History of the Åland Islands


History of the Åland Islands

Prehistory

Orrdalsklint and Långbergen in Saltvik, Åland's highest peaks, started rising from the Baltic sea (then Yoldia sea) c. 10000 years ago. The oldest archeological finds to denote the presence of humans on the isles represent the Comb Ceramic culture and date from c. 4000 BC. Around 2500 BC Pitted Ware starts to appear in Åland. From about 1800 BC finds from the Kiukainen culture start emerging. [" [http://web.archive.org/web/20060211070116/http://www.arkeologi.aland.fi/index.htm Stone Age Åland] " in Swedish. Retrieved 29 August 2006.]

Middle Ages

The Åland Islands occupy a position of great strategic importance, commanding as they do both one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm and the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated proximate to the Gulf of Finland.

During the period 1300 to 1600 Kastelholm Castle was a focal point for a number of battles and raids.

Between 1714 and 1721 Åland was attacked and devastated by Peter the Great's forces; most of the population fled at that time to Sweden.

The Åland Islands belonged to the provinces Sweden ceded to Russia, which became the semi-autonomous Grand duchy of Finland. When, by the treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809, the islands were ceded to Russia, the Swedes were unable to secure a provision that the islands should not be fortified. The question was, however, a vital one not only for Sweden but for Britain, whose trade in the Baltic was threatened.

Demilitarised

During the Crimean War, an Anglo-French force attacked and destroyed the fortress of Bomarsund in 1854, against the erection of which the British prime minister Palmerston had protested without effect some twenty years previously. By the Åland Convention, concluded between United Kingdom, France and Russia on March 30 1856, it was stipulated that "the Åland Islands shall not be fortified, and that no military or naval establishments shall be maintained or created on them." By the 33rd article of the Treaty of Paris 1856 this convention, annexed to the final act, was given "the same force and validity as if it formed part thereof", Palmerston declaring in the House of Commons on May 6 that it had "placed a barrier between Russia and the north of Europe."

Some attention was attracted to this arrangement when in 1906 it was asserted that Russia, under pretext of stopping the smuggling of arms into Finland, was massing considerable naval and military forces at the islands. The question of the Åland Islands created some discussion in 1907 and 1908 in connection with the new North Sea agreements, and undoubtedly Russia considered the convention of 1856 as rather humiliating. But it was plainly shown by other powers that they did not propose to regard it as modified or open to question, and the point was not definitely and officially raised.

The Anglo-French attack on Åland and Suomenlinna has been made into a Finnish song called "Oolannin sota".

Notes


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