Finnish migrants in Minnesota, USA

The population in Finland grew rapidly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Means of subsistence and circumstances of the rural workers worsened. One opportunity to try to improve circumstances was to migrate. It was counted that altogether c. 280 000 persons migrated to non-European countries, in practice to USA and Canada, during 1881-1914. However, c. 100 000 came back.

Prison diary of Nuutti Niemelä

The text reads as follows: “Discipline number 1. Damn and blast you red Russki, bloody cadger! By the wall right away! If I don’t kill you, you are sure to kill me! (The words of K, a defender of the fatherland, in Hennala soup queu anno mundi 1918).” The Finnish civil war in 1918 was one of the cruellest and bitterest in western countries. During the war c. 3200 whites and c. 3500 reds were killed. Arbitrary executions were made in both sides: the reds killed c. 1 650 and the whites c. 8400 persons. The final numbers are still unknown.

“We are on our way to buy Coop’s Circle Coffee!”

Coffee advertisement of Cooperative store Elanto. The first cooperative experimentations in Finland can be dated in the 1880s. At the turn of the century consumers’ cooperation gained a steady footing in our country. The first workers’ coop was founded in Tampere. Cooperative Society Elanto was founded in Helsinki in October 1905. In 1916 the Finnish cooperative movement split up ideologically when the progressive people (workers) established their own central organization and the next year own wholesale company OTK. OTK built own industrial plants e.g.

Public entertainment in the house of Mäntsälä Workers’ Association

Public entertainment events have been popular meetings and important to the economy of the workers’ associations. The programme usually consisted of a labour-spirited speech, recitation, “serious” music or a play and 1 ½ hours of dancing in the end. The change in leisure-time activities has later on put an end to these kind of entertainments almost entirely.

Constitutive meeting of the Woodworkers’ Union

The first national trade union in Finland was founded by bookworkers in 1894. Socialist ideas were little by little spread among the labour movement and proletarian radicalism was strengthened especially in bigger towns. At the turn of the century for instance bookworkers, tailors, joiners, masons, metal workers, carpenters and painters had held national meetings and established trade unions.

Constitutive meeting of the Finnish Labour Party

The Finnish Labour Party was established in Turku in July 17 through 20 under socialists’ lead and bourgeois people withdrew. In 1903 the party adopted a socialist programme and was re-named the Finnish Social Democratic Party. In the foreground sitting on an arm-chair is the chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Labour Party, the chief editor of the newspaper “Social-Demokraten” Hjalmar Branting. Behind the table sits the chairman of the meeting and the first chairman of the Finnish party N. R.

First minutes of the Helsinki Workers’ Association

It appears from the first article of the minutes that already on the 3rd of March people had gathered in order to pursue the case on the initiative of manufacturer V. J. von Wright. Then the case was to found a craftsmen’s association but the 3rd of May meeting in 1883 is already called a meeting of workers’ association. At this phase the idea was cooperation between employers and employees and the raising of the educational level of workers. The objective of employers was to prevent the spreading of socialism to Finland.

A bird nesting box, 1993

The Finnish economy had a severe setback in the beginning of the 1990's. The construction workers were the first to suffer the consequencies of the recession. When the building sites for the people ceased to be, they put up a campaign 'Let's build houses, at least for the birds'.