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Kemi River passing south through the partition of the waters along the Gulf of Bothnia to the Gulf of Finland (Wattuskiftet), and containing this information in old Swedish: Har Grantzar Finnland (Here borders Finland), evidently tending to show at the same time that anything west of this line was not included in the territory generally called Finland. This does not necessa rily mean that the Aland Islands belonged to any other of the principal parts of Sweden, but rather that those islands, themselves, formed a distinct territory (landskap), and even periodically a distinct government (lan), of the Kingdom of Sweden.
As the archaeological results prove, Aland was inhabited by a Swedish population from time immemorial and even in prehistoric times. It has received the Christian religion and all its culture from Sweden. The population of Aland has always been true to the motherland, even in the trying times when Finland seemed willing to surrender to the Russian usurper.
By a secret treaty made in Tilsit, Czar Alexander of Russia had undertaken to persuade the King of Sweden, Gustavus (IV) Adolphus, to close the Swedish ports to English men-of-war and commercial vessels. This, however, the Swedish monarch refused to agree to.
Emperor Napoleon for this and other reasons, at the Conference of Erfurt in 1808, promised his support to the acquisition of Finland by the Russian Czar. In the beginning and even after the Russian Army had met with considerable success, Czar Alexander did not dream of other frontiers concerning Sweden than the Tornea River in the north and, for the balance, the Gulf of Bothnia, which assertion is clearly proven by the rescript to his agent in Sweden, former Ambassador D. Alopeous, under the date of February 15, 1809. Thus, if the new Swedish Government, after the fall of Gustavus Adolphus in March, 1809, had consented to enter into negotiations for peace, there would never have been any question of including Aland in the territory to be ceded to Russia. But the Swedish Government hesitated, and in the triple attack which was then started by Russia in order to hasten the conclusion of peace, even the island of Aland was invaded and occupied by the Russians, and that territory thereafter claimed by the right of conquest.
ALAND SEIZED BY, RUSSIA.
The Swedish negotiators of peace tried, however, to save as much as possible of Swedish territory, and in conceding Finland to the usurper they claimed the maintenance of the old frontiers, viz, Kemi River in the north and the Gulf of Bothnia to the west. Concerning Aland, the Government instructed the Swedish plenipotentiary, Baron Stedingk, to insist upon the frontier line thus described : “... par une ligne ideale tiree tout le long du Golfe de Bothnie en suivant la ligne de partage des eaux (wattuskiftet) jusqu'au commencement du Golfe de Finlande, de telle sorte qu'Aland reste du cote droit en partant du nord, et demeura par consequent suedois comme cela a ete le cas de temps immemorial.”
But the Russian plenipotentiaries would not recede from their demands, giving, however, no other motives or using no other arguments than the humiliation resulting to Russia if she must restore what had been conquered by the fortune of the arms. And the same argumentation was used to oppose the counter-proposition from the Swedish side, that the Russian Government should give assurances of not fortifying Aland, if Sweden consented to the cession of the islands.
In documents concerning the peace negotiations, it is constantly referred to “la Finlande avec les Iles d’Aland," and in the treaty of peace it is stated that the King of Sweden ceded to the Czar of Russia all his rights to certain governments belonging to the Kingdom, textually : “ the governments enumerated hereafter, which during the war have been conquered by the arms of His Imperial Majesty, viz. : the Governments of Kymenegard, Nyland, and Tavastehus, Abo and Bjorneborg with the Aland Islands, Savolax and Carelen, Wasa and I'leaborg, and a part of Westerbotten unto Tornea River."
Exactly, as in the constitution of 1634, the different governments belonging to the Crown of Sweden are here considered equal between themselves, Westerbotten like the others, and the others like Westerbotten, and the Aland Islands are distinctly enumerated.
Finally, in an autographic letter from Czar Alexander to the Emperor of the French, of October 30, 1809, it is said: “La Suede cede a la Russie la Finlande avec les i'les d'Aland."
As it has already been stated, the promise of Napoleon's support did not include the cession of the Aland Islands, but Alexander could risk a more liberal interpretation as he well knew that the Emperor needed the assurance of his neutrality in the war just then started against Austria.
When during the course of the war, on the order of the Russian usurper, a Finnish diet assembled at Borga, March 1808, to render homage to the Emperor of Russia as the sovereign of Finland, Aland was not represented. And when the governor of Abo, Knut von Troil, sent out an official call for certain contributions in food, etc., for the use of the Russian Army, the Aland people, assembled to receive the message of the governor, answered “that the peasants of the island had no more reserves of food of various kinds than they needed for themselves and their households, but that they would try to divide what they had if it were needed for the Swedish Army. However, to the Russian Army, the enemies of Sweden, they considered it culpable and, still more, unnecessary and improper to give what was demanded. They also desired to know wherefrom this order of deliveries had come and if it had been given out with the sanction of his royal majesty."
THE ALANDERS ROSE UP AGAINST RUSSIA.
At the first invasion of Aland in 1808, by Russian troops, the Alanders rose to a man and drove the invaders out. But when the following year an overwhelming Russian force invaded the island, they were not able to resist successfully, but to the very last they protested against the secession from Sweden.
In the organization of his new possessions, ceded by Sweden, the Russian Czar for reasons of administrative order included the islands of Aland in the Finnish Government. No other disposition would seem to have been convenient. But this fact does not make Aland an integral part of Finland. The Russian Czar could have ceded Aland back to the King of Sweden or disposed of the islands in any other way to suit himself, without the consent of or even without consulting his Finnish subjects.
Shortly after the conquest of Aland, the Russians built there the casemated fort Bomarsund. It was bombarded during the Crimean war by an English fleet with a French division of soldiers on board. The 8th of August, 1854, the troops landed in three places and invested the fort. On the 16th of the same month the commander of the fort, Gen. Bodisco, surrendered with 2,000 men. The conquerors demolished the fort. By the treaty of Paris, 1856, Russia agreed not to have any fortifications or military establishments on the Aland Island. But this part of the treaty was agreed to between France, England, and Russia. Sweden was not called upon to sign this treaty, not having been a party to the Crimean War.
The distrust of Russia among the Swedish people is a well known fact, which it is not necessary here to recall or to explain in detail. Numerous incidents, particularly the Russification of Finland and the building of railroad lines throughout the country for purely strategical purposes, served to increase in Sweden the fear of new plans of conquest on the part of the mighty eastern neighbor.
Shortly after the beginning of the late war, it became known in Sweden that the Russian Government had established military posts and had started to build fortifications on the Aland Island, in clear contravention to the articles of the Peace of Paris. But Russia was now an ally of the other two high contracting parties: viz, England and France, and diplomatic inquiries by the Swedish Government brought the answer that these military establishments and even the fortifications were all of a temporary nature, in no way aimed at Sweden, and that they would be withdrawn or demolished as soon as they had served their purpose, which was to guard against German attacks. Interpellations in the Swedish parliament brought only general statements from the Government, which, however, seemed to satisfy the great majority of the members of the two Chambers, information being given out in confidence that the Government had done everything in its power to safeguard Swedish interests, but that it was greatly embarrassed on account of the peculiar political situation, as referred to above. Thereupon a most solemn assurance was given the Government by the leaders of the different political groups and parties in the Riksdag, that the representatives of the Swedish people unanimously supported the policy of neutrality and of national independence, as declared by the Government from the beginning of the war.
ALAND IN DANGER.
Then came the revolution and the overthrowing of the autocratic govertiment in Russia, followed by the secession of Finland and other parts of the Russian Empire. As one of the consequences of the chaotic situation, the Aland people were greatly in fear of violence from the Russian garrison. In February, 1918, they sent delegates to Stckholm to implore the protection of the Swedish Government. The situation had been more complicated through the arrival of Finnish soldiers, both of the White and Red Guards, and only through the wise and peaceful interference by the Swedish Government a general massacre of the population and the widespread destruction of property was prevented. The Russian garrison and the Finnish military forces finally agreed to leave the island with the help of Swedish vessels, and the people of Aland were again able to return to their peaceful occupations without fear of being molested through the strife between Russians and Finns or between different parties in Finland.
No PART IN FIGHTING.
The Alanders took no part in the fight between the White and the Red forces of Finland, which terminated in the victory of the former, with the assistance of the German soldiers. The desire to again become Swedes, in fact as well as they have always been in heart, was expressed by the entire major population of the island, amounting to 7,135 men and women, through a petition to the King of Sweden and the Swedish people at the end of the year 1917, among other reasons, stating that "before long the fate of oppressed peoples is going to be decided, and the inhabitants of Aland consider that the time has come for them to express their unalterable will to see the ancient county of Aland again reunited to the Kingdom of Sweden."
The King received the delegates bringing the petition with his customary kindness and courtesy and assured them of his own and the Swedish' people's wish to again count the Swedes of Aland among the Swedish citizens, but reminded them of the necessity for a friendly understanding with the Government and the people of the new State of Finland, whose independence it had been his great pleasure to bring about and to recognize.
SWEDEN IS NEUTRAL.
Through the whole duration of the war, the Swedish Government has scrupulously maintained the neutrality it declared at the beginning. Strictly adhering to the same principle, it had to decline taking part in the struggle between the "white" and the “red” forces in Finland. The wisdom of this policy was, moreover, provided by the succeeding events. Had Sweden lent her hand to the party in Finland, which finally, with the help of the German Goyernment, became victorious, there can be no doubt any more that Sweden would have been forced into the war and, necessarily, on the side of Germany, as a consequence of the participation, in concert, of the two nations in the establishing of a new government in Finland. No less correct has been the conduct of the Swedish Government toward the new Government of Finland. The unanimous opinion of the Swedish people is that Aland belongs to Sweden, and the desire to see the reunion take place is hardly less unanimous. Every Swede, we might say, is also convinced that the possession of Aland is more vital than ever to the future security and independence of Sweden. But no advantage has been taken of the fall of the Russian Empire no more than of the unanimously expressed desire of the Alanders to be again incorporated into the Kingdom of Sweden.
WANTS DOUBLE VOTE.
With all courtesy, the new Finnish Government has been approached in order to bring about a friendly agreement, whereby the will of the Aland people could be satisfied. Without claiming to give a complete account, in chronological order, of these negotiations, it may be stated here, with absolute knowledge of the facts, that the Swedish Government has proposed to leave to the people of the islands to express their preference through a genaral vote, and even to make a final decision depend on a double voting, the first vote to be taken now and the second after a couple of years, thereby giving the people of the islands ample time for reflection, and deferring the final settlement to an epoch when the disturbances and the passions of the war may reasonably be considered as past. The chief aim of the Swedish Government has been to reach a mutual agreement between the three parties interested-Finland, Sweden and Aland—whereby an accomplished fact could be presented to the peace conference and there simply registered as such.
But nothing seems to have been accomplished thus far. The Finnish Government has given but evasive answers. There have been suggestions of compensation in land, which, of course, the Swedish Government most categorically has declined to entertain. At the time of the visit to Stockholm in February last of Gen. Mannerheim, the Finnish administrator (“ Riksföreståndare"). it was thought that at least a preliminary agreement had been reached, through his conferences with the King and the chief government officers. But further developinents showed that the Finnish Government was still unwilling to give a definite answer or enter into a formal conference.
A DELEGATION TO THE PEACE CONFERENCE.
Meanwhile, a delegation of three citizens of Aland, Editor Johannes Sundblom and two farmers, Johannes Eriksson and Johan Jansson, were delegated by their countrymen to take the claim of the Alanders to the peace conference, Their visit to Paris took place in February this year. They were received by representatives of all the five great powers; by Mr. White (America), Balfour (England), Pichon (France), Orlando (Italy), Makino and Chinda (Japan). All of these statesmen seemed to be very much interested in the Aland question and some of them showed a surprising familiarity with the subject. Without exception they listened to the delegates' statements with the kindest attention. The visit was also favorably mentioned by the French papers.
HELD TO BE TRAITORS.
This independent proceeding of the Aland people seems to have caused great excitement in Finland, particularly among the Finninsh population. Shortly after their return from Paris, the three delegates were summoned to appear before an agent of the Finnish Government, who subjected them to a very severe cross-examination, at the end of which they were enjoined to hold themselves at the disposal of the Government and not to leave the island without the permission of the authorities. It was even stated in the Finnish papers that the delegates were going to be tried for treason. But, according to more recent news, the excitement seems to have subsided.
The consent of the peace conference to the reunion of Aland with Sweden seems to be justified on the following grounds :
1. Aland is an old Swedish territory. The inhabitants are all Swedes, by origin, language, sentiment, and customs. Their commercial intercourse is principally with Sweden.
2. The Alanders have never consented to their secession from Sweden.
3. By the principle of self-determination for all nations, big or small, the Alanders have a right to make their own choice.
Indeed, they had as much right as the Finlanders to cut loose from Russia. The 'people of Finland, as they claimed independence on the ground of all peoples' right to self-determination, and finally succeeded in getting their independence recognized, can not equitably refuse to concede the same rights to the Alanders. Instead of claiming independence as a small State, the Alanders, however, petition Sweden to receive them as citizens and they are now seeking the sanction of the peace conference.
The importance for Sweden to get into possession of the Aland Islands is well recognized. The island of Aland is the key to Stockholm and to the whole of Sweden. It was pointed out already at the peace negotiations more than a hundred years ago, that “the power holding Aland could thereby enter into the heart of Sweden and keep her on her guard day and night;" also that Aland was dominating the Gulf of Bothnia, whereby the security of free navi. gation in the gulf was dependent thereof.
These considerations must per force appear stronger to-day than ever before in view of the capacity of guns and of other tools and instruments of destruction in modern warfare.
The Government of Sweden and the Swedish people have given to the whole world the assurance of their unalterable will to maintain peace and friendly relations with all other nations, but at the same time of an equally strong decision to defend their own country, their national honor and their independence, dating back to times immemorial. The safety of Sweden greatly depends on the possession of Aland. Sweden's possession of Aland would in a great measure help to make the whole Baltic a free sea, which no doubt will be one of the aims of the present world conference.
The claim of Finland to the Aland Islands rests on no other foundation in fact than their joint position as “exparts ” of the Russian Empire. From a nationalistic point of view, the claim is untenable by the fact that the population of Finland consists of more than 3,000,000 Finns and only about 400,000 people of Swedish descent. The political considerations which may come up before the peace conference at the time when the conference will be ready to decide the fate of Finland are hard to guess. But the claim of the Alanders seems so natural, so reasonable, and so fully in accord with the famous fourteen points of President Wilson, that a decision in their case could be reached without connection with any other nationalistic problems.
Mr. Johnson. It appears, however, from information through the newspapers, that the Baltic Commission of the peace conference has had the Aland question investigated and has discussed it, in conclusion giving the opinion that a final settlement could not be reached at present, owing to the uncertain or rather chaotic conditions prevailing in Russia, but that a temporary solution might be arrived at through an agreement between the Swedish Government and the Government of Finland.
As far as I have been able to ascertain, the Baltic Commission does not give any opinion regarding the main point of the Aland question, viz, the rights of the inhabitants of the Aland Islands to determine, themselves, how they should be governed. Very briefly stated, the Alanders claim their independence and their right of reunion with Sweden on the following grounds:
Aland is an old Swedish territory. The inhabitants are all Swedes, by origin, language, sentiment, and customs. Their commercial intercourse is almost exclusively with Sweden and has so remained even during the last 100 years, when the Aland Islands were a part of the Russian Empire.
The people of Aland have never consented to their secession from Sweden, to which they were forced in 1809.
With other former provinces of Sweden's, collectively known as Finland and lying east of the Gulf of Bothnia, Aland seceded from Russia shortly after the overthrow of the Czar Government.
The Alandese took no part in the fight between the White and the Red forces of Finland, which ended with the victory of the former. The desire to again become Swedes, in fact, as well as they have always been in heart, was expressed by the entire major population of Aland through a petition to the King of Sweden and the Swedish people at the end of the year 1917, as extensively described in the pamphlet referred to..