In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Finland is Number 47 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. Finland became a province of Sweden in 1249 and was ruled by the Swedes until 1809, when it was conquered and annexed by Russia. Within the Russian Empire, it was administered as the Grand Duchy of Finland, with a constitution that provided for limited autonomy and greater personal and political freedoms than in the rest of Russia. The section on political history traces the development of a Finnish nationalism in the 19th century and the struggle for independence. Finland declared its independence in December 1917. On January 4, 1918, the revolutionary government of Russia, which had dropped out of the war and sued for peace with Germany, recognized Finnish independence. In March 1918, the German army occupied the Åland Islands and parts of Finland. This attempt to turn the country into a German satellite failed when Germany was defeated on the Western front by Britain, France, and the United States. The appendix contains several important documents relating to the political status of Finland. They include the speech by Tsar Alexander II to the opening of the Finnish Diet in 1863; the report of 1910 by the Westlake Committee, a group of eminent European jurists that examined the state of relations between Finland and Russia and condemned Russia’s attempt at that time to destroy Finland’s autonomy; and the March 7, 1918, Treaty of Peace between Finland and Germany.

Last updated: September 5, 2014