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
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.