General issues: Grand duchy in personal union with Russia 1856-1917, Republic 1917-Present
Country name on general issues: None, Suomi, Finland, Финляндия
- Local issues: Tampere 1866-1875
- Occupation issues: Aunus 1919, East Karelia 1941-1943
- Regional issues: Åland 1984-Present
Currency: 1 Ruble = 100 Kopeks 1856-1865, 1 Markka = 100 Penniä 1865-2001, 1 Euro = 100 Cents 2002-Present | Foreign mail 1 Ruble = 100 Kopeks 1891-1918
Population: 2 655 000 in 1900, 5 498 000 in 2016
Political history Finland
The grand duchy of Finland
Finland is located in northern Europe. What today constitutes Finland was, until 1809, part of the kingdom of Sweden. After the 1808-1809 Finnish War, between Sweden and Russia, Sweden ceded Finland to Russia by way of the Treaty of Fredrikshamm in 1809. Within the Russian empire, Finland was established as a grand duchy ruled in personal union by the tsar. Finland, as such, enjoyed an amount of self government. A governor-general, appointed by the tsar, presided over the senate of Finland that acted as the highest governing body and supreme court. The senate was composed of Finns. Furthermore, since 1863, the diet of Finland convened regularly as the legislative body. The diet was composed of representatives of the Finnish estates – the four classes of feudal society.In Finland these were the clergy, the nobility, the burghers and the peasants In 1906, the diet was replaced by a parliament to which all Finns were eligible through general elections. The power of the Finnish institutions was, however, curtailed by the tsar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as part of a general policy of centralization of power and Russification of ethnic minorities in Russia – a policy that furthered the call for independence in Finland.
Finland declared independence as a republic after the 1917 October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power in Russia. Russia recognized Finnish independence in 1918. The transition to independence would be a difficult one. Tensions between the social democrats and the conservative senate escalated into a short civil war, in 1918, in which the social democrats – the Reds – were supported by Bolshevik Russia and the conservatives – the Whites – by imperial Germany. The Whites came out victorious and the opposition government, formed by the RedsOfficially, the government of the ‘Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic’, was dissolved. Conservative ambitions to establish independent Finland as a monarchy had to be abandoned when German support failed after the end of WWI. In 1919, Finland adopted a republican constitution. Finland is a presidential republic until today.
Following independence, Finland was involved in a number of military expeditions in Russia – Russia at the time being engaged in civil war and confronted with a range of ethnic minorities across the empire proclaiming independence. In Finnish history, these expeditions are called the ‘Heimosodat’ which could be translated as ‘Wars for kindred peoples’.The expeditions were driven by three main considerations. First, by solidarity with the call for independence or association with Finland of other Finnic peoples. Second, by the concept of a Greater Finland that, aside from the Finns, would also comprise other Finnic peoples. Third, by the strategic notion of moving the Finnish border east to Lake Onega and the White Sea so that it would be easier to defend. The expeditions were, largely, volunteer expeditions – although condoned and, to a greater or lesser extent, supported by the Finnish government. When compared with the high strung ambitions of some of the volunteers, the expeditions met with limited success. The largest of these expeditions was the AunusAunus is Finnish and Karelian for the Russian town of Olonets expedition in the southern part of Russian Karelia. The expedition lasted from April 1919 to September 1919, when the Finnish forces were driven back across the border. In 1920, by way of the Treaty of Tartu, Finland and Russia settled the border. Finland gained Petsamo and the Rybachi peninsula in the far northPetsamo was of importance because of its nickel mines and the Rybachi peninsula because of its port., withdrew its forcesThe area around the towns of Porajärvi and Repola was occupied by regular Finnish forces after the townspeople had voted for association with Finland. and reneged claims to Russian Karelia.After the Treaty of Tartu, Finnish volunteers were once more engaged in Russia, when Russian Karelia declared independence in 1921. The Karelian uprising was suppressed in 1922.
In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact defining their respective spheres of influence in Europe – allowing Germany to advance east and the Soviet Union to advance west. Finland was in the Soviet sphere of influence and the Soviet Union demanded territorial concessions from Finland. When Finland refused, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, in November 1939, thus starting the Winter War. The Soviet Union came out victorious. By way of the Peace of Moscow, singed in March 1940, Finland was forced to cede the larger part of Finnish Karelia, four strategic islands in the Gulf of Finland, Salla and the Rybachi peninsula – in total about 10% of Finnish pre war territory. Furthermore Finland was forced to lease the Hanko peninsula to the Soviet Union to establish a naval base.
The tables turned in 1941. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Finland, supported by Germany, followed suit. In what is called the Continuation War, Finland not only regained the territories lost in 1940, but advanced well into Soviet Karelia. The occupied territory in Soviet Karelia was administered as East Karelia through military administration. In 1942 and 1943, military operations were limited, but the Soviets started a successful counteroffensive in June 1944. In September 1944, the Moscow Armistice was signed ending the Continuation War. The Soviet Union regained the territories Finland had ceded in 1940. In addition, Finland ceded Petsamo. Finally, Finland agreed to lease Porkkala to the Soviet Union as a substitute for the Hanko peninsula. The terms of the armistice were formalized as part of the Paris Peace Treaties in 1947. Thus, the borders of Finland were determined as we know them today. The lease of Porkkala ended in 1956.
The Moscow Armistice required Finland to secure the withdrawal of German forces that were stationed in Finland during the Continuation War. The process escalated into a military confrontation between Finland and Germany – the Lapland War. The Lapland War was fought between September 1944 and April 1945 when the last German forces had withdrawn from Finland.
Finland after WWII
During the Cold War, Finland balanced between East and West, pursuing a policy of neutrality. The relation with the neighboring Soviet Union was defined by the 1948 Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, which, to a certain extent, limited Finland in associating itself with the West. Thus, Finland stayed outside of the European Economic Community, the EEC, but did become an associated member of the European Free Trade Area in 1963 and a full member in 1986. The dominating figure in post war Finnish politics was Urho Kaleva Kekkonen – a centrist liberal who was prime minister between 1950 and 1956 and held the office of president between 1956 and 1982. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Finland, in 1995, became a full member of the successor to the EEC, the European Union.
Economy and demographics
Economically, Finland was long an agricultural country. Industrialization developed from the 1930’s and boomed in the 1950’s. Access to the market of the Soviet Union, by way of bilateral trade agreements, brought wealth to Finland. Finland developed into a welfare state with well developed institutions for education, health care and social security. Currently Finland is a mixed economy with services accounting for 70% of the GDP, industry for 27% and agriculture for 3%. Finland ranks 24th on the United Nations Human Development Index. Finland adopted the Euro in 2002.
The population is 93% Finnish and 5% Swedish with 1% of other origins. A small population of Sami, living in the northern region of Lapland, is recognized as an indigenous people.The Sami are a semi nomadic people also found in Norway, Finland and Russia. The Sami are, traditionally, also known as Lapps or Laplanders.
Åland is an archipelago in the Bothnic Sea. Having long been Swedish, Åland was ceded, with Finland, to Russia in 1809. Åland, however, has a majority Swedish population. In 1919, when Finland declared independence, a petition for association with Sweden was signed by 95% of the population. The case was presented to the League of Nations in 1921. The League of Nations confirmed the status of Åland as a part of Finland, requiring Finland to grant Åland a large degree of self government. Thus, Åland gained its own government and parliament. Åland is a self governing region of Finland until today.
Postal history Finland
The grand duchy of Finland
The first stamps in Finland were issued in 1856 – hand stamped and showing the coat of arms. The first printed stamps appeared in 1860 – showing the coat of arms and perforated with the characteristic serpentine roulette perforation. These first stamps were issued in Russian currency. In 1866, stamps were issued in Finnish currency – of a similar design to the 1860 issue. In 1875, the country designation was first used in both official languages: ‘Suomi’ in Finish and ‘Finland’ in Swedish.Swedish was long the only official language in Finland – Finnish became an official language only in 1863. The coat of arms would feature on Finnish stamps until 1889.
Concurrent with the national postal services, many local services existed in the early days of Finnish postal history. The Michel catalog mentions the issues for these local services. The Michel catalog only lists stamps issued for Tampere between 1866 and 1875 – inscribed ‘Tammerfors – Lokal Post’.Tampere is the Finnish name for the town, Tammerfors the Swedish name.
The Russification of Finland, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was directly reflected in the stamp issuing policy. A step by step discussion:
- In 1889, stamps were issued in a design similar to the 1875 and 1885 issues with the coat of arms – only now with the country designation added in Russian – Финляндия.
- In 1890, the Finnish postal services were officially subordinated to the Russian postal services.
- On 1 May 1891, stamps were issued in Russian currency and of a design closely resembling the contemporary Russian stamps – to be used for mail to Russia and mail abroad. While initially used concurrent with the earlier ‘Finnish’ issues, the use of these stamps was made compulsory for mail to Russia from 1 January 1892, and for mail abroad from 14 August 1900. Per the same dates, the earlier ‘Finnish’ issues were no longer valid for use to these destinations.
- On 14 January 1901, stamps were again issued in the Finnish currency – to be used for domestic mail. Again, the design closely resembled the contemporary Russian designs. The earlier ‘Finnish’ issues were no longer valid per the same date. A further issue for domestic mail followed on 14 May 1911 – of a different design, but again closely resembling the Russian issues of the time. The 1911 issues were valid until 31 May 1920.
- In 1899 the stock of 1891 issues for mail to Russia and mail abroad threatened to become depleted. Russian stamps – that had been declared valid for use in Finland from 1 May 1891 – were delivered to post offices in Finland in 1899 and 1900. Subsequently, these Russian stamps were – dependent on the denomination – brought into use on varying dates between 1899 and 1908. The 1891 issues were fully replaced by Russian stamps when they lost their validity in 1910 and 1911 dependent on the denomination. Russian stamps were valid until 25 April 1918.
The issues similar to the Russian designs bear no country designation. The issues for Finland and Russia differ in small alterations to the design in the 1891 issue, the use of the Finnish currency in the 1901 and 1911 issues and the use of different colors for the same denomination. For an excellent discussion of these differences please refer to the Finland 1856-1917 page on the Big Blue 1840-1940 blog.
The republic of Finland
The first stamps issued by the republic appeared in 1917. The arms of the republic – with the lion as the key feature – is the signature design element in Finnish definitives. Four long running series of different designs were issued between 1917 and 1930, between 1930 and 1954, between 1954 and 1975 and between 1975 and 1990. In the modern era, the stamps issued by Finland are a a blend of themes of national interest and themes of interest to the thematic collectors market.
Occupation issues have been issued twice. First, for use during the Aunus expedition in 1919 – stamps of the first set issued by the republic overprinted ‘Aunus’. Second, for use in occupied East Karelia between 1941 and 1944 – Finnish stamps overprinted ‘Itä-Karjala Sot. Halinto’ for ‘East Karelia Military Administration’. One semi postal of a specific design for East Karelia was issued in 1943 – the stamps show a bear in a design closely resembling the design of the stamps issued in 1922 by Karelia during the 1921-1922 Karelian UprisingKarelia will be discussed in a separate profile.
The self governing region of Åland issued stamps from 1984 – a blend of themes of national interest and themes of interest to the thematic collectors market.