Anssi Mäkinen, Under Varying Rules. Karelia, Ingermanland and Estonia on the Border between
Realms, 1560 – 1620.
This article deals with themes relating to the borderlands between Sweden and Russia undergoing
conditions of almost constant warfare between the years 1560 and 1620.
In Estonia and Ingermanland, the period of wars withered a promising economical
development. The feeling of identity among the tribes or nations (the Karelians, the Estonians
and so forth) was not very strong, partly because the areas were divided between neighbouring
realms in the Middle Ages. In Karelia the division between Swedish and Russian Karelians was
strict, the people on either side of the border being enemies to each other, though they also had
peaceful contacts, such as through trade.
In early modern Sweden (including Finland) the Crown was bound to the peasants mutually
by oath to protect and defend the peasants, and the peasants by loyalty to the ruler. In Estonia
the Teutonic Order had reigned before this period of wars, but had now lost its power, which
led to the invasion of the country by the neighbouring states. In the 1620s, the greater part of
Estonia had come under the rule of Sweden, as had Ingermanland and the province of Käkisalmi
in Eastern Karelia. Thus the inhabitants of these areas had to adjust to conditions unfamiliar
to them. The new rule brought its method of taxation to these areas, and also supported the
Lutheran church, the Orthodox church having been dominant until then. In Estonia, however, the
local German nobility struggled against the administrative reforms and succeeded in retaining
many of their privileges, which were in some respects better than those of the nobility of the
The warfare proved a heavy burden for the settlements. Besides the destructive raids made
by the enemy, the maintenance and the provisions of the country’s own army weighed upon
peasants in many ways. Many farmholders, for example the Orthodox population of the province
of Käkisalmi and Ingermanland, abandoned their farms and escaped to other regions. Some
of the remaining inhabitants decided to cooperate with the occupying forces, whereas others
became partisans, fighting additionally against those who were cooperating with the enemy.
The destruction of settlements in the province of Käkisalmi was very severe, over 80% of the
farms suffering. The situation was equally bad in Ingermanland and in eastern parts of Estonia.
In Swedish Karelia the proportion of devastated farms was somewhat smaller, being about 50%
in the regions near the border. After the Stolbova Treaty of 1617, there was plenty of migration
to the areas in question, as the earlier population had almost disappeared and the regions were
settled anew by inhabitants from the west.