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Finnish Independence Day – Congratulations!

6 December, 2010 (12:36) | Finnish Culture, Finnish History | By: Aleksi O.

Finnish FlagToday is Finnish Independence Day! My sincere congratulations!

It really seems to be a holiday: the streets are empty, almost no cars, no people on the walking paths, the snow stays untouched (though normally the machines starts to clean it at 4 in the morning). It seems to be quite strange to me to see an empty town on the biggest celebration of the state. Just wonder how do Finnish people/state celebrate this day other than sitting in front of TV, consuming beer and going to sauna (sauna here seems to be the best treatment for all times and occasions). Asked a few friends of mine and got some good news that at least somewhere this day is celebrated.

Based on what I’ve learned from them – there is a Finnish Military Parade on the Independence Day in Helsinki, church service at the Helsinki Cathedral, a huge concert and some interesting event, called Linnanjuhlat, “the Castle Ball,” where the president, Tarja Halonen, shakes hands with the most important people in the country. The rest of the country seems to stay at their TVs and observe the presidential handshake party and enjoy the “fashion show” dedicated to this occasion (what is this or that dressed like). Too bad there is not much going on in the little towns. I hope my friends are being sarcastic and do not tell me everything. If you know of some other nice events, leave a comment.

Hm! Well, not much interesting in this to me. I should turn my face to the history of the independence of Finland as it seems to be quite interesting. Guess, here I can find better clause for the celebration mood. Finland declared independence from Russian Empire on December 6th, 1917.

Finnish hopes of independence were ignited by the detrimental processes in Russian Empire: 2 revolutions, Russia’s defeat in the First World War and followed civil  disturbances. At that time Finland was a part of Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland. The February Revolution and later the October Revolution of 1917, demoralized by the defeat Russian troops, and following the defeat, Civil War of the white generals, supported by the Western powers (UK, France and USA), has created sufficient ground to take advantage of the moment. And this is what I really like about Finnish people – they know how to take advantage of the situation. The Soviet government was struggling to defeat its opponents in the Civil War and (my best guess) this is the reason they issued on November 15th 1917 the general right of self-determination, which included the right of complete secession.

On the same day, Finnish Parliament issued a declaration by which it temporarily assumed all powers of the sovereign in Finland. The fact that Finnish Parliament was so quick to claim its right was rooted in the abduction of the Grand Duke Nikolay II on March 15, 1917, who was the Duke/Sovereign of Finland. Since it was a personal union between Russia and Finland – without the official representative to claim its right, the union lost its legal bases (at least, this is how Helsinki interpreted the situation).

After several disagreements between the non-socialists and the social-democrats about the matter of who should have the power in Finland, the parliament, led by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, finally declared Finland as an independent state, on 6 December 1917. On 18 December (new style (NS) 31 December) the Soviet government issued a Decree on the State Independence of Finland, recognizing Finland’s independence, and on December 22 (January 4, 1918 NS) it was approved by the highest Soviet executive body led by Lenin – VTsIK.

Decree of Finnish Independence

The Independence Day was first celebrated in 1919. However, during the first years of independence, the 6th of December was in some parts of Finland only a minor holiday compared to May 15, which was the day of celebration for the Whites who prevailed in the Finnish Civil War.

During the first decades of independence, Independence Day was a very solemn occasion marked by patriotic speeches and special Church services. From the 1970s onwards, however, Independence day celebrations have taken on livelier forms, with shops decorating their windows in the blue and white of the Finnish flag, and bakeries producing cakes with blue and white icing.

It is traditional for many Finnish families to light two candles in each window of their home in the evening. Today, when we gathered with friends of mine, they brought one of these White & Blue candles. It was quite nice to light it up, have a meal and some nice political discussions, and rejoice with the freedom we can experience in Finland.

If you want to find more about the Finnish Independence Day, go to the following articles on Wikipedia: Independence Day and Finnish Declaration of Independence.

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