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March 18, 2009


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Yes. No comments, but interest.

Noel, assuming that the question was about how the Ramsay family actually managed to assimilate in Sweden and Finland, it was really nothing special. Back in the 16th century, there were Scottish mercenaries all over Europe, and most of them were quite willing to settle down in their new homelands, especially in exchange for a patch of land and a noble title.

About why some Polish officers were so willing to become at least indirectly involved in the Decembrist Rising of 1825... well, it's a long story. The Polish political turbulence dated back to the Second Sejm in 1820, when Alexander I had responded to the prolonged debates on the constitutional reform simply by angrily dissolving the whole assembly. The result was the formation of a new underground extraparliamentary opposition in Congress Poland, based on radical conspiratorial societies on the Continental European model.

One of the most significant societies was "Towarzystwo Patriotyczne" (the Patriotic Society), led by major Walerian Łukasiński. Łukasiński was arrested in 1822 for "conspiratorial activities", and received a prison sentence. Needless to say, his arrest inflamed the radical tendencies among the Polish officer corps still further.

The remaining Polish conspirators were quick to establish contacts with their equally-disgruntled Russian colleagues. The first meeting between the leaders of the "Southern Society" of revolutionary Russian officers and the Polish "Patriotic Society" took place in Kiev in January 1824. The Russian conspirators hoped that by enlisting the assistance of the Polish Army, they could prevent Grand-Duke Konstantin - the Emperor's brother and the Russian commander-in-chief in the Congress Kingdom - from intervening against the upcoming insurrection in St. Petersburg. In exchange, the Russian negotiators were ready to grant concessions to the Polish conspirators, including the extension of the Polish eastern border eastwards, provided that the Congress Kingdom would still remain otherwise integrated with the future Russian state.

It should be noted, however, that these "Kiev Contracts" actually failed to establish any functioning consensus between the Russian and Polish conspirators. The previously-mentioned lieutenant-colonel Seweryn Krzyżanowski, who represented the Polish side in the talks, was unwilling to compromise the Polish freedom of action, because he - correctly - feared that the Decembrist coup attempt would end in a failure. In addition, the political program of the Russian "Southern Society" turned out to be, surprisingly enough, too radical for Krzyżanowski. In the spirit of colonel Pavel Pestel's declaration "Russkaya Pravda", the Russian negotiators were promoting the idea of a republican constitution for Russia, after the American example. Krzyżanowski feared legitimist hostility from Austria and Prussia, refused to condone the assassination of the monarch and instead suggested constitutional monarchy as the proper future form of government.

The negotiations continued in January 1825, but there wasn't much progress, mostly because neither side was in a hurry to draw up any detailed plans for action. At the time, no one expected that Alexander I was going to die before the end of the year. In the end, only a handful of Polish officers was actually able to participate in the Decembrist Uprising, but that was more than enough to compromise the entire military establishment of the Congress Kingdom in the eyes of Nicholas I.

Some of the Polish officers were imprisoned in Finland. There's actually an English-language reference in the memoirs Elizabeth Mary Leveson-Gower Grosvenor, Marchioness of Westminster. You can find her Diary of a tour in Sweden, Norway, and Russia, in 1827 online. The full reference goes like this:

"We set out again next morning, and got here on Thursday, at noon, having stopped half a day at Helsingfors [Helsinki], to see the wonderfully strong fortress of Sweaborg. Some of the Russian conspirators were found confined in a part of it, but they were suddenly taken away one morning about two months ago, and nobody knows where they are sent to. The Polish conspirators are not yet tried, but no more are to be executed."


J. J.

Also interested.

I'm interested.

Also interested. Back in the SHWI era, I recall that several times you mentioned that 19th century Finland was particularly loyal to the Tsar(*). This always astonished me-- being ignorant of Finnish history in that period, I assumed that the Finns wanted to get out of the Russian Empire, like the Poles and some other nationalities. I suppose that this assumption arose from my incorrect presumptions about why the 1940-1940 Soviet-Finnish hostilities started.

(*) I interpreted your essay above as saying that Finns were loyal to the _Tsar_, as distinct from being loyal to the Empire. Am I reading too much into this?

Dennis, as we shall see in the next installment, the loyalty was also loyalty towards the Empire. Although I suppose that one could also describe it in the context of class differences. The Finnish populace and common people were, as good Lutherans, loyal to the _Emperor_; most of them probably didn't much think of the Empire.

For the upper classes, for whom the Imperial Russian bureaucracy and military sometimes provided very good opportunities, the loyalty was also loyalty to the Empire. As you may remember, Alaska had two Finnish governors during the Russian era.

And, of course, as noted, Finnish officers and soldiers served with distinction pretty much in every single war of the Empire back in the 19th century. The relations with the Imperial master didn't start to turn sour until after 1899.


J. J.

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