The Åland Islands occupy a position of great strategic importance, commanding as they do both one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm and the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated proximate to the Gulf of Finland.
1809 September - Treaty of Fredrikshamn: Finland and the islands ceded to Russia. The Swedes were unable to secure a provision that the islands should not be fortified. The question was, however, a vital one not only for Sweden but for Britain, whose trade in the Baltic was threatened.
30 March 1856: By the Åland Convention, concluded between United Kingdom, France and Russia, it was stipulated that "the Åland Islands shall not be fortified, and that no military or naval establishments shall be maintained or created on them." By the 33rd article of the Treaty of Paris 1856 this convention, annexed to the final act, was given "the same force and validity as if it formed part thereof", Palmerston declaring in the House of Commons on May 6 that it had "placed a barrier between Russia and the north of Europe."
1906 - Russian garrison established in the Islands. Some attention was attracted to the Treaty of Paris arrangement when it was asserted that Russia, under pretext of stopping the smuggling of arms into Finland, was massing considerable naval and military forces at the islands.
1907 - France and Great Britain requested by Russia to cancel Convention of 1856.
1907 - Secret Treaty of Björkö (Russia and Germany) giving Russia a free hand as to the Islands.
1907 and 1908: The question of the Åland Islands created some discussion in connection with the new North Sea agreements, and undoubtedly Russia considered the convention of 1856 as rather humiliating. But it was plainly shown by other powers that they did not propose to regard it as modified or open to question, and the point was not definitely and officially raised.
1914 - Outbreak of World War I: Russia fortifies the Islands.
1916 - The islands were remilitarised by Russia and used, among others, as a submarine base during World War I.
1918 - Independence of Finland recognized by Soviet Government, Sweden, and Germany. Bolshevik force landed in the Islands. Swedish military expedition (February). Germany occupies the Islands (march-October).
1918 - Appeals of islanders for reunion with Sweden - to Finland, Germany, and Sweden (March); to United States, France, and Great Britain (November 9); to Finland (November 18).