History of Karelia

The religious and administrative struggle for Karelia between Sweden and Russia went on for seven hundred years, beginning at the age of The Crusades until the 1809 treaty of Hamina, whereupon the region of Finland became an autonomous part of the Russian empire. The catholic, later lutheran Sweden and the orthodox Russia, as well as its predecessor Novgorod, also sought for supremacy over Karelia at this time. The area had been relatively autonomous until Novgorod subjugated it in the 1200s. Sweden spread out from the west.

Formally, the dispute ended in 1323 with the treaty of Pähkinäsaari, where Karelia was divided into two parts – Viipuri-Karjala, belonging to Sweden and Käkisalmi-Karjala, belonging to Novgorod. The treaty stipulated that Sweden would get the Savo, Jääski and Äyräpää districts, that probably had been under Swedish power since the third crusade to Karelia in 1293.

In the late 1500s, Sweden began to remake itself into a great power. During the 25 Year War, which broke out in 1570, the country invaded Käkisalmi. Ivan the Terrible, the Grand Duke of Moscow, started the war when Gustav Vasa´s son Johan was crowned king of Sweden. The men were in dispute because John had married the King of Poland´s daughter, the passionately Catholic Katarina Jagellonica, for whom also Ivan had a soft spot. In 1580, Sweden conquered Käkisalmi and held it until the treaty of Täysinä in 1595, when Russia took over the area. However, Sweden´s expansion policy, which was to move the border as far to the east as possible, still continued. In the treaty of Stolbova in 1617, Käkisalmi was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sweden.

The Swedish administrative machinery, including its taxation system, was used in Käkisalmiexholm during the period of occupation, even before the peace treaty. Meanwhile, the gospel of the western church message continued to be spread and Lutheran congregations, which had not previously existed in the area, were founded.

In 1700, the Suuri Pohjan Sota war (Great Northern War) broke out. Beginning from the year 1710, the Russians occupied Finland stepwise. This led to the Isoviha war, (The Great Hate War), which lasted until 1721, when it ended with the treaty of Uusikaupunki. In this peace treaty, the Karelian provinces of Käkisalmi and Viipuri were incorporated into Russia almost in their entirety. This area was called Old Finland. Old Finland was expanded during Pikkuviha, the next military encounter between Sweden and Russia. Pikkuviha ended with the treaty of Turku, where the area that follows the western branch of the river Kymijoki was incorporated into Old Finland. This strip of land included, amongst others, Savonlinna, Hamina and Lappeenranta.

As a conclusion to the Suomen Sota -war in 1808-1809, Sweden also lost the rest of Finland. In the beginning of 1812, Vanha Suomi was joined to the rest of the autonomous Finland. The autonomy ended 6.12.1917, when Finland became independent. The last few years of autonomy was characterised by Russification and periods of oppression. During this time Russia tried to Russify the educational system in the border-area of Raja-Karjala. Periods of oppression led to the birth and growth of the idea of ​​an independent Finland.

The Karelian area once again became a battlefield when the Talvoisota war (Winter War) broke out 30.11.1939. The Treaty of Moscow in 1940 ended the 105 day long war and Karelia, the islands of the Gulf of Finland and a strip of the Salla-Kuusamo area was incorporated into the Soviet Union. In addition, Finland was forced to rent out the cape of Hanko to the Eastern superpower. In the summer of 1941, the Jatkosota war (Continuation War) broke out. Finland reconquered the lost areas and advanced across the old border and into Itä-Karjala, the eastern part of Karelia. In 1944, the Soviet Union launched a major offensive on the Karelian isthmus and Finland had to retreat. In 1944, a truce was agreed upon and in the Treaty of Paris, which officially marked the end of World War II, Finland once again ceded the same areas to the Soviet Union as in the Truce of Moscow, and in addition to these, Petsamo. Hanko was exchanged for Porkkala and the rental period was set at 50 years. Porkkala was returned to Finland in 1955. The population from the ceded Karelia was evacuated and placed all around the country. The Karelian parishes were discontinued in 1949 and at the beginning of the following year the evacuees were registered into the church books at their new place of residence.

Viipuri castle province

During the third crusade, the Swedes began building Viipuri castle to protect the conquered area´s eastern boundary. The Swedish administrational system spread out in the area with Viipuri castle province as an administrational centre. The collection of taxes was supervised, court was held and the Catholic Church´s missionary work was done from here. Viipuri castle province ranged from the river Kymijoki to the river Rajajoki and from the Gulf of Finland to the uninhabited areas north of Mikkeli. In 1539, the area became smaller when the Savonlinna castle province was established.

At the time, the local administration was based on medieval castle provinces which, in the 1540s, were divided into bailiwicks. Their centres where the royal estates. During the 1500s, there were ten castle provinces - although the tenth castle province, Käkisalmi castle province, existed only during the years 1581 to 1595. The number of bailiwicks varied according to administrative and technical arrangements.

There is data about the population of Swedish Karelia from the 1540s onwards when, under the orders of King Gustav Vasa, the keeping of land records, in connection with a tax reform was introduced that was based on a written accounting system. A more uniform residential register, based on tax registers, can be drawn up from the 1560s and onwards. In the 1634 constitution, a provincial administration was established, wherein the provinces took over the role as tax base units from the bailiwicks. Account books from the bailiff administration time are called bailiff´s accounts, whereas books from the provincial administration time are called provincial accounts.

In 1634, population registers were introduced. In these registers, all persons that had paid a fee called ”henkiraha” were registered. In 1656, all persons under the age of 15 and all persons over the age of 63 that did not cultivate soil, were exempt from the fee. The age limits remained unchanged for over two hundred years, for only in 1865 was the lower age limit raised by one year.

Käkisalmi castle province

The first detailed information about the settlement in Novgorod Karjala can be found in Vatja the Fifth´s tax book from year 1500. From that point in time, the settlement and the families who lived in Käkisalmi can be studied through the information in the tax records that were drawn up by the Swedes. These tax records are the most central source material from before the age of the ecclesiastical population registers. The southern and northern counties of Käkisalmi employed different taxation principles. In the south of the county, which consisted of Rautus, Sakkola and Räisälä, the fixed taxation practice that was used in Viipuri Karjala was followed. This taxation was based on land ownership, while in the northern county (Taka - Karjala), assessed taxation principles were employed. The taxation information was recorded in land records, smoke records and assessed taxation records.

Three taxation- and census- records from the time before the Treaty of Täysinä, collected by the Swedes, have survived. These are from the years 1582, 1589 and 1592. From these lengths we can see how the orthodox, indigenous people in Käkisalmi, who felt loyalty to Russia, fled out of the way of the enemy from the west and into Russia, only to return after the treaty of Täysinä.

However, the return of the orthodox population was short lived, as the migration to Russia increased as a result of the ecclesiastical and taxation policies that came into force when Käkisalmi was incorporated in the Swedish empire in 1617. Prior to the 1650s, about 11 000 people moved to Russia from the Käkisalmi area. Of these, about 5000 people moved from the northern province of Käkisalmi, ie. Laatokan Karjala and the current Pohjois-Karjala. At the same time, the Lutheran settlement flow started, especially from the provinces of Viipuri and Kymenkartano.

The distrust between the Lutheran and the Catholic population erupted into open hostilities in the Ruptuurisota war during 1656 to 1658. The orthodox population sided with the Russians that had crossed the border. After the war, which ended badly for the Russians, the orthodox emigration reached a peak, since they feared the revenge of the Lutherans. During the Ruptuurisota war, over 4000 families fled to Russia and once again, just like in the early 1600s, Lutheran inhabitants immigrated instead.

The first land register from the age of the Swedish dominion covered Käkisalmi in its entirety and dates from the year 1618. After this, the fief of Jacob De la Gardie began, during which no tax lists were drawn up. The following land register is from the year 1631 and the subsequent estimation land register from the year 1637. Land registers of unfiefed farms are available for the years 1638-1654 and 1678-1699. In 1651, Sweden´s Queen Kristina dealt out most of the province of Käkisalmi as fiefs to her mighty, noble aristocrats. These areas were restored to the crown, i.e. the state in the Large Reduction in the year 1681. During the fief time, it was clearly not considered as important to maintain accurate tax registers as they did during the times before and after the fief time. The reason for this was that the taxes collected from fief areas went straight to their fief lord, who had administrative power and jurisdiction, instead of going to the state.

The fief time was followed in the year 1683 by the tenant system. Now, the crown rented out the right to collect taxes in administrative sectors to private operators, who were forced to collect taxes at least as zealously as the former fief lords, since the crown made sure to get its share of the pie. The tax collectors, i.e. tenants, were mostly former officials of the fiefs and treated the peasants as serfs. In any case, the peasant´s position was not strengthened due to the tenant system.

Although the crown tried to spread the tenant system to the Northern provinces of Käkisalmi in the late 1600s, it was never used there. Only the residents of the town Sortavala payed the henkiraha fee.

The age of Old Finland

The Russian administration system was implanted in Old Finland. The ruler handed out tracts of land to their favourites and to the aristocracy; the system of fiefdom stretched its tentacles to different parts of Karelia. The fiefs changed hands rapidly. The Russians tried to impose serfdom on Old Finland, but Alexander I managed to reunite Old Finland with the rest of Finland in early 1812. The last act of the fiefdom system was played out in the year 1867, when the Diet of Finland reserved an appropriation, by which the fiefdoms were redeemed from their owners. The farmers could buy their property from the state with long term payment. The last property was paid in full in 1891.

After the treaty of Nystad and until the governor reform in 1738, both the Russian and the Swedish taxation system were in use in the Old Finland region. The area´s school system and church life were also inherited from the age of the Swedish empire. Tax records from 1722, 1723, 1724 and 1754 are available to researchers. Only the population register of 1754 covers the entire Old Finland region. The orthodox population is missing from these registers that were drafted by the Lutheran clergy. From Salmi parish, the population register of 1733 and from Pyhäjärvi parish the population register of 1728 are available. From the Kymmene province, the 1756 tax collection register is available.

In 1783, the Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, renewed the administration and taxation in Old Finland. A new personal tax, the podusnie fee, was levied from the residents and each male person was expected to pay it. The Provincial Archives in Mikkeli contain Russian tax records from the years 1794 to 1811. In the northern province of Käkisalmi, the ruble (arviorupla) was used as a taxation basis even after the taxation reform of Catherine the Great.

The age of autonomy and independence

In 1818, population registers were once again introduced and the podusnie fee was levied according to these. The podusnie fee was discontinued in 1865, when the prevailing poll tax (henkiraha), teen fee, lagman tax and judge tax were discontinued and replaced by the poll tax that was levied from all men and women of age between 16-63.

The estimation taxation in the Northern Province of Käkisalmi was also renewed after the annexation to Old Finland. In 1813 there was a taxation reigstration and in 1818 there was a stipulation that estimated taxation registration was to take place each year and the earnings entered into the population register. The poll tax and the land tax were discontinued in 1924 and the first modern income- and property tax law came into effect in 1925. The use of population registers continued until 1989, but only as population registers, not as a basis for tax collection.

Years in Finnish history

Here you can browse important dates in the history of Finland. More accurate periods can be found in the right side of the page.

The Julian calendar was behind the Gregorian calendar:
In the 1600s 10 days
In the 1700s 11 days
In the 1800s 12 days
In the 1900s 13 days

The Julian calendar

The roman emperor Julius Caesar ruled over his kingdom as an autocrat and left behind both a variety of monumental buildings and a new calendar. In the year 46 AD, he decided that the year should begin on the first day of January, while the New Year, according to the old Roman calendar, began in early March. The Latin equivalents of September, October, November and December are the numerals from seven to ten. These designations are therefore based on the ancient Roman calendar that predates Ceasar´s reform. Sometimes a scientist encounters documents that contain the designations 7:ber or 7bris, which are the equivalent of September. Along with the dating of the beginning of the New Year, Caesar decided that the time was to be calculated from the sun´s movements in such a way that the year would include 365 days plus an extra day every four years.

The Gregorian calendar

In the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the renewal of the Julian calendar was discussed, since the year, calculated from the sun´s movements, in fact was just over 11 minutes shorter than the Julian year, i.e. over a period of 128 years, the difference would be one day. Pope Gregory XIII therefore decided that the Catholic countries would adopt a new calendar, named after himself. In the Gregorian calendar, the lap year took place every fourth year, on a year that was divisible by four. The Protestant countries adopted the Gregorian calendar in the 1700s. Sweden adopted the calendar in 1753. At this time the Finnish congregations leapt from February 17 straight to the first day of the month of March. In Old Finland, on the other hand, the Julian calendar was in use until 1812 and served as a parallel system during the period of autonomy, since Russia did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1921. Especially the Orthodox Church books from the 1900s include many examples of the new calendar´s impact on the parishioners´ birth time notes.


Important years in finnish history

The Reformation 1532-1617

GUSTAV VASA (1526-60)


Plague and crop failure


The Kreivisota-war (Count War)


Bailiff accounts into service


Plague and crop failure


Mikael Agricola´s ABC book


Mikael Agricola´s Finnish translation of the New Testament


Sea Faring and Trade Charter


Helsinki was founded


Plague and crop failure, settlement of wildernesses in the interior of Finland, the royal estates were built


Vyborg bishopric was founded


Border confrontations, the short Russian war


The Duchy of Finland was founded


The treaty of Novgorod, previous borders

ERIK XIV (1560-68)


The battle for supremacy over the Baltic Sea began


The Veljessota-war (Brother War)


The Nordic 7 year war against Denmark

JOHAN III (1568-92)


Nobility became heritable


War against Russia, the Great Northern War, the Russian ruler Ivan the Cruel began the 25 Year War , the war ended with the treaty of Täysinä in 1595


The Silver Tax, Älvsborg ransom


Finland´s population about 300 000


Crop failure, cattle plague


Severe crop failure and disease ridden year


Plague in Finland

SIGISMUND (1592-99)


The Treaty of Täysinä, Sweden gets Estonia and Narva


The Nuijasota-war (Club War), rebellion among the peasants in Ostrobothnia, Häme and Northern Savo

KAARLE IX (1599-1611)


The war against Poland


Severe crop failure and disease ridden years, the Straw Years, mixing straw into the bread, many farms were deserted etc. About 600 farms were abandoned in the southwest of Finland.


War against Russia in the Baltic Sea countries and the Isthmus


Jacob De la Gardie with his troops to Moscow



War against Denmark in the south part of Sweden


The Silver Tax for redemption of the fortress of Älvsborg


Finnish cities were divided into staple cities inland cities


Russian War


Treaty of Stolbova, Sweden got Ingria and Käkisalmi

The Age of Swedish Supremacy 1617-1721


Turku Court of Appeal was established


War against Poland, Sweden got Livonia


Finns participated in the 30-year War in Germany




Crop failures


The frost years of Perttuli

KRISTINA (1632-54)


The county-wise summaries were introduced


Per Brahe became governor-general in Finland


The Post Office was established, improved communications


New towns were founded


The Royal Academy of Turku


The Bible was translated to Finnish


The Treaty of Westphalia ended the 30 Year´s War


Crop failures

KARL X GUSTAV (1654-60)


War against Poland


The frost years of Lauri


The Czar of Russia broke the peace, the Rupture War


Battle against Denmark


The plague ravaged


The war against Russia ended with the armistice of Vallisaari

KARL XI (1660-97)


Final peace in Kardis


Crop failures


The Lauri years of frost


Settlement with Brandenburg


Settlement with Denmark


The Large Reduction, the Allotment institution, promotion of cultivation, deserted farmlands repopulated


Crop failure


Church Code


Crop failure


Crop failure


Finland´s population about 400 000


The Great Famine, nearly one third of the Finnish population died, devastation, beggars

KARL XII (1697-1718)


Great Northern War, Finland took part in the war during the years 1710-1716


Crop failure in many parts of the country


Complete crop failure throughout the country


The plague came by ship from Tallinn, many people died, in Helsinki over 1000 people


Isoviha -russian occupation period, officials, members of the estates and part of the clergy fled to Sweden, many church records were destroyed



New form of government

The final period of swedish reign 1721-1809

FREDRIK I (1721-51)


Treaty of Nystad, Russia received, amongst others, the baltic provinces and the south-eastern part of Finland. Viipuri



Konventikelplakatet, a canon law, forbade devotional meetings outside the church


Crop failures


Crop failures


War against Russia, the Hattusota war, the Pikkuviha-war


The Treaty of Åbo, Russia received, amongst other, Hamina and Vehkalahti


Finland´s population 422 000


Population of left over territories



New era, i.e. the transfer to the Gregorian calendar


Crop failures


Storskiftesordningen (land reform)


Finns in the Pomeranian War, brought the potato to Finland


Crop failures


Crop failures

GUSTAV III (1771-1792)


The publication of the first Finnish newspaper, ”Tidningar utgifne af

et Sällskap i Åbo”, started


Finland´s second Court of Appeal was founded in Vaasa


Finland´s own land reform (storskiftesförordning)


Crop failures


Crop failures


Deadly smallpox ravaged



New towns were founded



War against Russia, the battle at Svensksund, the Liikala note, the Anjala act


Treaty of Värälä


GUSTAV ADOLF IV (1792-1809)


The Finnish Agricultural Society was founded


Vaccinations against smallpox began


Finland´s population about 833 000


Helsinki burned


The Finnish War


The treaty of Fredrikshamn, Finland became a russian grand duchy

Russian sovereignty

ALEXANDER I (1796-1825)


The Governing Council was founded


Helsinki became the capital


The Governing Council becomes the Senate


Central agencies were founded


The Senate of Finland moved from Turku to Helsinki 

NIKOLAI I (1825-55)


Most of Oulu burned


Fire of Turku


The Imperial Academy of Turku was moved to Helsinki


Large fire in Hämeenlinna


Finland´s first steam ship Ilmarinen


Severe crop failure


The first outline of Kalevala was published




First draft of Kalevala was published


Large fire in Pietarsaari


Large fire in Hamina ,

Snellman´s newspaper Saima began to appear






Large fire in Pietarsaari

Large fire in Hamina

Silver ruble became single currency

The publishing of Snellman´s daily paper, Saima, began

The publishing of the paper Suometar began


The song Vårt Land premiered on student Flora Day celebrations



Kalevala second, enlarged edition


Censorship regulation forbade the publication of other than religious and economic literature in Finnish



Finnish population 1 624 000

Epidemic dysentery


Nations banned


The Eastern War, also known as the Crimean War (Åland War) 

ALEXANDER II (1855-81)


Saimaa Canal was completed, Finland´s first stamps were issued, school regulations provided the opportunity for education to be administered in Finnish


The founding of steam sawmills was allowed


The first Finnish-language grammar school was founded in Jyväskylä


The railway was built between Helsinki and Hämeenlinna


The prohibition against rural trading was suspended


Finland got its own currency


Crop failure


The first commercial bank, Föreningsbanken i Finland, was founded


The Language Ordinance, Finnish became an equal official language


The first teachers´ college was founded in Jyväskylä


The women came of age


Regulation on rural municipal autonomy


The Finnish currency markka was tied to the price of silver and was released from the ruble


Severe and protracted winters


Elementary school regulation


Home distillation of alcohol for personal consumption was banned


The Lantdag (state diet) decided to reclaim the donated areas


The years of great famine


The Lantdagsordning and the ecclesiastical law


The railway between Lahti and St. Petersburg was opened


The statute on municipal autonomy in cities


The Finnish markka was tied to the gold standard




The Conscription Act


Finland´s population about 2 million




The estates were given ownership rights


The bank Postsparbanken was founded, Finland adopted the metric system


The bank Kansallis-Osake-Pankki was founded


The Postal Manifesto, the Finnish postal institution under Russian authority


The Young Finnish Party was founded 

NIKOLAI II (1894-1917)


Circuit Subdivision Ordinance, rural municipalities were required to base public schools


Nikolai Bobrikov became Governor General in Finland



The February Manifesto, a large address was collected in Finland, the Finnish Labour Party was founded


Finland´s population about 2 656 000


The Language Manifesto: Russian became the official language in some government offices, stamps underwent Russianisation


The Conscription Act


The conscription strike


Bobrikov became dictator


The Labour Party changed its name to the Social Democratic Party


The Finnish Active Resistance Party was founded


Eugen Schauman shot Bobrikov



The Finns were exempted from military service in exchange for the Soldier Millions


The general strike


The Parliamentary Reform


The Agrarian Association started operations


The national legislation was extended to Finland


The Equality Law: Russians in Finland were given the same rights as Finns


Second World War


The first jääkäri soldiers to Germany


Finland became independent


Important years in Finnish history

The Reformation

The Swedish Expansion

The final period of the Swedish Empire

The Russian Empire