Grand Duchy of Finland

The Grand Duchy of Finland was a state that existed 18091917.

Storfurstendömet Finland
Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta
Official languages Swedish and, from 1883, Finnish
Established church Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox
Capital Turku (1809-1812)
Helsinki (1812-)
Head of stateGrand Duke of Finland
Area- km² (-)
Population1 636 900 (1850)
CurrencyBefore 1840 old Swedish money, Russian money and Finnish 'kopeekka' issued in Turku since 1811.
Ruble (18401859),
Markka as manifestation of quarter ruble (18601865),
Markka (1865–)


An extended Finland Proper was made a titulary Grand Duchy (more correctly, Grand Principality) in 1581, when king John III of Sweden, who as a prince had been royal duke of Finland (15561561/1563), extended the list of subsidiary titles to the Kings of Sweden considerably. The new title Grand Duke of Finland did not result in any increase of Finnish autonomy. (During the next two centuries, the title was used by some of John's successors on the throne, but not all (e.g. his brother Charles IX used King of the Finns in stead). Usually it was just a subsidiary title of the King, used only at very formal occasions. However, in 1802 as an indication of resolve to keep Finland within Sweden in face of increased Russian pressure, King Gustav IV Adolf gave the title to his new-born son, Prince Carl Gustaf, who died three years later.)

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. 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 duchy as a part of the Russian Empire. For the foundation of the Grand Duchy as an entity with relatively great autonomy within the Russian realm, and for the regain of the so called Old Finland, that was lost to Russia in the previous century, the Finland-born Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, councillor to the emperor, was instrumental.

The history of the Grand Duchy can briefly be characterized as:

  • 1809–1862: fifty years of consolidation, during which the Grand Duchy's authorities succeeded in convincing the Russian court of not only their but of all Finns' loyalty
  • 1863–1898: thirty-five years of increased independence, including the re-establishment of the Diet of Finland and the elevation of Finnish from a language for simple people to a national language equal to Swedish
  • 1899–1917: twenty years of attempted russification, although ultimately unsuccessful, nevertheless detrimental for Finland's relationship with the Soviet Union

The Tsar ruled Finland, through his governor and a native Senate appointed by him. The country 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 Finland's autonomy in domestic matters and possibly even its increase. On December 6, 1917, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Finland declared its independence. The new elected monarch (Väinö I) was to be king instead of Tsar, marking the new status of the nation, but he never reigned until republic was proclaimed.


The Russian Emperor ruled as the Grand Duke of Finland and was represented in Finland by the Governor-General of Finland. The Senate of Finland was the highest governing body of the Grand Duchy. In St. Petersburg Finnish matters were represented by the Finnish Minister Secretary of State. From 1863 and onwards the Diet of Finland convened regulalry.


Main article: Counties in Finland

The administrative division introduced during the Swedish era in 1634 was continued with little changes.


Missing image

Main article: Geography of Finland


Main articles: Flag of Finland, Coat of Arms of Finland

The arms were granted at the burial of Gustav Vasa in 1560 and still remain the arms of the Republic of Finland.

In the 1860s talk about a Finnish Flag started in the fennoman movement. In 1863 numerous proposals were presented for a national flag. [1] (!prop1.html) The two main proposals were flags based on red/yellow and blue/white. Unfortunately the flag proposals never had a chance to be presented to the Diet so none of them ever became an official flag. That didn't stop people from using different designs for flags of their own choosing.

Miscellaneous topics

io:Finlando kom autonomio fi:Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta


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