The attitude of the population of Finland toward Russia is not at all so inimical as would appear on reading the articles in the foreign press proceeding from the pen of hostile journalists.
Russia Absorbs Finland, featuring a series of excerpts selected from sundry observers and participants writing in the 1910’s. This installment continues the explanation by Baron Von Plehve, Russia’s Interior Minister who controlled Finland during this time.
Previously in Finland Absorbed by Russia. Now we continue.
This law, in its application to the new conscription regulations, has alleviated the condition of the population of Finland. The military burden laid on the population of the land has been decreased from 2,000 men to 500 per annum, and latterly to 280. As you will see, there is in reality no opposition between the will of the Emperor of Russia as announced to Finland in 1899 and his generous initiative at The Hague Conference. But, you ask me, has not this confirmation of the ancient principles of Russian state policy in Finland been bought at too dear a price? I shall try to answer you. The hostility of public opinion toward us in the West in connection with Finnish matters is much to be regretted, but hopes may be entertained that under the influence of better information on Finnish affairs this hostility may lose its present bitterness. We are accustomed, moreover, to see that the West, while welcoming the progressive development of Russia along the old lines it, Europe, has followed itself, is not always as amicably disposed toward the growth of the political and social self-consciousness of Russia and toward the independent historical process taking place in her in the shape of the concentration of her forces for the fulfilment of her peaceful vocation in the history of the human race.
The attitude of the population of Finland toward Russia is not at all so inimical as would appear on reading the articles in the foreign press proceeding from the pen of hostile journalists. To the honor of the best elements of the Finnish population, it must be said that the degree of prosperity attained by Finland during the past century under the egis of the Russian throne is perfectly evident to them; they know that it is the Russian Government which has resuscitated the Finnish race, systematically crushed down as it had been in the days of Swedish power. The more prudent among the Finlanders realize that now, as before, the characteristic local organization of Finland remains unaltered, that the laws which guarantee the provincial autonomy of Finland are still preserved, and that now, as before, the institutions are active which satisfy its social and economic needs on independent lines.
They understand, likewise, the real causes of the increasing emigration from Finland. If, along with them, political agitation has also played a certain part, alarming the credulous peasantry with the specter of military service on the distant borders of Russia, yet their emigration was and remains an economic phenomenon. Having originated long before the issue of the manifesto of 1899, it kept increasing under the influence of bad harvests, industrial crises, and the demand for labor in foreign lands. Such is also the case in Norway, where the percentage of emigration is even greater than in Finland.
Having elucidated the substantially unalterable aims of Russian policy in Finland, let us proceed to the causes which have led to its present incidental and temporary form of expression. This, undoubtedly, is distinguished by its severity, but such are the requirements of an utilitarian policy. By the bye, the total of these severe measures amounts to twenty-six Finlanders expelled from the country and a few officials dismissed the service without the right to a pension. It was scarcely possible, however, to retain officials in the service of the state once they refused to obey their superiors. Nor was it possible to bear with the existence of a conspiracy which attempted to draw the peaceful and law-abiding population into a conflict with the Government, and that, too, at a moment when the prudent members of the population of the duchy took the side of lawful authority, thereby calling forth against themselves persecution on the part of the secret leaders of the agitation party. The upholders of the necessity for a pacific policy toward Russia were subjected to moral and sometimes physical outrage, and their opponents were not ashamed to institute scandalous legal processes against them for the purpose of damaging their reputations.
Very different is the attitude of the great mass of the population, as the following incident shows: The president of the Abo Hofgericht, declining to follow the instructions of the party hostile to Russia, was, on his arrival in Helsingfors, subjected to a variety of insults from the mob gathered at the railway station. On his return to Abo he was, on the contrary, presented with an address from the peasantry and local landowners, in which the following words occur: “We understand very well that you have been led to your patriotic resolve to continue your labors in obedience to the government by deep conviction, and do not require gratitude either from us or from any others; but at the important crisis our people is now experiencing it may be of some relief to you to learn that the preponderating majority of the people, and especially in broader classes, gratefully approve of the course you have taken.”
It will scarcely be known to any one in the West that when signatures were being gathered for the great mass-address of protest dispatched to St. Petersburg in 1899, those who refused their signatures numbered martyrs among them. There are some who for their courage in refusing their signatures suffered ruin and disgrace and were imprisoned on trumped-up charges. Moreover, the agitators aimed at infecting the lower classes of the population with their intolerance and their hatred of Russians, but, it must be said, with scant success.
With regard to the essence of the question, I repeat that in matters of government temporary phenomena should be distinguished from permanent ones. The incidental expression of Russian policy, necessitated by an open mutiny against the Government in Finland, will, undoubtedly, be replaced by the former favor of the sovereign toward his Finnish subjects as soon as peace is finally restored and the current of social life in that country assumes its normal course. Then, certainly, all repressive measures will be repealed. But the realization of the fundamental aim which the Russian Government has set itself in Finland – (i.e. , the confirming in that land of the principle of imperial unity) – must continue, and it would be best of all if this end were attained with the trustful cooperation of local workers under the guidance of the sovereign to whom Divine Providence has committed the destinies of Russia and Finland.
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