Karelians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Prior to the twentieth century, the majority of Karelians on both sides of the border were either independent landowning peasants, tenant farmers, or landless. Representatives of the first two groups earned their living in part from their own farm and in part from wage labor. A commercial bourgeoisie gradually began to develop in the nineteenth century. There was a small Karelian intelligentsia. After the Revolution, the means of production as well as the land were nationalized in Russian Karelia. Private ownership prevails in Finland.

Political Organization. Before the Revolution the Russian Karelians lived in the districts of Arkhangelsk and Olonec. Afterwards, the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Republic, divided into fifteen districts ( raions ), was established. The republic was governed by the president, Supreme Soviet, and higher party officials. Beneath them were the local soviets (area, village, and town councils). Throughout history, Finnish Border Karelia has sometimes been under Russian, sometimes under Swedish-Finnish rule. In the nineteenth century the region was a part of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland and thus a part of the Russian Empire. After the 1917 Revolution, the portion of Border Karelia that was part of independent Finland began to develop local political organizations.

Social Control. Public opinion and tradition coupled with the national judiciary form the social-control system.

Conflict. Conflicts were national, political, or social. National conflicts were wars or other wrangles, first with Sweden, then with Finland, Novgorod, and Muscovy (later Russia and the USSR). In these wars Karelia had continuously been a battlefield and site of border adjustments. One part of Karelia has always belonged to an eastern state and another to a western one. Social conflicts mainly concerned landownership. Swedish government attempts to assimilate Finnish Karelians to the Finnish people (propagation of Lutheranism, the Finnish language, and the Swedish-Finnish life-style) sometimes involved violence (especially in the seventeenth century). The consequence of this was the mass escape of Karelians to Russia, mostly to Kalinin District (formerly Tver District) near Moscow, where there still are Karelian people.


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