Finland – Scandinavian Travel

The Fen-land, Seiomen-maa, is a vast land of lakes and granite rocks. It is about as large as the whole of France. In Eastern Finland, “the Land of a Thousand Lakes,” more than half the country is occupied by stony basins of clear water, to which the rivers are only connecting links. Northern Finland has little vegetation except moss and lichen, and all over the rest of the country are vast desolate districts. Finland is twelve times less populous in proportion than France, even three times less populous in proportion than Russia itself.

Finland is the only European state, except Hungary, which has preserved the name of a nation not Aryan. Its people, called Chouds in the Slavonic Chronicles, preserve, at least in the north, their traditions and cultivate their language, which is Oriental, and nearly related to Hungarian. In the south they are becoming more amalgamated with the Russians. Of Mongolian race, they are the earliest inhabitants with whose history we are acquainted in the north of Russia, and are the natural inhabitants of the soil of St. Petersburg. Possibly they are the red-haired nation living in wooden cities, mentioned by Herodotus as lying to the north of his Sarmatians. In the days of the English Alfred, the Finns had a great city at Perm, with a gilt female idol, whom they worshiped; and by means of the two rivers Volga and Tetchora, they carried on a great trade with the Caspian, the people of Igur, or Bukhara, and India.

The Aurea Venus of Perm was mentioned by Russian chroniclers under the name of Saliotta Baba—the golden old woman. After the Asiatic hordes had overrun Southern Russia, the Finns were driven out of their original settlements by the Bulgarians, and in their turn drove out the Lapps, who were compelled to take refuge in the extreme north. The Finns continued to be idolaters—worshiping Ukko, the god of air and thunder; Tapio, the god of forests; Akti, the god of lakes and streams; and Tuoni, the god of fire—till the twelfth century, when Eric IX. of Sweden landed on the west coast with an army and with St. Henry, an Englishman, the first bishop and martyr of Finland, and conquered the country, physically and spiritually. The Swedes governed Finland as Sweden was governed, and gave the Finns a representation in the Swedish ‘Diet. Having been Catholic since the Swedish conquest, most of the Finns became Lutherans after the Reformation under Gustavus Vasa, when the convents were confiscated. The prevailing religion is now Lutheran.

The part of Finland nearest to Russia was annexed by Peter the Great in 1703, and the rest of Finland was, in 1808, ceded to the generous Alexander I., who respected both the customs and religion of the country, of which he made himself duke. Tho nominally subject to Russia and partially protected by her, Finland has since been substantially independent, with her own laws and customs.