden from the 13th century, separated when Finland was ceded to Russia in 1809. The provinces have no administrative function today but live on as a historical legacy in both countries.

The Southern parts of the province have areas which have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Northern Tavastia, on the other hand, remained for a long time a wilderness frequented by Sami nomads and Finnish hunters. Only during the late Middle Ages was agriculture slowly introduced to the northern parts of the province. In the 19th century, the growth of the forest industry started to bring new wealth to the area. The waterways of Näsijärvi and Vanajavesi provided easy transport for the timber. The most notable centers of the paper industry were, and still are, Mänttä and Valkeakoski. The most notable industrial center in historical Tavastia, however, is Tampere, where a number of large textile mills and metal factories have been operating since the early 19th century.


Western Tavastia lies over both sides of the great Kokemäenjoki drainage basin. In Eastern Tavastia, the regions of Päijänne Tavastia and Central Finland are located around the Southern part of lake Päijänne. The Southern borders of the province roughly follow the Salpausselkä ridge. The Southern parts of the province consist of plains intermixed with fields and forests. Towards the North, the land gradually rises and becomes more hilly. At the same time, the proportion of cultivated land decreases, and the forests and mosses become ever more dominant. The Northern boundary of Tavastia is in Central Finland. As this area was inhabited only at the time of the replacement of the old provincial system with the county system, there is no definite knowledge on provincial boundaries in this area. The same applies to the North-Western border with Satakunta which is located in Pirkanmaa.

As a result of the original inhabitation period, the inhabited areas are located around the waterways, fields encircling especially the largest lakes. The lakes are navigable but the rapids of Kymijoki and Kokemäenjoki restrict navigation to the sea. Similarly, the lakes form three separate navigable areas. The lake of Näsijärvi can be navigated for over 100 kilometers north of Tampere, while the lakes Pyhäjärvi, Vanajavesi and Roinee have been connected by canals since 19th century, forming another significant waterway. Lake Päijänne, on the other hand connects Lahti and Päijät-Häme to Central Finland and Jyväskylä.



Arms granted at the burial of Gustav I of Sweden in 1560. The arms is crowned by a dukal coronet, though by Finnish tradition this more resembles a Swedish countal coronet. Blazon: "Gules, a lynx passant or, ear tufts sable; in chief three six-pointed stars, and in base four roses, all argent."

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