Kalevala Historical Context

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1809 marked a turning point in Finland's history. Following the Napoleonic wars of 1808-09, Finland was annexed to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy, a distinct political entity with its own governing body, subject to the czar's ultimate authority.

Finland had been ruled by Sweden for 600 years prior to the annexation, and the people of the central Turku region were so heavily assimilated into the dominant foreign culture that many of them thought of themselves as Swedes. Though over 85% of population continued to speak Finnish, Swedish had long been the official language of Finland's administration, education, and literature. Suddenly cut off from their Swedish affiliation, and having little in common with the new Russian rulers, the intelligentsia of Finland experienced something of an identity crisis.

Ethnic self-definition seemed to be based, at this point, on little more than a process of elimination. As...

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This section contains 1,332 words
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Kalevala from Epics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.