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March 23, 2009


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I feel a bit silly to be posting the first comment on this, but, well...

Yes, the "Fatherland" refers to Finland. And if memory serves, running-the-gauntlet was also practiced by some Native American tribes, as a masculine initiation ritual as well as a method of torturing prisoners.

About father Spalding, who had earner his rank the hard way... well, Fredrik Johan Spalding was born as a son of a Finnish stock-broker in St. Petersburg in 1774. He began his military career as an under-aged sergeant in the Swedish archipelago fleet in 1783. As an enlisted man, he was promoted to the rank of an ensign in 1787, and after serving with distinction in King Gustav III's War against Russia in 1788-1790, he was promoted to a lieutenant.

He received a promotion to the rank of a captain in 1796, and began his service in the army. This career shift was nothing special, since the Swedish archipelago fleet was a separate arm from the battle fleet; this was reflected in the fact that most of men who served in the galleys of the archipelago fleet had a background in the army. He was promoted to the rank of a cavalry captain in 1805, and served as one of the adjutants of King Gustav IV Adolf in the last war against Russia in 1808-1809. He finished his career in the Swedish army as a colonel in 1812.

He applied for a formal noble rank from the Finnish House of Nobility in 1812, but his application was rejected. However, given his distinguished service history in two Swedish wars, he was accepted to the Staff of the Governor-General of Finland, and he received a post as a general-major in the Russian Army in 1820. Consequently, even though he was a non-noble, his sons were eligible to serve as officers also in the Imperial Life-Guard.

About the conversion rate between silver and paper rubles; the Napoleonic Wars had a long-term impact on the Russian finances, and the Empire didn't return to the silver standard until 1839. By then, the eventual conversion rate between a silver ruble and a paper ruble was 1:3½, with the weight of a pure silver ruble 18 grams.

To make things more confused, at the time of the Polish campaign, there were _five_ different types of money in circulation in the Grand-Duchy of Finland. The Russian silver and paper rubles were the official currency; but the old Swedish "riksdaler specie" and the new "riksdaler banco" were also still in use; and finally, there were the small banknotes issued by the Finnish Bank, pegged to the paper ruble.

(The Swedish conversion rate was fixed in 1830; the conversion rate between riksdaler specie and riksdaler banco was 1:2⅔. Sweden returned to the silver standard in 1834. The weight of the silver riksdaler was 25.5 grams.)

The average Finnish state income during 1810-1830 was (according to some hazy notes that I've made in the past, I don't have any book at hand right now) 1,438,000 silver rubles, whereas the state expenditure was 1,217,000 silver rubles.

At this time, the main source of revenue for the Grand-Duchy of Finland was still the traditional land tax, which could not be changed. The institution of all new taxes required the formal consent of the Finnish Estates, and as I mentioned in that first introductory post, the Finnish Diet was not convened again until 1863. So, tax hikes were simply not an option.

The customs revenue was only just beginning to gain significance during this period; as late as in 1840, customs revenue formed only 17% of the Finnish state income. The state did not start to pay closer attention to the tariff policy until in the 1830s, by which time the bad shape of the Finnish state finances was becoming fairly obvious. I'm not sure if this bad condition actually resulted in any way from the increased expenditure during the Polish campaign, but I guess that it's something that I have to find out.

Yes, the transfer payment to the Russian Field Intendenture included the ordinary logistic and supply expenses that you've mentioned. The initial equipment costs - uniforms and such - were covered by that first sum paid by the Finnish Senate, but during the campaign, the supply was, for practical purposes, in the hands of the Russian High Command.

(Ammunition, by the way, was hardly any kind of an issue back then - as you may recall, as late as during the Franco-Prussian War, consumption of ammunition was so small that an average German soldier was unlikely to fire more cartridges than what he was carrying in his backbag during the campaign.)

As for the classic argument how the fiscal efforts needed to sustain wars were a key part in creating modern European states... well, the Grand-Duchy of Finland had inherited its state institutions from Sweden. And the 17th century Sweden was arguably the one European country that was the most succesful in creating a modern state and administrative machinery for the very purpose of harnessing all the national resources for warfare and expansion. So, in the case of Finland, the state institutions and those fiscal structures were already firmly in place.

Obviously, by the early 19th century and especially after the Russian conquest, this military heritage had faded somewhat. So, what we're seeing is how a peaceful autonomous state, subjected to a large, militarized Empire, is trying to use its administration and its resources for an entirely new task; namely, to sustain a limited, ad hoc participation in a military campaign on foreign ground, in service of the Empire.

I'm sure that there are some comparable examples from the history of the United States; perhaps from the Union side during the Civil War? I suppose that the impact of the Boer War on the status of Canada might also be a comparable example.


J. J.

Your answers are fascinating, and provide much food for thought.

Regarding your last question: more modern parallels than the Boer War are what first come to my mind. Colombia trying to sustain a battalion in Korea, attached to the U.S. Army, for example. (Although mid-century Colombia wasn't exactly peaceful, the point holds.) Or Turkey's contribution to the same war. Or the British Commonwealth forces. And, later, the South Koreans in Vietnam.

Thing is, these experiences don't seem to have led to a lasting attachment to the American hegemony. Or perhaps I am reading them wrong? After all, there are British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Turkish, and South Korean contingents in Afghanistan (I spent time with the Koreans) and the English-speaking ones are quite substantial compared to the size of their militaries.

Anyway, I am fascinated by this history; I knew it not at all.

Last minor point: I should have known about the low ammunition use in European wars --- but I did not. The template I have in my head is the Civil War, and while I remember learning at one point that the Civil War was most unlike the European wars of the time in terms of its industrial intensity (among many other things) the lesson appears not to have stuck. IIRC, a Civil War soldier on the Union side fired about 30 rounds per battle, out of a 40 round issue, and God only knows how much over the course of a campaign. Emphasis on IIRC.

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