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Military of the Grand Duchy of Finland

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Title: Military of the Grand Duchy of Finland  
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Subject: Military history of Finland, Hannes Ignatius, Finnish Defence Forces, Grand Duchy of Finland, History of Finland
Collection: Grand Duchy of Finland, Military History of Finland
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Military of the Grand Duchy of Finland

Between 1809 and 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of the Russian Empire as the Grand Duchy of Finland. Between 1881 and 1901 the Grand Duchy had its own army. Before that several other military units had also been formed.

The Grand Duchy inherited its allotment system (ruotujakolaitos) from the Swedish military organization. However, For several decades, Russian rulers did not require military service from Finland - operations and defence were mostly taken care by Russian troops based in the Grand Duchy. As a result, officer benefits of the allotment system became practically pensions, as payment was based on passive availability, not on actual service.

The Diet of Finland made a pact with Tsar Alexander I; Finland paid a tax to Russia as compensation and military service was not called. This lasted until the Crimean War, 1854, during and after which Finland set up some sharpshooter battalions based on rote system.


  • Napoleonic wars 1
  • Crimean war 2
  • The conscription act of 1878 3
  • See also 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6

Napoleonic wars

During the war with Napoleon in 1812 six infantry battalions were formed in Finland. These were disbanded in 1830.

A training battalion formed in 1827 was renamed Henkikaartin Suomen Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Guards Sharpshooter battalion) which was more commonly known as the Guard of Finland (Suomen kaarti). It remained as a unit of the Russian Imperial Guard until 1905 when it was disbanded. The Cadet school in Hamina was founded in 1812 and existed until 1903. A Suomen Krenatööritarkk'ampujapataljoona (Grenadier Sharpshooter Battalion) was founded in 1846, but later disbanded in 1860.

A Navy unit Suomen Meriekipaasi was founded in 1830. It had up to 1000 men and officers. The ships were mostly small sailing vessels, but also comprised a couple of bigger steam frigates, the Rurik and the Kalevala, named after the Finnish national epic. 2. Meriekipaasi was founded during the Crimean War. Finnish Navy artillery-men fought against the British and French fleets from the Santahamina island shore batteries during the siege of Fortress Sveaborg in Helsinki.

Meriekipaasi's number of men was greatly reduced during the 1860s and -70's and finally the unit was disbanded in the 1880s.

The Meriekipaasi personnel were housed in a garrison building in Katajanokka called Merikasarmi in Helsinki. Today, the building houses the Foreign Ministry.

Crimean war

During the Crimean War nine battalions were formed in Finland. The soldiers were drafted using the old allotment system (Ruotulaitos), a remnant from the old Swedish system. The battalions were disbanded in 1867.

The conscription act of 1878

English Finnish Russian
Generals Kenraalit Генералы
General Kenraali Генерал
Lieutenant-General Kenraaliluutnantti Генерал-лейтенант
Major-General Kenraalimajuri Генерал-майор
Field officers Esiupseerit Штаб-офицеры
Colonel Eversti Полковник
Lieutenant Colonel Everstiluutnantti Подполковник
Company officers Yliupseerit Обер-офицеры
Captain Kapteeni Капитан
Second Captain Alikapteeni Штабс-капитан
Lieutenant Luutnantti Поручик
Sub-Lieutenant Aliluutnantti Подпоручик
Ensign Vänrikki Прапорщик
NCO Alipäällikkö-kunta ja miehistö Унтер-офицеры
Quartermaster Sergeant Varusmestari Каптенармус
Senior Sergeant Vanhempi aliupseeri Старший унтер-офицер
Junior Sergeant Nuorempi aliupseeri Младший унтер-офицер
Corporal Korpraali Ефрейтор
Soldier Sotamies Рядовой

During the 1860s conscription was seen as an effective way to maintain an army. In 1878 a law was passed by the Finnish Landtag and the Emperor Alexander II calling for a general conscription in Finland. The result was an army that was separated from the Russian army. The army was to consist of only Finnish citizens and was to be led by the Governor-General of Finland. The maximum number of men in the army was set to 5600 and it was to consist of:

  • Henkivartioväen 3. Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Helsinki)
  • Suomen 1. Uudenmaan Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Helsinki)
  • Suomen 2. Turun Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Turku)
  • Suomen 3. Vaasan Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Vaasa)
  • Suomen 4. Oulun Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Oulu)
  • Suomen 5. Kuopion Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Kuopio)
  • Suomen 6. Mikkelin Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Mikkeli)
  • Suomen 7. Hämeenlinnan Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Hämeenlinna)
  • Suomen 8. Viipurin Tarkk'ampujapataljoona (Viipuri)
  • Suomen Rakuunarykmentti (Lappeenranta) (1890)
  • Suomen Kadettikoulu (Hamina)

The battalions were founded in 1880-1881 and reached full strength in 1883. Each infantry battalion consisted of four companies. The Dragoon Regiment (Rakuunarykmentti) consisted of six squadrons (eskadroona). Thirty-two reserve companies were formed in 1883. The conscripts were selected by a lottery. For those selected to serve, the period of service was three years. However, those with a comprehensive education (at least 4 years at school) had a service period of two years. The conscripts who were university students served only a year. Those not selected to serve the full period served one month each summer for three years in the reserve company of their region.

All Finnish line units wore the dark green uniforms of the Imperial Russian infantry and dragoons but with light blue facings as a distinction. The Guards Sharpshooters' Battalion wore yellow facings on its dark green uniform, until it was disbanded in 1905.

See also


  • J.E.O. Screen, Suomalaiset tarkk'ampujat - Suomen vanha sotaväki 1881 - 1901 (ISBN 952-9872-11-9)
  • J.E.O. Screen, The Finnish Army, 1881 - 1901 - Training the Rifle Battalions (ISBN 951-710-035-3)

External links

  • Social relations and cultural categorisation in the memoirs of Finnish guardsmen taking part in the Russo-Turkish war, 1877-1878
  • Finland officers in Bulgarian army after the end of Russian Turkish war in 1877 - 1878.
  • Uudenmaan tarkk'ampujapataljoonan upseerit asuivat Karhun korttelissa Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish)
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