Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Classical Liberalism in Finland in the Nineteenth Century

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Abstract

For centuries Finland has been a province of the Swedish empire, but in 1809 Finland became an autonomous part of Russia and so became tied to the eastern cultural sphere. For much of the first part of the century Finnish society was rather stagnant as the diet of Finland, the legislative assembly of the grand duchy of Finland, was not allowed to convene and censorship of the press stifled discussion on needed reforms. Slowly things however started to change, as liberalism broke thorough from the 1850s onward. What had mostly been an academic discussion during the early years of the century now became mainstream thought and characterized the tendency in economic policy for decades to come. The more liberally minded Russian emperor Alexander II, who succeeded to the throne in 1855, played an important role in the liberalization of Finland. In 1880 the Finnish liberal movement reached its peak as the short-lived Liberal Party was founded. From this point on liberalism as a political creed somewhat lost its luster as it was challenged by political competition from forces organized around the two language groups of Finland.

Podcast related to this article: Jens Grandell on Liberalism in Finland in the Nineteenth Century (EJW Audio, September 2021).