Studia Historica Septentrionalia 67


Antti Räihä, The Appointment of Town Officials and the Legitimacy of the Crown. Hamina and Lappeenranta after the Peace Treaties of Uusikaupunki (1721) and Turku (1743)

Early modern states had various instruments and methods for taking territories under their control after wars. It has been argued that the local officials always had the main liability for legitimizing the Crown’s power and establishing control over society. This article analyzes how the local officials were appointed to their posts in the towns of Hamina and Lappeenranta in two postwar eras in the early and the mid-eighteenth century. The Peace Treaty of Uusikaupunki ended over a decade of Russian military occupation in south-eastern Finland and made Hamina and Lappeenranta into Swedish border towns against Russia. After the Russo-Swedish war of 1741–1743, Hamina and Lappeenranta again became part of Russia. The Peace of Turku ensured that the old Swedish laws, privileges and statutes remained in force in the new Province of Kymmenegård, which was constituted after the treaty.

The fall of Swedish absolutism in 1719 did not result in any real loss of power for the Crown even though the new constitutional laws established the right for the city burghers to participate in the election of the magistrates and other town officials. Nonetheless, after the Great Northern War the interests of the local town administrations and the Crown in the appointment of new officials were more or less in conflict, and the Crown not only tried to force its orders through but also turned a blind eye to some deficiencies in its statutes. In this way, and with the help of the county governors, the central administration was able to establish considerable indirect influence over the appointment of local officials in Hamina and Lappeenranta. The county governor was an important intermediary in communications between the central government and the local administration, which represented the legitimacy of the Swedish Crown.

Comparing the Russian modes of operation after the Peace of Turku with the preceding Swedish practices reveals some obvious differences. The Russian authorities at the gouvernement and provincial levels kept a close watch over the implementation of the old Swedish legislation, which gave them the statutory right to interfere in local administration. Misunderstandings between the local administration and the central government were familiar to the magistrates of Hamina and the burghers of Hamina and Lappeenranta, but in contrast to the former Swedish rule the authorities at the intermediate level no longer helped to solve problems but on the contrary were a cause of them. Complaints against the inefficient and high-handed Russian gouvernement and the provincial administration led to the local communities trying to establish direct contacts with the central administration, by-passing the intermediary authorities. This is an indication of major problems of governmental legitimacy at the local level.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 67