Monday, October 20, 2014

So Ends Finland.” To Rise Again After World War I

Previously on Finland Absorbed by Russia. This segment is by J.N. Reuter, writing on the side of Finland.

Time: 1910
Place: Finland

The Senate decided to postpone promulgation of this law in view of the constitutional doctrine involved in the preamble. It was pointed out that this doctrine was entirely foreign to Finnish law. The preamble which, according to custom, should have contained nothing beyond the formal sanction to the law in question, embodied an interpretation of constitutional law. Such an interpretation could only legally be made in the same manner as the enactment of a constitutional law, _i.e.,_ through the concurrent decision of the Sovereign and the Diet. The Senate, therefore, petitioned the Czar to modify the preamble in such a way as to remove from it what could be construed as an interpretation of constitutional law.

In reply, the Czar reprimanded the Senate for delaying promulgation, recommended it to do so immediately, but promised later on to take the representations made by the Senate into his consideration. Five of the Senators then voted against, while the Governor-General and five others voted for promulgation of, the law. The minority then tendered their resignations. The inconveniences resulting from this new constitutional doctrine proved, however, of so serious a practical nature that the Czar eventually, in July, 1909, issued a declaration that "the gracious expressions in the preamble to the Landlord and Tenant Law concerning the invalidity of the decisions of a dissolved Diet do not constitute an interpretation of the constitutional law and shall not in the future be binding in law."

A third and most important encroachment by the Russian Council of Ministers on the autonomy of Finland was also carried out at the instigation of M. Stolypin. The Finnish Constitution makes no distinction between matters that may have, or may not have, a bearing on the interests of Russia. At the same time Russian interests have never been disregarded in Finnish legislation. It had been the practice, when a legislative proposal was brought forward in Finland, and a Russian interest might be affected by it, to communicate with the Russian Minister whom the matter most closely concerned, in order that he might make his observations. This practice was confirmed by law in 1891. In its memoranda of 1908 and 1909, on the interference of the Russian Council of Ministers in Finnish affairs, the Senate suggested that, in case the procedure under the ordinance of 1891 were not satisfactory, a committee of Russian and Finnish members should be appointed to discuss a “modus procedendi” of such a nature that the Constitution of Finland should not be violated. On the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, the Czar rejected these suggestions, but the Council of Ministers took the matter in hand and summoned a "Special Conference," consisting of several Russian Ministers, other high Russian functionaries, the Governor-General of Finland, who is also a Russian, with M. Stolypin as President. Their business was to draw up a program for a joint committee to be appointed "for the drafting of proposals for regulations concerning the procedure of issuing laws of general Imperial interest concerning Finland." This conference accordingly drew up a program, approved by the Czar on April 10, 1909, in which it was resolved that the joint committee should suggest a definition of the term "laws of general Imperial interest concerning Finland." These laws, it was proposed, should be totally withdrawn from the competency of the Finnish Diet and should be passed by the legislative bodies of Russia, that is, the Council of State and the Duma. The only safeguard for the interests of Finland suggested in the program is that a representative for Finland should be admitted to these two bodies when Finnish questions were discussed there.

It is impossible to say what laws concerning Finland will be defined as being of "general interest." Having regard, however, to the wide interpretation which Russian reactionaries are wont to put on the expression, there is every reason to suppose that the Russian members of the committee will insist on its extension so as to include every important category of law.

The Finnish members through their spokesman, Archbishop Johansson, declared that they proceeded to work on the committee on the assumption that in case alterations in the law of Finland should be found necessary, having regard to Imperial interests, such alterations should be made through modifications in the constitutional laws of Finland. The Finlanders are prepared to do their duty by the empire, but, the Archbishop said: "Sacrifices have been demanded from us to which no people can consent. The Finnish people can not forego their Constitution, which is a gift of the Most High, and which, next to the Gospel, is their most cherished possession."

M. Deutrich, who spoke on behalf of the Russian members, explained that any law resulting from the labors of the committee would not be submitted to the ratification of the Finnish Diet.

So M. Stolypin's way was now clear. The sanction of the people will not be required. The Finlanders have practically no other help than that given by a consciousness of the justice of their cause. They have no appeal.

In November of 1909 the Finnish Diet was dissolved by a ukase of the Czar. Since then the Russian Government has been passing decree after decree for Finland, giving the constitutional authorities no voice even of protest. So ends Finland.

The End.

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