Iskra, No. 11, November 20, 1901.
Published according to the Iskra text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1961, Moscow, Volume 5, pages 306-310.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
We publish below the full text of another mass petition by means of which the Finnish people express their strong protest against the policy of the government, which has violated, and continues to violate, the constitution of Finland, thus breaking the oath solemnly taken by all the tsars, from Alexander I to Nicholas II.
The petition was presented to the Finnish Senate on September 17 (30), 1901, for submission to the tsar. It is signed by 473,363 Finnish men and women of all strata of society, i.e., by nearly half a million citizens. The total population of Finland is 2,500,000, so that this petition veritably expresses the voice of the entire people.
The text reads in full:
“Most puissant, most gracious Sovereign, Emperor and Grand Duke! Your Imperial Majesty’s change of the law on military service in Finland has aroused general alarm and profound sorrow throughout the territory.
The orders, the Manifesto, and the law on military service, confirmed by Your Imperial Majesty on July 12 (June 29) this year are in complete violation of the fundamental laws of the Grand Duchy, and of the precious rights belonging to the Finnish people and to all the citizens of the country by virtue of its laws.
“In accordance with the fundamental laws, regulations governing citizens’ duties to defend the region may be issued only with the consent of the Diet. This was the procedure by which the Military Service Act of 1878 was passed, in accordance with a joint-decision of the Emperor Alexander II and the Diet. During the reign of Emperor Alexander III, numerous specific changes were made in this Law, but none without the consent of the Diet. Despite this, the Law of 1878 is declared annulled, without the consent of the Diet, and the new orders issued in place of the old Law are at complete variance with the decision of the deputies to the Extraordinary Diet of 1899.
“One of the most important rights vested in every Finnish citizen is the right to live and act under the protection of the Finnish laws. Today, thousands and thousands of Finnish citizens are deprived of this right, for the new Military Service Act compels them to serve in Russian units and converts military service into suffering for those sons of our country who will he forcibly drafted into these units, alien to them in language, religion, manners, and customs.
“The new regulations abolish every legally fixed limitation of the annual contingent. Moreover, they contain no recognition of the right granted by the fundamental laws for the Diet to participate in drafting the military budget.
“In violation of the fundamental principle of the Law of 1878, even the militia has been made entirely dependent upon the discretion of the Minister of War.
“The impression created by such regulations is not modified by the measures of relief referred to in the Manifesto, which are to operate for a transitional period as yet undefined, because the temporary reduction in the number of recruits will be immediately followed by unlimited drafts for service with Russian units.
“The Finnish people have not asked for any relief of the military burden they have carried. The Diet, which expresses the opinion of the people, has proved Finland’s readiness to increase its share in the defence of the state as far as it is in its power, on the condition that the juridical position of the Finnish troops as a Finnish institution is preserved.
“Contrary to this, the new regulations state that the majority of the Finnish units are to be abolished and Russian officers permitted to enter the service of the few remaining units; that even the non-commissioned officers of these units must know the Russian language, which means that Finnish-born citizens mainly of peasant strata will be prevented from filling these posts; that these troops are to come under Russian administration and that they may, even in peace-time, be stationed outside of Finland.
“These orders, which do not constitute a reform but merely pursue the aim of abolishing the national troops of Finland, are a sign of distrust which the Finnish people throughout almost a century of union with Russia have done nothing to deserve.
“The new military service regulations also contain expressions, the implication of which is that the Finnish people have no fatherland of their own and that the rights of Finnish citizenship to those born in the country are denied. These expressions betray aims that are incompatible with the inalienable right of the Finnish people to preserve, in their union with Russia, the political position firmly guaranteed to Finland in 1809.
“A grave misfortune has beset our region during the recent years. Time and again it has been demonstrated that the established fundamental laws of the region are ignored, partly in legislative measures and partly in the assignment of Russians to important posts. The region has boon administered in a manner to suggest that the aim was to disturb peace and order, to hinder useful pursuits, and to cause friction between Russians and Finns.
“The greatest misfortune that has befallen the country, however, is the introduction of the new military service regulations.
“In its humble response of May 27, 1899, the Diet described in detail the order which, according to the fundamental laws of Finland, must be observed in the promulgation of a law on military service. It was pointed out that if a new law on military service is passed in any other way, that law, even if put into operation by force, cannot be recognised as a legal measure, and in the eyes of the Finnish people will be nothing more than an act of violence.
“Everything the Diet indicated continues to be the Finnish people’s unchanging sense of justice, which cannot be changed by violence.
“Serious consequences are to be feared from regulations not in accord with the laws of the country. The conscience of officials in government institutions will come into grave conflict with their sense of duty, for conscience will urge them to refuse to be guided by such regulations. The number of able-bodied emigrants compelled to leave the country from fear of the threatening changes will increase still more if the regulations announced will be put into effect.
“The new military service regulations, like every other measure directed against the rights of the Finnish people to a separate political and national existence, must inevitably sow distrust between the monarch and the people, as well as give rise to growing discontent, to a sense of general oppression, to uncertainty, and to enormous difficulties for society and its members in the work for the welfare of the region. These evils cannot be avoided except by the substitution of the aforesaid regulations by a military service law passed jointly with the Diet, and in general by the strict observance of the fundamental laws on the part of the government authorities of the region.
“The Finnish people cannot cease to be a separate people. United by a common historical fate, by juridical conceptions and cultural work, our people will remain true to its love of the Finnish fatherland and to its traditional liberty. The people will not deviate from its aspirations to occupy worthily the modest place fate has destined for it among the nations.
“Firm in the conviction of our rights and in the respect for our laws which are our mainstay in our social life, we are no less firmly convinced that the unity of mighty Russia will suffer no damage if Finland continues in the future to be administered in accordance with the fundamental principles laid down in 1809, and in this way to feel happy and peaceful in its union with Russia.
“The sense of duty to their country compels the inhabitants of all communities and social strata to submit to Your Imperial Majesty a true and unembellished record of the state of affairs. We pointed out above that the recently promulgated military service regulations, contradicting as they do the solemnly guaranteed fundamental laws of the Grand Duchy, cannot be regarded as a legal act. We consider it our duty to add that the military burden in itself is not nearly so important to the Finnish people as the loss of firmly established rights and of legally founded tranquillity on this most important question. We therefore humbly pray Your Imperial Majesty graciously to give the matters referred to in this petition the attention their seriousness calls for. We are, etc,”
We have little to add to the above petition, which represents a people’s indictment of the gang of Russian official law-breakers.
We shall enumerate the principal facts of the “Finnish question”.
Finland was annexed to Russia in 1809, during the war with Sweden. Desiring to win over the Finns, who were formerly subjects of the Swedish King, Alexander I decided to recognise and confirm the old Finnish constitution. According to this constitution, no fundamental law can be made, amended, interpreted, or repealed without the consent of the Diet, i.e., the assembly of representatives of all social-estates. Alexander I, in a number of manifestos, “solemnly” confirmed “the promise sacredly to preserve the separate constitution of the country”.
This sacred promise was subsequently confirmed by all succeeding Russian monarchs, including Nicholas II, who, in the Manifesto of October 25 (November 6), 1894, “promised to preserve them [the fundamental laws] in their inviolable and immutable force and operation
Within five years the Tsar of Russia had broken his solemn oath. Preceded by a campaign of vilification, conducted by the venal and servile press, the Manifesto of February 3 (15), 1899 was promulgated, introducing new regulations, according to which laws might be passed without the consent of the Diet “if these laws concern the requirements of the Empire as a whole or are part of imperial legislation”.
This was a glaring violation of the constitution, a veritable coup d’état, because every law can be said to concern the requirements of the Empire as a whole!
This coup d’état was brought about by violence: Governor General Bobrikov threatened to call troops into Finland if the Senate refused to publish the Manifesto. According to the statements made by Russian officers, ball cartridges were distributed to the Russian troops stationed in Finland, and horses were saddled, etc.
The first act of violence was followed by innumerable others. Finnish newspapers were suppressed one after another, the right of assembly was annulled, Finland was flooded with swarms of Russian spies and despicable provocateurs, who incited the people to rebellion, etc., etc. Finally, the Military Service Act of June 29 (July 12) was passed, without the consent of the Diet. This law has been dealt with sufficiently in the petition.
Both the Manifesto of February 3, 1899 and the Act of June 29, 1901 are illegal. This is the violence of a perjurer acting with a horde of bashi-bazouks called the tsarist government. It would be futile, of course, for 2,500,000 Finns to think of an uprising; but we, all Russian citizens, should ponder over the disgrace that puts us to shame. We are still slaves to such an extent that we are employed to reduce other peoples to slavery. We still tolerate a government that suppresses every aspiration towards liberty in Russia with the ferocity of an executioner, and that further more employs Russian troops for the purpose of violently infringing on the liberties of others!