FARAVID 33/2009


Titta Kallio-Seppä, Timo Ylimaunu, Tiina Kuokkanen, Risto Nurmi, Changes in borders and space in northern Finland after 1809

In this article we discuss how the meanings of space and architecture changed and new borders were built in northern Finnish localities after 1809, at the end of the war between Sweden and Russia. As a consequence of Sweden’s defeat, the eastern third of Sweden became the Autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland as part of the Russian Empire. A new frontier divided now Finland’s inhabitants from the Swedes.

The baseline for the study is the manner in which Russia exercised power over its subjects. We analyse how architecture and town planning were used in making a distinction between Sweden and the new Russian Autonomous Grand Duchy and creating new identity. New concrete and abstract borders were constructed by altering material culture by building new churches and rebuilding towns according to new town plans.

In northern Finland new churches were built on the eastern side of the new frontier in new places such as Kemi, Karunki, Ylitornio, Pello and Muonio during the 1810s and 1820s. The new church buildings were seen as a means to prevent subjects to be influenced by former Swedish ruler’s words and orders. A fire destroyed the town of Oulu in 1822, after which it was rebuilt according to a new town plan that was accepted by the Tsar. Extensive destruction helped to rebuild the town according to ideals of the empire: strict grid plan, wider streets and larger blocks. The exterior of buildings converted also decisively and altered towns’ architectural appearance.

A new concrete frontier and the means of constructing mental and material difference from former mother country Sweden in northern Finland can be seen as a part of global phenomenon. The same kind of top down will of domination, ordering and categorizing can also be observed to have happened in other parts of Europe in colonial contexts, for example between the British Imperium and Ireland as well as on Cyprus.


Faravid 33/2009