Finnish Elites and Russia in the Nineteenth Century

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The position of Finland in the Russian Empire affected relations between the Finnish elites –bureaucratic, economic and ideological – and their relations with popular groups within the grand duchy. The central elite, the highest echelons of the bureaucracy, assumed a dual role. This elite was the interface between the empire and the local population and it espoused both loyalty to the autocracy and consolidation of Finnish institutional distinctiveness – a position epitomized by the term “loyal patriotism.” The Finnish state and its central administration emerged as a result of an external decree, which gave the bureaucratic elite strong reasons for identifying with and further developing the new political unit. A major factor in this identification was the fact that the elite lacked a real power base, most notably landownership, outside the bureaucracy. In enhancing the country’s distinctiveness, the elite was well aware that it had to maintain loyalty to the autocracy and forestall all offences against social peace in the borderland. In its relations with popular domestic groups, the elite began to construct its legitimacy on its solidarity with the “people.” Unlike nationalism in many other ethnically distinct regions of multinational empires in the same epoch, the Finnish variant, Fennomania, was not only a movement for liberation and emancipation but also a version of state-based nationalism. It included both upper-class conservatism, loyalty to the mother country, and a strong populist component. Finally, the bureaucratic elite had to utilize the learned estate (the clergy and academics) in their efforts to maintain loyalty to the empire. This need created (limited) tensions between the bureaucracy and the ideological elite.
Translated title of the contributionSuomen eliitit ja Venäjä 1800-luvulla
Original languageEnglish
JournalПетербургский исторический журнал
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)104-128
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 615 History and Archaeology

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