Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

“It’s better to go to Siberia”: the exile of the Finns from the Grand Duchy of Finland

Sat1  Apr04:00pm(15 mins)
Turnbull Room


Larisa Kangaspuro1
1 University of Helsinki, Finland


The Finnish penal system elicits interest the world over, and it has served as a model for many countries. It is a key component of so-called Scandinavian Penal Exceptionalism, characterised by its humane attitude towards prisoners and protection of their rights. On the other side, Finland maintains a particular image among the Nordic countries, because for more than one hundred years it was under the control of a non-Nordic country. Though Finland had been a part of Russia since 1809, its criminal and penal policies were Sweden-oriented historically. Amongst scholars, there has long been a one-sided attitude towards this period in Finnish history. Some of them continue to insist upon the unequivocally negative influence of the Russian Empire on the history of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the penal sphere.
We all know that during the Stalinist repressions, the government exiled thousands of Finns to Siberia. Crucially, it is not widely known that the authorities of the Grand Duchy of Finland did this themselves. In the 1870s and 1880s, there were as many Finns in Siberia as there were prison inmates in Finland itself. This paper explores why, in essence, the Grand Duchy of Finland had a second penitentiary system in Siberia? What were the real underlying reasons for starting to use and refusing exile to Siberia as a punishment?