Scandinavia and the World

Comments #9604885:

Living Hell 4 3, 9:52pm


"Far right, sure. Saw that one coming miles away."

Well I did expressly write in my comment to ThorsomeTarmukas, as you yourself quoted:

"apart from possibly the far-right party in Finland I think you'd be hard pressed to find a Finn that thinks that Sweden has ever treated them wrongly"

So of course you saw that coming. It still doesn't change the fact that Finns expressing your opinion here is a clear minority that usually belong to the far-right hyper-Nationalists.

"You are trying to tell here that Sweden always was this cool and tolerant kingdom, which was not the case."

No, I'm saying Sweden was always more tolerant then the nations surrounding it and in the rest of Europe. That doesn't mean we never did anything wrong or that we had the exact same position on every single issue 500 years ago as we do today - of course not. Sweden has evolved just like ever other nation. But we have consistently been more tolerant then our neighbors - both 500 years ago and today.

Regarding the comparison with Russian you ignore the complete historical situation.
The truth is that the area that would later become Finland was even harder to settle and less populated then the area that would later become Sweden a thousand years ago.

There were simply not enough people living in what would later become Finland for them to be able to form a workable state, so that area was destined to either be incorporated into Sweden to the west or Novgorod (which would later become Russia) to the east.
Sweden and Novgorod fought over the area and Sweden won out.

Now in Russia the ordinary people where not free, but serfs - which is just another word for slaves. They where considered part of the land they farmed and like any other property bought and sold by the owners of that land. If Finland had become part of Russian that is how the majority of Finns would have spent hundreds of years - as serfs owned by Russian noblemen.

In Sweden there was no serfdom and not even the feudal system of the south and west of Europe. In Sweden many peasants owned their own land and was afforded representation in parliament - unlike everywhere else. So obviously Sweden was more tolerant and more equal then the rest or Europe. Not perfectly so of course - the peasants still had it much worse then the nobility. But it was never as bad in Sweden as in other countries. And the area that would later become Finland was obviously lucky to come under Swedish rule instead of Russian.

From Wikipedias entry on Serfdom:
"In Finland, Norway and Sweden, feudalism was not established, and serfdom did not exist; however, serfdom-like institutions did exist in both Denmark and its vassal Iceland"

Sweden was a regional power in the Baltic for many hundreds of years, but beginning with tsar Peter the Great Russia started getting it's act together and much smaller Sweden couldn't keep up.
The last time we had a chance at beating the Russians was under Charles the XII in the early 1700's but after he was defeated at Poltava in 1709 we clearly lost all ability to match them.

Despite this fact the Swedish nobility and Swedish kings refused to accept reality and continued living in the fantasy that Sweden was much stronger and more influential then it actually was. So between Poltava in 1709 and 1809 Sweden and Russia fought three wars - the first two of which where started by a clearly over confident Sweden.

Both of these ended in complete failure and no borders where changed. Russia wasn't really interested in claiming any Swedish territories because by this time they where expanding south and east and just wanted Sweden to leave it alone. They easily beat Sweden's pathetic little armies and where happy to accept a return to status quo.

Then, in 1809 Russia actually attacked Sweden - but that war wasn't by Russia's own choosing either.

Because by then Russia had, after having been defeated by them at Austerlitz and then Friedland, been forced to enter into an alliance with Napoleonic France and Napoleon demanded that Russia attacked Sweden - who was part of the coalition against France.

So Russia was forced to attack Sweden and this time actually prepared for war. Sweden was hopelessly outmatched and the Russian armies easily swept over Finland and into Sweden. Sweden was soon forced to sue for peace. Now this time Russia actually did claim territory - Finland - but they did so only to once and for all put a stop to Swedish war mongering.

They didn't particularly want Finland - they just wanted Sweden to stop attacking them, and took Finland as a buffer state for this purpose.

Now at that time - 1809 - the peasants in Russia where still serfs, as they had been for hundreds of years (serfdom wasn't abolished until 1861) - but the Finns where not forced into serfdom.
Why? Because the Russians realized it would have led to massive rebellions in Finland if they had tried to treat the Finns as bad as their own people.

So that period that you describe as better for Finland then under Swedish rule was actually an anomaly for Russia. The Finns where treated better then any other Russian subjects because the Russians wanted to pacify the Finnish population and keep the country as a quiet buffer state.

The Russians didn't suddenly become more tolerant rulers by acquiring Finland - they just realized that the Finns, used to a much more tolerant rule under Sweden, would never accept the Russian way.

Later on in the 1800's, with the Russians less worried about Swedish aggression and Finnish rebellion, they started to press Finland into becoming more of a normal Russian territory. By then serfdom was abolished in Russia too so they didn't press for that, but they wanted to strip Finland of the special treatment it had been getting since 1809.

The historical evidence is clear - Finland under Russian rule remained peaceful and relatively content as long as the Russians didn't actually change anything from the way Finland had been run under Sweden for hundreds of years. But when the Russians did try to enforce their way and turn Finland into an ordinary Russian province by the late 1800's, the Finnish people protested vehemently.
Life under Russian rule was clearly not better for the Finns.

Now of course the view of Russia from a Finnish perspective is mostly colored by the subsequent wars, but even before them Finland had good reason to resent Russia's treatment of them and view Swedish rule as preferable of the two.

"I am arguing your naive world view and "Sweden did nothing wrong"-attitude."

Again - I'm not arguing Sweden never did anything wrong. I'm only arguing Sweden did less wrong and treated it's people better then any comparable nation at the same time in history. And I'm not saying Sweden did this because it's better or more enlightened then anyone else - I'm saying they did it because it was understood in Swedish society that you get better results from a small population by treating everyone more fairly and not strong arm them into submission.
And this isn't just an opinion - it's based on historical fact.