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News, 1/11/2008

Finland's independence is recognised by European states - vivat, floreat,crescat

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs marks the 90th anniversary year of its establishment in 2008. During its anniversary year the Ministry will present its history and treasures from its archives, among others in a serie of articles by Mr. Jyrki Paloposki, Head of Information Service at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In this serie Ministry has earlier published the articles:

  • New Year’s Eve at Smolna, St Petersburg – Recognition of Finland’s independence on 31 December 1917
  • The Declaration of Independence: Among free and independent nation

All the articles can be read on the website MFA 90.

Head of Information Service Jyrki Palokoski:
Finland's independence is recognised by European states - vivat, floreat,crescat

Three Emperors, who recognized Finland: William II of Germany, Mehmet V of Turkey, and Franz Josef of Austria.
Three Emperors, who recognized Finland: William II of Germany, Mehmet V of Turkey, and Franz Josef of Austria.

As soon as Russia had officially recognised Finland's independence on 4 January 1918, other countries could follow suit. The first were Sweden, France and Germany. Finland sent special delegations to Europe and the United States to notify about its independence and to speed up the process of obtaining recognitions. During 1918, as many as 15 states recognised Finland's independence but the United States of America and Great Britain, for example, did not give their recognition until in spring 1919.

Sweden acted rapidly

Sweden's notification of their recognition of Finland.
Sweden's notification of their recognition of Finland.

The Swedes showed great sympathy for Finland's independence. A Finnish delegation paid a visit to Stockholm to discuss with Prime Minister Edén and Foreign Minister Hellner. Towards the end of December, King Gustav V himself received the delegation. He said that Sweden will recognise its new eastern neighbour as soon as Finland has clarified matters with Russia. The King also told that the Swedish mission in St Petersburg had worked for the benefit of the Finns in its cooperation with the Bolshevik Government. Sweden recognised Finland on the same day, 4 January, as the Russian did.

The Swedish notification of recognition of Finland's independence was conveyed to the Senate by Walter Ahlström, Head of the Swedish Consulate General in Helsinki. In accordance with the message, His Majesty King Gustav V of Sweden, in the session of the Government on 4 January, had decided to recognise Finland as an independent and sovereign country. On the same week, Sweden's example was followed by Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Greece.

Competition between France and Germany

Finland had requested recognition of its independence from all the parties to the ongoing World War in the first half of December. France and Germany entered into a minor competition concerning the matter. France was not dependent on Russia's opinion in the same way as Germany, which was engaged in peace talks with Russia. France considered that by means of recognising Finland's independence without delay, it might prevent Finland from becoming driven more closely under the influence of Germany. France recognised Finland's independence on 4 January 1918 together with Russia and Sweden.

Edvard Hjelt, the first Finnish Envoy to Berlin in 1918-19
Edvard Hjelt, the first Finnish Envoy to Berlin in 1918-19

Germany was considered to be the most reliable supporter of Finland. However, Edvard Hjelt in Finland's mission in Berlin viewed the Germans' slow action with disappointment. Discussions had been conducted and sympathy had been received, but the French came ahead of the Germans in the recognition issue. Finally, on 6 January, the Finnish delegation was invited to meet German Chancellor von Hertling. He announced that the Emperor had recognised Finland and asked von Hertling to pass his congratulations. Hjelt thanked and said that Germany's recognition was more significant to Finland than that of any other country. Hjelt also hastened to inquire about the date of recognition, to which von Hertling replied that the Emperor had already visited his Chancellor on 4 January and expressed his happiness about Finland's independence. According to Hjelt, it had been agreed upon Germany's initiative that Sweden recognise Finland first and Germany will follow. It had been considered that this would ease the recognition process by France and its allies. Other rumours had also been spread, but there is no reason to believe them.

As far as to Constantinople

Finland sent several delegations to Europe to inform about the independence and to request for recognition. Professor Paasonen, who was a member of a delegation heading towards south-west Europe, has described the atmosphere in Budapest saying that the reception was warm. Both Prime Minister Wekerle and Speaker of Parliament Szasz later on wished success for its kindred people which had been fighting and suffering a lot. Their sincere hope was that Finland "vivat, floreat, crescat".

King Ferdinand of Bulgaria congratulated Svinhufvud
King Ferdinand of Bulgaria congratulated Svinhufvud

The delegation of professors Kalima and Mikkola travelled to Constantinople and Sofia in February. According to Mikkola, in Constantinople they were received with fabulous hospitality and friendliness. Everyone from the Sultan to journalists treated the Finns as dear Nordic relatives of Turkey, meeting one another after thousands of years. Having met the Sultan and after receiving the Grand Vizier's congratulations, the professors travelled to Sofia, where celebration of Finland continued. King Ferdinand was celebrating his birthday at the same time and Mikkola had a seat between the King and the Crown Prince. The King raised his glass and said in Finnish: "Long live the free and independent people of Finland". Prior to the gala dinner, the King had been in another room and read aloud the text of the Bulgarian Government's recognition of Finland's independence.

Big independence celebration

On 13 January, a big celebration was arranged in the National Theatre in Helsinki in honour of the countries that had recognised Finland's independence. A large coat-of-arms of Finland was placed on the stage, decorated with red and yellow bands and the colours of Russia and France on its sides. The side walls were decorated with the flags of Sweden, Germany, Norway and Denmark. There were four keynote speakers. Werner Söderhjelm thanked the countries that had recognised Finland's independence and addressed their representatives in the event. Consul Raynaud of France received a special applause. At the end of the event, everybody stood listening to the national anthems of these countries. The Marseillaise of France was magnificent. Germany had not sent a representative to the celebration, but the audience required that the orchestra play Die Wacht am Rhein, even twice. Senate's representative in foreign political issues, Carl Enckell, tactfully ushered the French Consul for a walk in the lobby while the German national anthem was played. Raynaud had already informed that he will not listen to German songs.

Another keynote speaker was Maila Talvio, the author, who addressed the Finns and appealed to the unity of the people. Talvio cited the dying knight in Schiller's drama, saying: "Seid einig, einig, einig." However, two weeks after the celebration of independence, Finland was in the middle of a civil war.

This document

Updated 2/7/2008

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