A nation in the making 1863–1916

The social conditions in Finland were largely based on the Nordic model, as the population had been under Swedish rule for 600 years. Finland’s own governmental bodies were established during the Russian rule that began in 1809. The 1810s saw the birth of the Senate, the predecessor of the Finnish Council of State. The Diet of Finland, with four Estates, was established in the 1860s, which also saw the emergence of many social movements as well as the party system, which has largely remained unchanged to this day. The four-estate Diet of Finland was replaced in 1907 by the parliament, based on universal and equal suffrage and eligibility. The Finnish parliamentary system has not undergone any major changes since then. The advance of the educational, cultural and economic systems shaped Finland into a nation ready for independence. Russian unification policy from the 1890s on gave rise to a political crisis known as the Russification of Finland. Finland’s own army was abolished, dissident politicians deported, freedom of expression attacked by establishing censorship and closing down newspapers. The country was not left with much independent political latitude. During the First World War in 1914–1917, Finland became a vast Russian army camp. Finnish young men volunteered for military training in Germany, Russia’s enemy. This resulted in the emergence of an approximately 2,000-man military unit known as the Jägers, which would form the backbone of independent Finland’s army in the spring of 1918.