Old Finland

Old Finland
The areas that Sweden lost to Russia in the wars of 1721 and 1743

Old Finland (Finnish: Vanha Suomi, Swedish: Gamla Finland) is a name used for the areas that Russia gained from Sweden in the Great Northern War and in the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743). Old Finland was joined to the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland as Viipuri province in 1812.

  • In the Peace Treaty in 1721, that concluded the Great Northern War, Sweden had to cede the Käkisalmi County and Viborg/Viipuri County (the ceded Finnish-speaking Ingria around Saint Petersburg however was not included in Old Finland).
  • In the Peace Treaty in 1743 Sweden had to cede the areas in southern Karelia east of the Kymi river and around Savonlinna.

The area corresponded largely with that of the medieval province subjugated to the Viipuri castle.

The Russian ruler guaranteed religion, properties, old Swedish laws and privileges of the inhabitants of these territories. However, a circumvention occurred, as Russian administrators and military were unfamiliar with Swedish system, and were used to a different system with its enslaved peasants, the serfdom. As a result, the economy of the area was markedly different compared to that on the other side of the border.

The ruler's guarantee froze the situation, thus legal developments in Sweden were not introduced to these areas: the Viipuri and Käkisalmi territory did not adopt the 1734 General Law of Sweden (though Hamina (Fredrikshamn), Lappeenranta (Villmanstrand) and Savonlinna (Nyslott), at the time still Swedish, of course did), and the new constitution of Gustav III was out of question in the entire area.

The territories enjoyed a sort of autonomy and much particularism, since the Russian rulers applied similar principles here as in Baltic Provinces. The administration resembled a German principality, rather than a Russian province.

Under Russian rule the combined territories formed the Vyborg Governorate, or Government of Vyborg.

Ecclesiastically, the areas were administered as a diocese, but without a bishop. The church building in Viipuri and another in Hamina were assigned as cathedrals, with a diocesan chapter ("consistory"), led by the archdean.

The area was not forced to contribute men to the Russian Army until 1797. However there were many non-Finnish troops in the area, especially after the 1788-90 war.

Scandinavian-style district courts continued in judicial function, each with a judge and laymen members. However the Russian estate owners and military often ignored their decisions and imposed illegal punishments on the peasants.

Because of the apathy dominating the area not many figures from the area have a place in history. Two of them are Maximilian von Alopeus and his brother David Alopaeus, born in a Finnish family in Viipuri and both later serving many posts in Imperial administration, including ambassador in some Central European countries.

These areas were later referred to as Old Finland and from the beginning of the year 1812 they were incorporated in the Grand Duchy of Finland. Basically, the population in these provinces came to the same legal system as the Grand Duchy, including its Constitution and General Law, although some privileges took time to adapt, and so-called donated estates (owned by Russian noblemen) in Karelia were a headache that was resolved slowly by monetary compensations from the Grand Duchy's Treasury. This was a long lasting burden, as the last was not until the 1870s.

See also

  • Fief of Viipuri
  • Finnish Karelia
  • History of the administrative division of Russia


  • Viipurin läänin liittäminen muun Suomen yhteyteen, A. Danielsson-Kalmari

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