chapter  12
15 Pages

Turning the landless into socialists

Agrarian reforms and resistance as drivers of political mobilisation in Finland, 1880–1914
BySami Suodenjoki

This chapter explores how agrarian unrest was fuelled by political mobilisation in Finland between 1880 and 1917. The Russian Grand Duchy of Finland provides example of an imperial borderland, where the socialist labour movement took the form of an agrarian protest party and gave political direction to rural protest at the beginning of the twentieth century. This development was sparked by revolutionary turbulence in Russia, but its essential context was the globalisation of markets associated with the Industrial Revolution, which had transformed Finnish agriculture and rural class relations in the late nineteenth century. This chapter first examines the scale and the changing repertoire of rural protests in Finland, with a particular focus on the unrest caused by problems of access to land. It then turns to the political consequence of this agrarian unrest, which saw the Finnish Social Democratic Party successfully canvass support from the country’s rural proletariat. The chapter places developments in Finland into the larger framework of the Russian empire, but also draws comparisons with Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. These comparisons highlight the role of colonial policies and the distinctive patterns of land ownership in explaining the political path taken by the Finnish agrarian mobilisation.