Diet of Finland

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For information on Finnish food, see Finnish cuisine.

Emperor Alexander I of Porvoo in 1809 used this throne. The throne has been part of the collection of the National Museum of Finland from 1919 onwards
The Porvoo Diet is opened by Alexander I

The Diet of Finland (Finnish Suomen maapäivät, later valtiopäivät; Swedish Finlands Lantdagar), was the legislative assembly of the Grand Duchy of Finland from 1809 to 1906 and the recipient of the powers of the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates.

Åbo Lantdag[edit]

A memorial for the meeting of the states of Finland in Helsinki in 1616

The first States of Finland were held in Helsinki in 1616.[1] Other assemblies (Åbo lantdag) where held in Turku for example in 1676. The assembly was called together by Axel Julius De la Gardie. The estate of peasants was chaired by Heikki Heikinpoika Vaanila.

The Porvoo Diet[edit]

Main article: Diet of Porvoo
The sovereign's pledge, printed in Finnish

During the Finnish War between Sweden and Russia, the four Estates of occupied Finland (Nobility, Clergy, Burghers and Peasants) were assembled at Porvoo (Borgå) by Tsar Alexander I, the new Grand Duke of Finland, between March 25 and July 19, 1809. The central event at Porvoo was the sovereign pledge and the oaths of the Estates in Porvoo Cathedral on March 29. Each of the Estates swore their oaths of allegiance, committing themselves to accepting the Emperor and Grand Duke of Finland as the true authority, and to keeping the constitution and the form of government unchanged. Alexander I subsequently promised to govern Finland in accordance with its laws. This was thought to essentially mean that the emperor confirmed the Swedish Instrument of Government from 1772 as the constitution of Finland, although it was also interpreted to mean respecting the existing codes and statutes. The diet had required that it would be convened again after the Finnish War, which separated Finland from Sweden, had been concluded. On September 17 of the same year, the conflict was settled by the Treaty of Fredrikshamn, but it would be another five decades until the Finnish Estates would be called again.

The Estates convene again[edit]

The opening of the Diet in 1863

Not until June 1863, after the Crimean War had taken place, did Alexander II call the Estates again. On September 18 the opening ceremony was held and the Emperor made his declaration where he promised to introduce changes to the constitution. The changes included making the diet a regularly convening body, a promise which was kept by the Emperor when the diet convened again in January 1867, where it established an act on the working order of the diet. The diet was to convene at least every fifth year but in practice it would come to convene every third year. The act on Freedom of the Press was seen to have been rejected by the diet in 1867, and as a consequence censorship was introduced. The diets of the 1860s created a working and regularly convening Finnish parliament, but it also spelled an end to further promised constitutional reforms.

In the elections for the diet of 1872, members of the two language-based parties, the Fennomans and Svecomans, gained more ground at the expense of the liberals. After the assassination of Alexander II the special position of Finland in the Russian empire was in danger. Alexander III announced that the Finnish monetary, customs and postal systems were to be incorporated into their imperial counterparts. At the diet of 1882 the Governor-General gave the Emperors announcement that the diet would have the right to submit bills, but he would be the only one to initiate changes regarding the constitution and military issues.

The first period of oppression[edit]

In 1899 Grand Duke Nicholas II signed what came to be known as the February Manifesto. The powers of the diet regarding Finland's internal affairs were weakened and transferred to the Russian ministers. The legal committee of the diet of 1899 adopted the opinion that the manifesto was not legally valid in Finland.

Reform[edit]

The unrest during the Russo-Japanese War resulted in a general strike in Finland in October 1905. The most immediate result was the Emperor's manifesto that cancelled all illegal regulations. A parliament based on universal and equal suffrage was also promised. An extraordinary session of the diet in December 1905 was called to implement the parliamentary reforms. The proposal was presented to the Emperor on 15 March 1906 and after his approval it was submitted to the estates on 9 May. The reforms came to force on 1 October 1906. The diet was reformed from a legislative assembly of four Estates into a unicameral parliament of 200 members. At the same time universal suffrage was introduced, which gave all men and women, 24 years or older, the right to vote and stand for election. Acts on the right of parliament to monitor members of the government, on the Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Association, and Freedom of the Press were also introduced. These reforms established the hallmarks of today's Parliament of Finland. The first election to the new parliament was arranged in 1907.

Composition in 1869–1906[edit]

From 1869 to 1906 the Diet of Finland was composed as follows:

  • Nobility: 201 seats; the heads of noble families had the right to sit in person or name a family member as a representative.
  • Clergy: 40 seats; included priests, university personnel and other senior teachers who elected their representatives.
  • Burghers: 30–70 seats; these were the representatives of the people living in cities, only men with taxable wealth were eligible to vote. The number of seats rose when the population of the cities grew.
  • Peasants: 70 seats; elected through indirect election in which only peasants that owned their own land (4.5% of the rural population in early 1900s) could vote.

All chambers debated separately and there were no joint sessions. Three chambers had to pass the bill before it could be approved by the Emperor.

Sessions and meeting places of the Diet[edit]

The House of the Estates in Snellmaninkatu in Helsinki was the meeting place of the lower estates

List of sessions of the Finnish diet.[2]

  • 1809 (January to July);
  • 1863–1864 (September 1863 to April 1864);
  • 1867 (January to May);
  • 1872 (February to June);
  • 1877–1878; (January 1877 to January 1878);
  • 1882 (January to June);
  • 1885 (January to May);
  • 1888 (January to May);
  • 1891 (January to May);
  • 1894 (January to June);
  • 1897 (January to June);
  • 1899 (January to May);
  • 1900 (January to June);
  • 1904–1905 (December 1904 to April 1905);
  • 1906 (January to September);

The Diet of Finland, and the four estates of which it was composed, met in a number of different locations during its existence. In the 1860s, all the estates met in the Finnish House of Nobility. Whilst the Nobility of Finland continued to meet there until 1906, the three commoner estates later met in other locations, such as in 1888, when they met in the new building of the Ateneum Art Museum. From 1891 until the parliamentary reform of 1906 the three commoner estates of Clergy, Burghers and Peasants met in the newly built House of the Estates (Finnish Säätytalo, Swedish Ständerhuset). However, the meeting rooms of the house were too small for the 200-member unicameral parliament. The house has since seen sporadic use by the state and regular use by scientific and scholarly organizations.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aatos.
  2. ^ Eduskunta.

External links[edit]