Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Rossijskaja Karelija i karely v imperskoi politike Rossii, 1905-1917

Marina Vituhnovskaja

Doctoral dissertation, October 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of History.

Russian Karelians were one of the small peasant nations of the Russian Empire that began to identify themselves as nations during the late imperial period. At that historical moment Russian Karelia fell between an economically undeveloped empire and the rapidly modernizing borderland of Finland. The economic and cultural lure of Finland drew Karelians into the Finnish camp. This attraction was seen as a challenge to Russia and influenced the straggle between Russia and Finland for the Karelians. This struggle was waged from 1905 to 1917. This work is focused on the beginning stage of the struggle, its various phases, and their results.

The confrontation extended into different dimensions (economic, political, ideological, church and cultural politics) and occurred on two levels: central and regional. Countermeasures against local nationalisms developed much earlier both in Russia and in other empires for use were also used in the Russian Karelian case. Economic policies were deployed to try to make relations with Russia more alluring for Karelians and to improve their economic condition. However, these efforts produced only minimal results due to the economic weakness of the empire and a lack of finances. Fear of the economic integration of the Karelians and Finns, which would have stimulated the economy of the Karelia, also hindered these attempts. The further development of the Orthodox Church, the schools and the zemstvos in Karelia yielded fewer results than expected due to the economic underdevelopment of the region and the avoidance of the Finnish language. Policizing measures were the most successfull, as all activities in Russian Karelia by the Finns were entirely halted in practice. However, the aspiration of Russian Karelians to integrate their home districts with Finland remained a latent force that just waited for an opportunity to push to the surface again. Such a chance materialized with the Russian revolution.

The Karelian question was also a part of Russian domestic political confrontation. At the and of the 1800s, the Russian nationalist right had grown strong and increasingly gained the favor of the autocracy. The right political forces exploited the Karelian question in its anti-Finnish ideology and in its general resistance to the national emancipation of the minority peoples of Russia. A separate ideology was developed, focusing on the closeness of Karelians to the "great Russian people." Simultaneously, this concept found a place in the ultramonarchist myth of the particularly close connection between the people and tsar that was prominent in the era of Nicholas II. This myth assigned the Karelians a place amongst the "simple people" faithful to the tsar.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 18.09.2006

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