A slowly, sullenly rising nationality

I've come to the conclusion that this blog doesn't quote famous Russian anarchists enough. It's time to put that right.

In "Finland: A Rising Nationality" (1885), famous Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin considered the Finnish national character:

Exceedingly laborious they are all throughout the country: they could not lie otherwise in their Suomenmaa - the country of marshes - where the arable soil must be won from the forests, moors, and even lakes, which stretch over nine-tenths of the land. The perseverance and tenacity that characterise all Northern Finnish stems are the natural outcome of these conditions, together with a gravity and a kind of melancholy which are so striking in the features of the people and form one of the most marked peculiarities of their folklore. The disasters, the wars, the bad crops, the famines, from which the Finnish peasant has so often had to suffer, have created his capacity of grave and uncomplaining submission to fate; but the relative liberty he has always enjoyed has prevented him from developing that sad spirit of resignation, that deep sorrow which too often characterises his Russian brother. Never having been a personal serf, he is not servile; he always maintains his personal dignity and speaks with the same grave intonation and self-respect to a Russian Tsar as to his neighbour. A lymphatic temperament, slowness of movement and of thought, and sullen indifference have often been imputed to him. In fact, when I have entered on a Sunday a peasanthouse in Eastern Finland, and found several men sitting on the benches rental the wall, dropping only a few words at long intervals, plunged in a mute reverie as they enjoyed their inseparable pipes, I could not help remembering this reproach addressed to the Finnish peasant. But I soon perceived that though the Finn is always very deliberate in his movement, slowness of thought and indifference are peculiar only to those, unhappily too numerous, village paupers whom long-continued want and the struggle for life without hope of improvement have rendered callous. Still, a Finnish peasant family must be reduced to very great destitution before the wife loses her habits of cleanliness, which are not devoid of a certain aesthetical tint. The thrift of the Finn is striking; not only among those who have no choice, for they are compelled to live upon rye-bread, baked four times a year and containing an admixture 'of the bark of our black Pines,' as Runeberg says. Simplicity of life is the rule in all classes of society; the unhealthy luxury of the European cities is yet unknown to the Finns; and the Russian tchinovnik cannot but wonder how the Finnish official lives, without stealing, on the scanty allowance granted him by the State.

Kropotkin also discusses of Finnish politics of the period:

It is obvious that the more national consciousness is raised in Finland, and the more education is spread among its people, the more will it feel the weight of Russian sovereignty; and, while the Russian peasant is always welcomed by his Finnish brother, every Russian suspected of being an official finds only coolness, and often hatred, among the people. Finnish nobles in Russian service may protest their loyalty as much as they please; they are not the people. They may refer also to the gallant behaviour of Finnish troops in the last Balkan way: it proves nothing; the Finns were ever a gallant race, and it is not their habit to recoil before danger. But surely the last war has not increased their attachment to the Russian Empire; they have seen what Russian administration is, and the war is costing Finland too dear. True, there are plenty of men in Finland ready to say that their country is already quite independent, being only 'united' with Russia in the person of the Emperor; but the masses understand pretty well what a union means of which the weaker party is unprotected against the caprices of the stronger. If they should forget it, the Reactionists now in power in Russia do not fail to remember it in the most brutal way. These people do not understand how wise Speransky was when he pointed out the dangers of having a hostile population at the very doors of the Russian capital; they seem to have set their hearts on rendering it hostile. The small dose of liberty enjoyed by Finland irritates them. A country where people travel without passports, and the dvorniks (porters) do not listen at the doors of lodgers, appears to them a hotbed of revolution. Even the industrial development of this small country renders them uneasy. They would like to shut the doors of Russia against the little merchandise that enters therein.

Right on, Peter. Right on.

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