Project Canterbury

The Finns

By Arthur Cotter

New York: The National Council, Department of Missions and Church Extension, 1923.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008



Our land, our land, our fatherland!
Thou glorious word, ring forth!
No mountain rises proud and grand,
Nor slopes a vale, nor sweeps a strand,
More dear than thou, land of the north,
Our fathers' native earth.

Our land is poor as all can tell
For those who seek but gold;
A stranger scorns its heath and fell;
And yet this land we love full well;
We still--with mountain, wood and wold--
As golden land this hold.

Oh land! thou land of thousand lakes,
Of song and constancy;
Against whose strand life's ocean breaks,
Where dreams the past; the future wakes;
Oh! blush not for thy poverty,
Be hopeful, bold and free.

Thy blossom in the bud that lies
Shall burst its fetters strong;
Lo! from our tender love shall rise
Thy light, thy fame, thy hopes, thy joys;
And prouder far shall sound ere long
Our Finland's patriot song!


Abo Cathedral

Tavastehus Church: The frames on the walls, contain the assurance of the Russian Tsars to maintain the Finnish Constitution

Panorama of Lakes as seen from the top of a hill.

Punkaharju, One of Finland's beauty spots

Sunset on a Finnish Lake

Interior of a Finnish peasant's Home

Male Choir of American Finns


OF the many elements which go to make up the population of the United States, there is perhaps none so little understood as the Finn. The Finnish element, however, is one which has a distinct contribution to make to our common civilization. The Finns have come here from a country which is almost shut up in a corner of Europe, close to the everlasting ice fields of the North Pole. This remote country, however, has a culture of its own, which represents as striking a triumph of patience and energy over natural forces as mankind has ever won, while the political history of the Finn shows how much a vigorous people can endure without losing its nationality. Civilization has stretched its arm over this northern land and railways connect all the main centers; postal, telegraph and telephonic communication is everywhere; towns and villages are lit by electricity and they have schools, libraries, cinematographs, theaters and churches.

Education is very well advanced and schools are to be found everywhere. With regard to higher education, there are three universities, one technical high school, two commercial high schools, five navigation schools, besides many other commercial, trade, technical, sloyd, agricultural, dairy, cattle management, horticultural and forestry schools. There are very few Finns who cannot [3/4] read and write, for the simple reason that they cannot be confirmed unless they can do so and confirmation is necessary for marriage. There are about 230 newspapers and reviews published in the Finnish language, 95 in Swedish and 12 bi-lingual. The Finns are great readers of their press, and even in remote villages in Lapland the writer has found newspapers in the homes of the people.

The main industry of the country is the production of lumber and wood pulp. Thanks to her vast forests, Finland's first industries were in woodworking and paper making. Owing to Finland's geographical position and her limited cultivated area, her home supply of agricultural products falls far short of the demand. Agriculture is mostly carried on in the south of the country and dairy products have become more prominent owing to the excess of pasture land over arable land, so that Finland is one of the chief butter exporting countries of Europe. Improved methods of dairying were followed by the introduction of co-operative societies, which are very highly developed in Finland, the majority of such societies being mostly in the country. The Finns are very enthusiastic about the co-operative movement and have established co-operative stores in America. The Pellervo Society of Helsingfors has been the chief instrument in furthering the co-operative movement in Finland.

The chief towns of Finland are Helsingfors, the capital, with a University and a population of about 200,000; Abo, the former capital, with a Swedish and a Finnish University and a population of 56,168; Tammerfors, the "Manchester of Finland," population, 46,353; [4/5] Viborg, near Russia, an important commercial center and fortress, population, 29,753; Uleaborg, on the Gulf of Bothnia, population, 21,940, and her only ice-free port, Petchenga, or Patsamo, on the Arctic Sea, population 700. The total population of the country is about three and a half million people.

Mechanical work and textile industries have been introduced by utilizing the cheap electric power to be derived from numerous waterfalls. Manufacturing centers have consequently grown up with the result, that Finland faces the same social and economic problems that call for a just solution, as they do in other civilized countries. Political conditions and the hard struggle for existence have compelled thousands of Finns to seek homes abroad and the result of this has been that in the states of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin are to be found Finnish communities, retaining their language, customs and organizations, and having in many places their own churches.

Many of the Fins, however, have lapsed from their own church for reasons which will be gone into later and are consequently unchurched, while the majority of the Finish workers are anti-Church, like most Continental Socialists. The opportunity for the Protestant Episcopal Church, which has such friendly relations with the Scandinavian Lutheran Churches, especially the Church of Sweden, which gave Christianity to Finland, is therefore great and something ought to be done to approach the Finns, [5/6] who are not naturally irreligious, and win them for the cause of our common Master. In order to do this, however, it is necessary to know something of the Finn, his characteristics, his political history and his literature. It is the object of this pamphlet to supply this background in the hope that it may contribute something to a better understanding of the Finn and help in making him a worthy citizen of his adopted country.


The Finns are a Mongol people, belonging to the Finno-Ugrian stock which is widely distributed in many parts of Northern and Eastern Europe and of Northern and Central Asia. They came from the district of the Ural and migrated into Russia, settling throughout Northern Europe, and under pressure from Germans and Slavs were pushed further west into the country they now possess and northern Scandinavia. Their nearest kinsfolk are the Estonians, who inhabit the Republic of Estonia, on the other side of the Gulf of Finland, and are like the Finns Lutherans. The Finnish tribes in Russia belong to the Orthodox Russian Church; of these the best known are the Karelians. The Finns call themselves Suomalaiset and their country Suomi.


The Finnish language is the most developed of the Baltic branch of the Ural-Altaic linguistic family and belongs to the so-called agglutinative languages. The grammatical relationships are expressed by suffixes added to the stems of the words, the laws of euphony and consonantal permutation being strictly observed. In addition to agglutination, the Finnish language, like Turkish, [7/8] Hungarian, etc., possesses an extraordinary richness in grammatical forms for the declension of the noun and the conjugation of the verb, so that the most delicate shades of the original idea can be expressed. It has not less than fifteen cases, including in addition to the ordinary cases, an inessive, denoting existence in a place, an allative denoting motion to a place, etc. Genders as grammatical forms are absent. Long words predominate. It is a manly and powerful tongue, well adapted for singing, rich in vowels and can not tolerate two consonants at the beginning of a word. The peculiar nature of Finnish speech is no doubt responsible for the difficulty the Finn has in learning a foreign language. It is written in both Roman and Gothic characters.

The Finn is physically a fine specimen of the human race, broad-shouldered, strong and muscular, hardy and capable of great endurance. He is a child of nature with strong loves and strong hates and great obstinacy; he is reserved and slow to anger, but when roused can be capable of great cruelty; he cannot be driven but he may be led; he is naturally law-abiding and is not prone to make disturbances, unless under the influence of intoxicating liquors when he becomes mad and draws his knife; he is clean and moral in his habits; patient and hard working; he has no idea of time, for does he not say ei ole mitaan niin paljo kuin aika (there is nothing so much as time)? He is poetical and musical; and above all he is intensely fond of his home, his language and his beloved Suomi. A Finnish proverb says: "A crust of bread in my mother's house [8/9] is better than buttered bread elsewhere." In other words, he is what his country has made him.

Character of Finland and the Soul of its People

And what is his home-land. Imagine a vast country of forests, low vales and hills, interspersed with hundreds and thousands of lakes, rivers and streams, a country through which you can travel hundreds of miles without seeing a dwelling, a human face. The silence is overwhelming. In the far distance the cry of a bird, the noise of a falling stone, the crack of a broken bough falling to the ground alone disturb the profound stillness. You climb to the top of a hill and overlook an endless panorama--a sleeping wilderness embedded in the verdure of centuries old, deep and majestic pine or fir forest and framed by what seems an endless chain of nameless lakes.

Far away your eye discerns a thin wreath of smoke curling from the roof of some lonely cottage. Some one has gone out into the wilderness, has made a home and is now removing stones and cutting down trees--to make room for what will scarcely be more than an apology for a field for harvest. Listen! and you will hear him sing. The pick, the spade or the axe give the rhythm to the song. The solitude is his only audience, admirer and applauder. He sings of life, of its sorrows and its joys, of his work in the Far North, where the soil is hard and the climate is still harder, where a single piece of bread means weeks of toil, efforts of years. But this solitude, this wilderness is dearer to him than aught else in the world. For if the summer be short, where is it lovelier? If the winter [9/10] be cold and long, where is it so fresh and clear? If bread is often scarce, where else in all the world does it taste so sweet?

He sings of the spirits of nature who clothe the earth now in a garb of summer's finest green, and now with a cover of winter's purest white, of the infinite love of the Almighty who gives him alike the everlasting day of mid summer, when the sun never sets, and the dark midwinter night, lit with thousands of lamps of glittering stars and the trembling many colored flames of the magic northern light, of the charm of the spring with its dancing winds, which suddenly as by a touch from an unseen omnipotent wand sweep away the snow-cover and recall the verdure on bush and bough, and of the solemn peace of autumn with her thousand hues, when nature disrobes herself and silently goes to her long calm sleep in the paralyzing arms of winter. All that, and much more, is pictured in the words and in the melody of his song, now melancholy and monotonous, now vivid and airy.

Song is his very life. And how can he help singing? Away by himself in a wilderness, the beauty and sublime loveliness of which overpowers every feeling, every thought. For hundreds of miles no human being near, save she, who in the lone cottage awaits his return when the last faint rays of the sunlight die among the tree tops of the western horizon. How can he help singing and dreaming in the midst of a nature where every stone seems to hide a thousand-year-old unsolved mystery, where every leaf in its indiscernible vibrations seems to whisper softly broken lines of magic song, and [11/12] where the evening breeze, rustling in the crowns of the pine trees, seems to tell him tales of those immemorial times when at the command of the Almighty, the spirits of nature wove that glimmering mysterious web of creation? This then is a Finn.

In the long winter night, when in the farthest north a minute's dawn constitutes the day, you see him sitting before the flaming fire singing and composing the while he carves in wood or cleans his rifle; or you might find him in the nearest village surrounded by his friends, and opposite him another singer.

Notice how they clasp hands, like children playing, singing first the one and then the other. The sound of the clasping hands gives the song its rhythm, and the various ways in which the hands join constitute its metre. They sing the songs of their parents and grandparents, the songs that flowed from their lips as they worked or wandered in spring and summer and hunted or walked on skis in autumn and winter. When memory is faulty or a rhyme fails, verse, line or word is created; and when the best songs are exhausted there is always left the unlimited resource of composition.

Culture Finnish Not Swedish

The writer has attempted to give a picture of what the Finn is amid his own surroundings, but it must be clear from the remarks already made in the introduction that the Finn is much more than a backwoodsman, and that he is a cultured man, with a special Finnish culture, which is the outward expression of his own peculiar nature. This nature of his has been made by his environment. The cities of Finland [12/13] show this peculiarity in many ways and none more strikingly than in modern Finnish architecture. His nature is further shown in Finnish music and art. It ought to be remembered that this outward expression of the Finnish nature is Finnish, not Swedish and still less Russian.

The mistake is very often made that Finnish culture is a Swedish culture. This is not so. This erroneous impression is due to the fact that there are very few foreigners, even among those living in Finland, who know the Finnish language and are able to come into intimate contact with the Finns themselves. Swedish is a much easier language to acquire than Finnish and is consequently learned by foreigners. But the foreigner who knows only Swedish will never penetrate into the heart and soul of the Finn.

Historical Outline Swedish Period Christianization

In the twelfth century the Swedes began the long struggle which ended in the closing years of the thirteenth century in the Christianization of the Finnish people and their subjection to Sweden. Henrik, Bishop of Uppsala, an Englishman by birth, accompanied the first Swedish expedition to Finland in 1157 and was murdered by a Finn. The martyr became Finland's patron saint and his death forms one of the legends of the old Finnish Kanteletar, a collection of 700 songs mostly lyrics and a few legends. For over 500 years Finland remained an appendage of the Swedish crown.


In 1528 Gustaf Vasa introduced Lutheranism which was confirmed in 1593 as the only faith of state and people and this form of Christianity still [13/14] hold that position in the Republic. To the Reformation period belongs the beginning of literature in the Finnish language, as Mikael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish in 1548 and was the first to print books in the popular tongue. He also translated Luther's short catechism and a prayer book. The translation of the whole Bible into Finnish was not completed until 1642, almost a century later. King John III of Sweden made Finland a Grand Duchy. Finland is indebted to Sweden for its culture and its training in self administration, for under Sweden the country enjoyed an autonomous constitutional government and developed a simple and unique civilization. It had, however, no special rights. Legislation, law, administration, finances were in common with Sweden, the Finns sending representatives to the Swedish Riksdag. During the long wars between Russia and Sweden, Finland was frequently a battle ground where the Finns distinguished themselves as warriors. The Finns have always been good fighters.

Russian Period

The Russo-Swedish wars culminated in the cession of Finland with the Aland Islands to Russia in 1809, but the bases of Finland's political union with the Empire of the Tsars were fixed by Alexander I at the Diet of Borga in the assurance given on March 5, 1809, and confirmed by the four Estates of the Finnish Diet. These bases were as follows: (1) Finland was inseparably united with Russia; (2) the Russian Emperor was Grand Duke of Finland; (3) Finland kept the constitution it had in common with Sweden; (4) the Emperor [14/15] was pledged to govern the country as its Grand Duke in accordance with its constitution; (5) Finland as far as its internal affairs were concerned was independent, with its own administration, legislature and legislation, but in its external appearance and in its relation to foreign states did not stand as a special international legal entity but as part of the Russian Empire.


These pledges were solemnly renewed and kept by all the Russian Tsars, except the late Emperor Nicholas II. In 1897, the Russian Tsarist Government began a series of systematic attacks on Finnish liberties culminating in the Manifesto of February 15, 1899, which removed from the competence of the Diet all matters affecting the Grand Duchy in common with Russia. The russification of the country was carried on under the auspices of the notorious reactionary von Plehwe who was made Secretary of State for Finland and his tool Governor General Bobrikoff, who was vested with dictatorial powers and was assassinated in Helsingfors in 1904. Between 1900 and 1902 the incorporation of the Finnish army was decreed, but the Russian conscription law met with such stout resistance on the part of the Finns that the Russian Government decided not to conscript them at all but instead, to take from the Finnish treasury an annually increasing sum as Finland's contribution to the defense of the Empire.

Russian oppression, particularly the Russian military service law, was the chief factor in driving the Finns out of their country to find a new home in America. The young men preferred to seek fresh [15/16] fields for their activities amid entirely new surroundings than submit to a slow process of denationalization, which was what the Russians intended to bring about.

Russian was made the official language and Russian subjects were appointed to the higher administrative posts. After General Bobrikoff's assassination the same policy was continued in a milder form under Prince Obolenski. The conditions caused by the war with Japan produced a strong revolutionary agitation in Russia ending in the creation of a State Duma for Russia. This revolutionary agitation found no echo in Finland in the beginning as the existence of a Russian State Duma was not considered to affect Finland's peculiar status within the Empire. On October 30, 1905, organized labor in Finland decided to show its solidarity with the Russian workers in their struggle for freedom by joining the general strike then in progress in Russia. The Finnish workers were joined by the Finnish bourgeois classes and a united nation struck for its liberties. The upheaval was tremendous, magnificent order was maintained, not one drop of blood was shed and in one day the work of Russian aggression during eight years was swept away. Such unity Finland has never had since. All the illegal ordinances were repealed and the Diet summoned.

On May 29, 1906, the Diet which consisted of four Estates, the Nobles, Clergy, Burghers and Peasants, passed a radical change of representation, by which for the old system was substituted a Diet of one Chamber, consisting of 200 members elected by proportional representation for a period of three years on [16/17] the basis of universal and direct suffrage, the franchise being conferred on all men and women of twenty-four years and over, excluding paupers. Nicholas II further sanctioned a new fundamental law guaranteeing freedom of speech, meeting and association. The newly won liberties of the Finns, however, were of short duration, for as soon as the Tsardom recovered from the shock of the first revolution, there ensued throughout Russia a positive welter of reaction with repressions, mutinies, armed insurrections, assassinations and the russification of the non-Russian nationalities throughout the Empire. A German Balt Seyn, vice governor under Bobrikoff was appointed Governor General of Finland and he was a worthy successor of his predecessor and was held in contempt by the Finns, who after all respect a brave man, which the hated Bobrikoff was, while Seyn was a personal coward. The Russian Premier Stolypin by altering the Russian electoral law secured a Duma entirely subservient to the reactionary government. The Russian legislative organs were persuaded to adopt the view that Finnish legislation could be subordinated to Russian legislation and this conception received expression in the adoption by the Duma of the law of June 30, 1910, stipulating that the Russian Duma and the Imperial Council had sole legislative power in matters affecting Russia and Finland. This law was sanctioned by Nicholas II without having been adopted by the Finnish Diet. By virtue of this Russian law several other "laws" were passed by the Duma over the head of the Diet with the result that hopeless confusion and muddle ensued as the Finnish institutions [17/18] could not regard these "laws" as having the sanctity of law in Finland, and the whole Supreme Court of Viborg was arrested, taken to Petrograd for trial and imprisoned in a Russian jail for holding the aforesaid attitude. This state of affairs continued until the Russian Revolution of 1917 and is partly responsible for the pro-German feelings of many Finns, who naturally had no faith in the allied proclamation of "liberty for small nations" when one of the allies was engaged in the most ruthless strangulation of a brave little people, while the other allies made no protest. It was inevitable under such circumstances that their eyes should be turned to Germany, to which country young Finns went to get military training to fight against their oppressor Tsarist Russia.

Russian Revolution

After the overthrow of the Tsar and his reactionary ministers, the Russian Provisional Government under Prince Lvoff issued the manifesto of March 20, 1917, repealing all the illegal Finnish ordinances and making Finland again independent in her internal affairs. The Diet was summoned and a Cabinet formed under the premiership of Mr. Oskari Tokoi, a Socialist, as the Social Democratic Party had the majority in the House. This Diet was soon involved in a constitutional dispute with the Russian Provisional Government which dissolved it on July 30, 1917; on account of its passing a bill regarding the internal independence of the country and declaring that it did not require the sanction of the Russian Government to come into power. The Russian authorities held that this "law" [18/19] encroached on the prerogatives which formerly belonged by Finnish law to the Monarch and any alteration in the Imperial prerogatives was a matter to be decided by a Constituent Assembly of the Russian people. A section of the Finnish bourgeois parties was of the same opinion as the Russian Government and accepted the dissolution, but the Socialists thought differently and attempted to convoke a plenum of the Diet. This was at first unsuccessful, the Diet having been occupied by Russian troops, but later on part of the Socialist members convoked a "plenum" after breaking the Russian Government seals which had been placed on the building. This time the Government did not interfere as it could not rely on the troops.

The new elections returned a House very similar to the last, the Social Democrats still being the strongest political party but their numbers were somewhat decreased. A coalition government of Socialists and non-Socialists was out of question and so a bourgeois government was formed under P. E. Svinhufvud, an old judge, who had been exiled by the Tsarist Government for his opposition but was ignorant of the political game and incapable of steering his country through the stormy waters of the revolutionary period. The situation was very unsettled and a disturbing element was the presence of Russian troops who interfered in Finnish affairs and committed acts of depredation and violence. When the Bolsheviks took over the reins of government, the new administration would have nothing to do with the Soviet representatives in Finland. The unsettled condition caused it much anxiety and [19/20] it took certain measures for the maintenance of order, which aroused indignation in Socialist quarters.

Declaration of Independence

Meanwhile the feeling in favor of complete independence had been steadily growing and at last found its expression on December 4, 1917, when Mr. Svinhufvud in the Diet read a statement declaring Finland to be an independent Republic. Delegations were then sent to foreign counties to get this independence internationally recognized. The Germans demanded first the recognition of the Soviet Government with whom they were negotiating the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. This Lenin granted. The infant republic was thus cradled in the Russian Revolution. Finnish independence was the first result of that momentous upheaval; the second result was seen in the ranks of the Finnish labor movement.

Finnish Labor

Trade unions had been in existence in Finland for many years but during the Tsarist regime they had to encounter many difficulties, and during the war their freedom of activity had been considerably curtailed. With the overthrow of the Russian autocracy they could again commence their labors for the improvement of wages and the protection of the interests of the workers. New members came to the unions in large numbers and movements for the betterment of wages took place all over the country. It must be borne in mind that the prices of foodstuffs and other necessaries of life had risen enormously owing to the war and profiteering which had been going on, while the wages of the workers had not risen in proportion. [21/22] The natural consequence of the changed conditions was that the workers began to make demands. The law establishing the eight-hour working day was passed by the Diet in 1917 without very great strikes, and another law was also adopted reforming the communal laws by which the Socialists obtained a share in the communal administration to which they were entitled by reason of their position in the country. The movements for the increase of wages were likewise successful, but notwithstanding these needed reforms the revolutionary feeling among the masses was not allayed. Years of Tsarist oppression were bound to produce a reaction. The Finnish labor movement was not prepared for such a shaking up as it got and the freedom which had been won began to drive the less developed elements into taking unwise steps, so that they got out of bounds and it was difficult to keep them within regular and well considered activities. The rush of new members into the organizations produced vacillation in them. There gradually arose, certainly outside of the trade union organizations, but yet in suspicious connection with them, an armed organization the "Red Guard," which declared itself independent and paid no heed to the actual labor organizations and their tactics. In this way a "general strike" occurred in 1917, while the congress of trade unions was being held. In this congress the extreme elements were in the majority and the congress was broken up by reason of the "general strike" which had been secretly prepared. The strike was over in a week and although it was political brought no gains whatever to the workers.

[23] Many acts of violence unfortunately were committed during this strike and they formed a precedent for further acts later on. The masses were much excited and wished to continue the revolutionary movement and a state of lawlessness prevailed in which the disorganized Russian soldiers played a part. The extremists wished to gain control of the whole country and enlisted the help of Russian soldiers and sailors in the cause of the Finnish proletariat. This was a great mistake on their part.

Civil War

The result of the popular agitation was that the newly born Republic, whose independence had been recognized only by the Russian Soviet Republic, the German Empire, France and the Scandinavian countries, was plunged at the end of January, 1918, into the throes of a civil war. A coup d'etat was carried out in Helsingfors and a "Red" revolutionary government established in south Finland with the help of the Red Guards, while the "White" or legal government took up its seat in Vasa in North Finland. Civil voluntary militia corps had been formed all over the country for the maintenance of order, but their efforts were frustrated by lack of arms. In Osterbotten, however, a regular militia training school had been securely established. A committee of Finnish ex-officers superintended the preliminary work and subsequently the services of General Mannerheim, a former Russian officer, were secured for the "White" army. It is not within the scope of this sketch to enter into the ghastly details of this struggle which ended in the defeat of the Finnish workers' revolution [23/24] by the White Finns under General Mannerheim assisted by the German expeditionary corps under General von der Goltz.

After the "Whites" returned to power the Finnish Diet was summoned to meet minus the Socialists and this Rump Parliament passed oppressive legislation against those who had taken part in the revolution. The Government was entirely in the hands of the Germans who aimed at the establishment of a German monarchy in Finland. The "Whites," mad with victory, made the great political mistake of trying to punish all the individual participators in what was a mass movement of the people, and there ensued a "White terror," from the results of which it will take generations to recover. Thousands of the "Red" prisoners were shot and the rest were placed in prison camps where conditions beggared description and there was not sufficient food, so that from official records 11,748 deaths occurred in prison camps during June and the beginning of September 1918. In addition to being sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, the prisoners were also condemned to long years of loss of their civil rights. Others were sentenced to what is known as "conditional punishment," i. e., they were free in person, but deprived of civil rights and confined to one place of residence. In this category were included officials of the state railways and post office who had stayed on in their positions under the Red regime in order that these necessary public services should continue to function. This short sighted treatment naturally created great bitterness among the masses and divided the country into [24/25] two camps, one the bourgeoisie who keep their position by means of the "White Guard" known as the "Defence Corps," and the other, the unarmed workers. A series of amnesty decrees and acts have been passed in the hope of healing the wounds caused by the civil war and the resultant "White terror," but the memory of these wrongs is too fresh for the masses to be placated. As a "Red Terror" produces a "White terror," which is usually worse, so reaction produces a counter-reaction, and many of the Finnish workers have been driven still further to the left, so that Finnish labor now has two wings, the Right Socialists and the Left Socialists, who favor the Soviet system. This wing, which is known as the Finnish Socialist Workers' Party has grown very strong, nearly all the Trade Unions in the big cities belonging to it.

It is very important that Americans do not confuse the Finnish Left Socialists with Russian Bolsheviks, for although their program for social reconstruction is similar to that of the Russian Bolshevik party, their methods for attaining their ends are quite constitutional. The writer has in his possession the Program of the Finnish Socialist Workers' Party (1920) and there it is laid down that the Party "does not exhort workers to anarchistic deeds of violence, disorders, tumults or revolts. On the contrary our party, desires by the work of enlightenment and organization to exert its influence in such a direction that the complete triumph of the working class and socialism is brought about in as good order, as peacefully and thoroughly, as painlessly and speedily, as possible." In accordance [25/26] with these principles, the Socialist Left takes part in parliamentary activity and is represented along with the Socialist Right in the Finnish Eduskunta or Parliament.

Religious Conditions

These are the geographical and political factors which have contributed to make the Finn what he is. There still remains one more factor to be considered, namely the religious. Reference has already been made to Bishop Henry, first founder of the Church of Finland. The second was also a native of England, namely, Bishop Thomas, who came to Finland from Uppsala in the thirteenth century (the exact date is not known), and contributed much to the organizing of the Church in Finland. Bishop Thomas, however, met a new obstacle in his work of converting the Finns to the Roman Catholic faith in the rise of the Russian power at Novgorod, so that Finland found itself in between two states, Sweden and Russia, and two churches, the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, which were striving for mastery. This was the beginning of the long struggle for domination in Northern Europe and the Baltic. Sweden made three expeditions to Finland to fight against the Russians. Peace was finally made in 1323, when the greater part of Finland came under Sweden and therefore under the Roman Church.

Russian Church

In 1227 Yaroslaff, Prince of Novgorod, sent Russo-Greek priests to East Finland but this missionary enterprise was not successful. In 1329 Sergey and German founded the Monastery of Valamo and the monk Arseniy that of Konevits in 1392. Both these monasteries are on islands in Lake Ladoga and [26/27] are the only prominent Orthodox monasteries in Finland with the exception of the Monastery of Petchenga in the strip of Arctic territory which Finland has recently acquired from the Soviet Government. These two monasteries kept Christianity just alive, for according to Russian accounts the people of Ingermanland and Russian Karelia remained heathen until the 15th century. By command of Tsar Vasili Ivanovitch, Bishop Makariy sent in 1534 a monk named Ilya on a missionary journey to the above named districts. From that time dates the conversion of the Eastern part of Finland and Russian Karelia and the people of these parts have remained Russian Orthodox to this day.


The Reformation in Sweden was conservative and carried out under Lutheran influences. It was furthered by King Gustaf Vasa, who supported those men who had been in Germany where Luther had already begun his work and returned to the North, admirers of the great Reformer and desirous of furthering his principles. Such a man was in Sweden Olaus Petri who had been present in Wittenberg when the Reformation began. The struggle between the King and the Church was brought to a head at the Diet of Vesteras in 1527, where the first steps in breaking the ties uniting the Swedish Church to Rome were taken.

Succession Apostolic in Finland

Although no representatives of the Church of Finland were present at that Diet, it had great influence on ecclesiastical affairs in that country, for on January 5, 1528, Martti Skytte was consecrated Bishop of Abo with full Catholic ritual but without the approval of the Pope. [27/28] His consecrator was the aged Bishop Petrus Magni who himself had been consecrated in the canonical manner and thus the apostolic succession was preserved in the Church of Sweden and Finland. The succession remained in the Finnish Church until 1884, when on the death of Archbishop Bergenheim, the last to receive the tactual succession, the Domprobst (Dean) of Abo, Torsten Tuure Renvall, was appointed archbishop. As all the episcopal sees at that time were vacant and as the Russian government objected to a foreign (i. e., a Swedish) bishop's performing the consecration, Renvall was consecrated bishop by Prof. A. F. Granfelt. This was the first instance in Finland of an archbishop's being consecrated to his office without an episcopal consecrator. The tactual episcopal succession was thus broken and it has not yet been restored.

The Reformation in Sweden reached its high water mark in the Uppsala Church Council of 1593, which decided that the Swedish Church should be national, free from Papal domination, scriptural, liturgical and episcopal. Finland was represented at that council. Later in the same year the clergy of Finland, assembled in Abo, unanimously approved the decision made at the Uppsala Council. Although the Finnish Church has lost the tactual succession, it has remained faithful to the decisions made at those momentous meetings and has preserved episcopal government, the ancient creeds, the two major sacraments and has administered confirmation to her children. It is very important that Episcopalians understand this position as there is an [28/29] unfortunate tendency to consider the Lutheran churches of northern Europe as so many German Protestant sects. Nothing could be more erroneous. When Finland came under the rule of the Russian Tsars the position of the Church remained as it was, namely the State Church of the country. Finland has three bishops and an archbishop. In America the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church is under the Suomi Synod. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Koskimies, Bishop of Uleaborg in Finland, personally known to the writer as a warm admirer of the Anglican Church, is an honorary member of the Suomi Synod.

Decline of Church Influence

The Lutheran State Church in Finland would seem to have lost its hold on both the intellectuals and working class. For this there are two reasons in the opinion of the writer: (1) the un-progressiveness of the Church in a progressive age and (2) the subservience of the Church to the Russian regime during the days of Tsarist oppression. At that time a law had to be read in the churches in order to make it binding and when the pastors read the illegal Russian conscription law, very often to empty walls it is true, the people could not be expected to regard the Church as a support in the days of their constitutional struggle. From that time the influence of the Church has waned. The intellectual classes hardly ever enter a church after confirmation as they are not edified either by the arid services or equally arid sermons. As for the Social Democratic workers of the country, they are distinctly anti-Church. History shows that whenever and wherever the Church has allied itself in some way with oppression and privilege, it has lost its hold on [29/30] the masses who not without reason come to regard the official Church and with it organized Christianity as hypocritical. They find the attitude of the Church incompatible with the teachings of the Carpenter.

Hopeful Signs

The anti-Church sentiments of the Finnish workers, however, do not mean that the masses are irreligious, and there are indications that the religious instinct is by no means dead among the Finnish workers. The sufferings which the workers endured after the civil war, the "White terror," the oppressions of the Defence Corps and the unsettled state of the world in general are bringing before the masses the necessity of finding some haven of rest for their troubled minds. Some years ago there was formed in Finland a Society for Evangelizing the Industrial Centers, and the work of this organization has been singularly successful. In a report on the "Labor and Religious Movement in Finland," by the Rev. Pastor Sirenius, who is an admirer of the Anglican Church and a student of social and industrial problems, he says : "While our work has been going on, we have realized again and again that there is a deep religious longing in the hearts of these people, perhaps more so than is the case in many other countries and the experiences we have had since the terrible year 1918 tend to show that the religious and moral questions are pressing to the forefront even more widely than previously."

That society arranges Christian courses of lectures, which are well attended and often the local Labor Temple is placed at the disposal of the society's officials. [30/31] The society also conducts religious services and distributes literature. In their hostility to the Church many of the working men cannot do without spiritual religion. The most important branch of the society's work is that done in Kalliola, the first Christian Social Settlement in Finland opened 1919 and located on the premises of a school house erected by the late Governor General Seyn with Finnish money in order to russianize Finnish children and dedicated by him to the memory of the notorious General Bobrikoff. Discussions are held on social and economic subjects but Finnish party politics are excluded. All the people connected with the Institute have formed a Toverikunta (union of comrades) the first chairman of which was a Right Socialist and the second a Communist, when the writer was in Helsingfors in 1920. Where official Lutheranism has failed, this practical application of the social teaching of Jesus has succeeded in opening many hearts and homes among the workers of Finland.

Approach to the Finn

It must never be forgotten that the Finns are very well educated, and that the Finnish worker is well up in his political creed and quite familiar with his Karl Marx. Consequently it is necessary for those who have to do with him to be equally conversant with the Socialist movement, not only in Finland, but in other countries. Socialism believes in the brotherhood of man and is international. Christianity is the same, however, much organized Christianity may have departed from that ideal. A bond of union exists between Socialists all over the world and they address each other as "Comrade." A [31/32] Churchman who takes his political ideals from the labor movement is most likely to make the best contact with the Finnish worker and the experiment of Kalliola shows the surest way of approach, namely, through Christian social service. After the contact has been established and confidence has sprung up, and this may take a long time, the Finnish worker can be told of such organizations as the Church League for Industrial Democracy and the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order. In this way he will come to see that his political creed and the Christian ideal are not mutually antagonistic but complementary and in the measure that the Christian Church raises its voice in protest against social and political wrongs and against the non-application of the principles of the Sermon on the Mount in both national and international affairs, so not only will the Finnish worker, but all the other foreign-born workers of America, be drawn to the Church, and conversely, if the Church does not make its voice heard in no uncertain terms, the problem of the unchurched foreign-born and their assimilation will be rendered increasingly difficult.


The character of a people is reflected in its literature and Finland has every reason to be proud of her achievements in this domain. On account of their great love of song, the Finns have been able to build up an extraordinarily rich popular poetry, the runes of which show for the most part pagan origin. These songs were collected by Lonnrot, the "Father of Finnish Literature," who in 1835 published the Kalevala, the national epic of the Finns. He also published a collection of lyric [33/34] poetry known as the Kanteletar and proverbs and riddles. The theme of the Kalevala is the exploits of the northern Orpheus, Vainamoinen, a magic singer and inventor of the Finnish harp, called kantele, the national musical instrument, the deeds of his brother Ilmarinen, the smith, and of their opponent Lemminkainen. Their chief concern is to obtain the hand of the daughter of Louhi, mistress of Pohjola, and to make the Sampo, a fortune grinding mill. Ilmarinen succeeds in doing this, but both he and Vainamoinen are unsuccessful, as Louhi who has great magic power, sets most difficult conditions. Ilmarinen finally solves the problem and marries the daughter. While the Sampo is being taken to Vainola, it breaks and the pieces fall into the sea, only some fragments of it reaching land where they become the origin of lasting fortune to Finland.

All this is quite heathen and gives us a picture of the ancient Finnish gods: Jumala, Ukko, Ahti, etc. In the last rune the conflict between the ancient pagan beliefs and Christianity is seen. A virgin Marjatta gives birth to a boy, whom Vainamoinen wishes to kill but the god Ukko makes him King of Karjala (Karelia) . His mother called him "Flower," but others called him "Son of Sorrow." Vainamoinen, humbled, takes his departure, leaving the Finns his harp and songs. At the time of the Reformation, Agricola tells us that Vainamoinen and the Virgin Mary were the chief deities among the Finns. The ancient Finns believed that everything was within human power as soon as "word of origin" was known and many of these "songs (words) of origin" have been preserved in a collection of [34/35] chants, prayers and other formulae to be used on different occasions, known as the Loitsurunoja or Magic Runes.

Modern Literature

Finland has also given to the world a great poet John Ludwig Runeberg (1804-1877) who wrote in Swedish. He is best known for his "Tales of Ensign Stahl," which treat of episodes in the war of 1808-1809 between Sweden and Russia. The founder of Finnish dramatic literature was Alexis Kivi and the novel takes its rise with Pietari Paivarinta who gives us realistic pictures of peasant life. The ablest storyteller is Juhani Aho. Finland today has quite a cosmopolitan literature and most of the finest works in the literatures of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Hungary and Russia have been translated into Finnish.

The Finn in America

Finnish immigration into America goes back to the early Swedish settlements on the Delaware River. Finns were taken by force for these settlements and the first lot arrived in 1641 and each succeeding boat from Sweden up to 1655 brought its quota of Finns. In that year the Delaware settlement passed under Dutch control and later on in 1664 under British control, when immigration from the northern countries ceased. The most of these Finns were from the forests of central Sweden, only a part being from Finland. The Finns have the honor of belonging to the first inhabitants of New York while it was in the hands of the Dutch. Many Finnish sailors, serving on Dutch boats, settled in New Amsterdam. Among those early settlers may be mentioned Mans Peterson Staeck of Abo, [36/37] who owned a house in 1660 and was one of the founders of Harlem. It is interesting to note that a Finnish scholar, Pietari Kalm, Professor at Abo University, was the first to make a scientific journey to North America in 1748 for the investigation of its climate, fauna and flora. He remained three years in America. The Russo-American Trading Company founded in 1821, encouraged Finnish immigration into Alaska and in Finland a Russo-Finnish Trading Company was formed and at the outbreak of the Crimean war it had six vessels plying between Alaskan and Finnish harbors. Finnish immigration to Alaska increased in the years of 1890 and 1897, so that there are some thousand Finns in the Yukon. Among famous Finns connected with Alaska were Arvid Adolf Etholen, the Russian Governor and Pastor Uno Cygnaeus, the "Father of the Finnish national school," who for five years labored as pastor among the Lutheran immigrants. In the early days many Finnish sailors and adventurers came to this side, and the California gold fever in 1850, the Crimean war of 1854-55 and the American civil war of 1861-65 gave an impetus to immigration. Since then there has been a steady stream, which reached its peak during the russification period, especially the years 1904-06. Since then it has gradually declined and now that Finland is independent and conditions are becoming more stabilized there is not the same reason for their emigration.

Finns have played a prominent part in American history and it is interesting to note that they have woven many stories round the personality of John Morton [37/38] who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Finns suppose that his real name was Murtonen. In the civil war they fought under the American flag, most of them serving in the navy.

There are now between three and four hundred thousand Finns in the United States, settled for the most part in Michigan and Minnesota, where the climate and geographical conditions approximate those of Finland. More than half of the Finnish population lives in the rural districts for reasons which are obvious from what has already been said in this pamphlet. The Finn has brought with him his traditions, including his sauna or bath-house, his culture, literature, music and art, all of which are kept alive by societies, socials and picnics and theatrical performances. The Finnish press in America, which consists of sixteen papers and one magazine, supplies the need of meeting his educational aspirations and giving him news of his mother country, not to mention the very important part it obviously plays in the process of Americanization. Among their societies may be mentioned their Temperance Societies, the Knights and Ladies of Kaleva, the Finnish-American Athletic Club and numerous cooperative associations. It is interesting in this connection to note that the Finns are pioneers in America of the co-operative residence movement. In Brooklyn there are seventeen Finnish co-operative residences representing a capital of $1,500,000. The Finns have an educational institution at Hancock, Michigan, known as the Suomi-Opisto, which is the only Finnish college on the American continent. The [38/39] curriculum is in accordance with American standards. In connection with it is a theological seminary to prepare pastors for the Finnish churches. The conclusions of Mr. Clemens Niemi, who has made a study of the Americanization of the Finnish people in Houghton County, Michigan, may well be quoted here: "Through economic activities especially in business life, he is adapting himself quicker to the new environment than through nationalistic, religious or cultural institutions which on one hand are means of spiritual self-expression and which to a considerable degree became Americanizing forces on the other hand. Until recent years politics has been a side issue to him due to the language difficulty and previous political situation in the old country, but his interest is growing rapidly. Some old traditions and customs are still maintained, some of them are even being accepted by other nationalities of American birth, but these traditions are gradually vanishing. His amalgamation and assimilation is so swift that he will not present any conflicting racial problem in the future."

Copies of this pamphlet may be obtained from The Book Store, Church Missions House, 281 Fourth Avenue, New York, N. Y., by asking for No. 1525. Price ten cents.


Most of the books dealing with Finland are written in Finnish, Swedish, Russian and German, but the following list of works in English, will be found useful:

THROUGH FINLAND IN CARTS. Tweedie. Macmillan, New York, 1898.
FINLAND AS IT IS. H. DeWindt. Dutton, New York, 1910.
FINLAND TODAY. G. Renwick. Scribner, New York, 1911.
FINLAND AND THE FINNS. A Reade. Dodd-Mead. New York, 1917.
THE FINN IN AMERICA. Van Clief. Geographical Review, September, 1918.
NEW MASTERS OF THE BALTIC. A. Ruhl. Dutton, New York, 1921.
FINLAND UNDER THE TSARS. J. R. Fisher. Ed. Arnold, London, 1901.
FINLAND, ITS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ECONOMY. N. C. Fredriksen. Ed. Arnold, London, 1902.
LETTERS FROM FINLAND. R. Travers. Kegan Paul. London, 1911.
THE NEW EASTERN EUROPE. R. Butler. Longmans. London, 1919.
FINLAND IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. L. H. S. Mechelin, Helsingfors, 1894.
THE KALEVALA. 2 vols. trans. by I. M. Crawford. Stewart & Kidd, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1910.
THE KALEVALA. 2 vols. trans. by W. F. Kirby. (Everyman's Library.)

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