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History of Åland

Åland flag

The history of Åland can be traced back to roughly 4000 BCE, when humans first reached the archipelago in the Neolithic period.[1] Several Bronze Age villages have been found on Åland. During the Viking Age, six hillforts were built. Sweden controlled the Åland Islands from the 1200s until 1809, during which, Kastelholm Castle was the focal point of many battles. In 1809, the Russian empire took Åland and Finland. In 1854, British and French forces attacked Bomarsund. The Åland Islands were then demilitarised until 1906. In 1918, Swedish and German forces occupied the Åland Islands. After the Finnish Civil War, Åland joined Finland following the Åland Convention of 1921.

Geology and prehistory

Paleolithic period

Around 18,000 BC, during the Weichselian glaciation, a thick cover of ice stretched over Scandinavia,[2] which eventually receded from the islands around 9000 BC.[3] Around 8000 BC the highest peaks of the then submerged archipelago rose from the Baltic Sea.[4] The sea levels would alternate in the Baltic Sea,[5] but a land bridge to Åland never formed, indicating the first humans came by boat or over the ice.[1]

Due to the forebulge effect after the icecaps melted, the area around Åland is still rising several millimeters per year, marginally expanding the archipelago's surface.[6]

Neolithic period

Ritual Stone Age clay bear paws from the Åland islands.

Artifacts of human remains, pottery and animal bones were found dating as far back as the Middle Neolithic (ca. 4000 BC). These are the oldest findings, denoting human presence on the isles by then. Their cultures were Scandinavian, firstly the Pitted Ware culture and later joined by the Comb Ceramic culture.[1][7] Around this time is when the first primitive agriculture begins.[8]

Bronze Age

Many Bronze Age villages have been found on Åland. Ceramics and animal bones have been found on Kökar.[9] Signs of livestock have been found from the Bronze Age on Åland.[10]

Viking age

Dense settlements were built on Fasta Åland during this time.[8] Large burial grounds have been found on Åland as well.[11] Arabic mint coins from 400 C.E. have been found on Åland.[1] On Åland, there are six hillforts from this period.[12] There was extensive trade with other areas, as far as Arabia.[8][13][14] The first signs of Christianity were found from the Middle Ages.[8]

Middle Ages

The first wooden churches are built on Åland.[8][13] Åland Islands might have been occupied by Eric the Saint, other sources claim Åland was already an integral part of Sweden. The first stone churches where built in the 1300s to 1400s on Åland.[13][8] When construction began on Kastelholm Castle is not exactly known but it most likely began in the 1380s[8][15] Kastelholm is first mentioned in 1388[15] Many noble families would live on Åland.[13] The Franciscan order would found a monastery on Hamnö in Kökar in the 1400s.[13] Åland would join the Kalmar Union.

Swedish rule

In 1507 the Danish naval officer Søren Norby would capture Kastelholm castle.[13][8] Many battles would take place between the Danish and Swedish over Kastelholm between 1521 - 1523.[8] Gustav Vasa would make Åland a royal castle county in 1537.[13] Gustav Vasa would also establish 3 large breeding farm estates.[13] Catholicism came to an end on Åland and monasteries would be closed and the churces and monasteries had give their silver to the state.[13]

Åland would become part of the Swedish Empire and many Ålanders would be enrolled for war.[13] The postal service was given a permanent route which would go from Stockholm to Turku through Åland.[8][13]

Between 1665 and 1668 the Kastelholm witch trials would take place on Åland where over 20 women would be accused of witchcraft and would be executed.[13] The first school would be founded on Åland in the 1600s in Saltvik.[13]

During the Great Northern War many Ålanders fled west from the advancing Russians.[13] The Battle of Grengam would take place in Åland during the Great Northern war on 7 August 1720.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the Russians would occupy Åland in 1808. The Treaty of Fredrikshamn would be signed by Russia and Sweden. Finland and Åland are ceded to Russia.[16][8][13]

Russian rule

Soldiers in trenches an artillerie batteries shooting the Bomarsund fortress during the Åland War in 1854.

In 1829 the Fortress of Bomarsund begins construction.[8][17] As part of the Crimean War the Anglo-French invasion of Åland takes place. The coalition force attacks and destroys the fortress of Bomarsund during the Battle of Bomarsund.[8] The British prime minister Palmerston had protested against this fortification some twenty years prior, without effect. The Treaty of Paris forbids the fortification of the islands after the destruction of Bomarsund.[18]

As the result of abundant Anopheles claviger mosquitoes, malaria was endemic in Åland for at least 150 years, with severe outbreaks being recorded in the 18th century, and in 1853 and 1862.[19]

A telegraph cable is in use from Mariehamn to Nystad in 1877. In 1882, Lemströms canal opens to ship traffic.[8] The first telephone is installed in Mariehamnin 1892.[20] A Russian garrison is established in the Islands in 1906. Some attention went to the earlier Treaty of Paris when Russia, under pretext of stopping the smuggling of arms into Finland, placed considerable naval and military forces on the islands. Secret Treaty of Björkö (Russia and Germany), which gives Russia a free hand to install military forces on the islands is signed in 1907.

World War I breaks out and Russia begins building fortifications on Åland.[8][21] Fortifications would be built on Saggö, Börkö, Sålis, Frebbenby, Mellantrop, Kungsö, Korsö, Herrö, Storklobb och Kökar.[21] Many Ålanders wanted to join Sweden.[8][22] A referendum would be held on Åland and 95% was willing to join Sweden.[23] Finland would declare independence from Russia in 1917 and had sent troops to take over Åland. Sweden would send troops to Åland on 13 February 1918. The Finnish Whites would take Boxö and Saggö. Finnish reds would land on Åland on 17 February 1918. The Finnish Whites and Reds would fight over Godby and the Whites would win. Germans would land on Åland on 28 February 1918.

Chronology up to 1921

  • 1918: The islanders internationally plead to reunite with Sweden.
  • 1919: Sweden brings the question before the Paris Peace Conference on 18 March but the islands remain part of Finland.[18]
  • 1921: The Åland convention re-establishes the demilitarised status of the islands.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Early history. (2014, September 25). Visit Åland. Retrieved 25 August 2021
  2. ^ NASA. (2014, June 4). Åland Islands. Earthobservatory.Nasa.Gov. Retrieved 25 August 2021.
  3. ^ Mörner, N. A. (1995). The Baltic Ice Lake-Yoldia Sea transition. Quaternary International, 27, 95-98.
  4. ^ Stone Age Åland. Retrieved 29 August 2006. (in Swedish)
  5. ^ Andrén, T., Björck, S., Andrén, E., Conley, D., Zillén, L., & Anjar, J. (2011). The development of the Baltic Sea Basin during the last 130 ka. In The Baltic Sea Basin (pp. 75-97). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  6. ^ December 2006, Anne-Maj Lahdenperä Pöyry Environment Oy, Working Report 2006-111, Literature Review on Future Development of the Baltic Sea and Recommendations for Safety Modelling
  7. ^ Götherström, A., Stenbäck, N., & Storå, J. (2002). The Jettböle middle Neolithic site on the Åland Islands–human remains, ancient DNA and pottery. European Journal of Archaeology, 5(1), 42-69.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Eriksson, Sussanne (1993). Åland Kort och gott [Åland in short] (in Swedish). Ålands landskapsstyrelse och Ålands lagting. ISBN 9518946000.
  9. ^ "early history". visitaland.
  10. ^ "forntiden". visitaland.
  11. ^ historia/ "ålands historia". visitaland. ((cite web)): Check |url= value (help)
  12. ^ "Permenenta utställningar". visitaland.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Mattsson, Benita (2000). Alla Tiders Åland Från istid till EU-inträde. Ålands landskapsstyrelse. p. 55. ISBN 951894671X.
  14. ^ Ilves, Kristin (2021). 101 Glimtar ur Ålands forntid. Ålands Museum. p. 36. ISBN 9789525614749.
  15. ^ a b "Historia kring slottet". Kastelholms slott.
  16. ^ Prothero, G.W. (1920). The Åland Islands. Great Britain. Foreign Office. Historical Section. p. 9.
  17. ^ Robins, Graham (2006). Bomarsund The Russian Empire's Outpost in the West. SkogsjöMedia. ISBN 952996403X.
  18. ^ a b Prothero, G.W. (1920). The Åland Islands. Great Britain. Foreign Office. Historical Section. pp. 9–10.
  19. ^ Prothero, G.W. (1920). The Åland Islands. Great Britain. Foreign Office. Historical Section. p. 3.
  20. ^ Prothero, G.W. (1920). The Åland Islands. Great Britain. Foreign Office. Historical Section. p. 6.
  21. ^ a b Gustavsson, Kenneth (2003). Sevärt Batterier. Ålands landskapsstyrelse.
  22. ^ Harjula, Mirko (2010). Itämeri 1914-1921: Itämeren laivastot maailmansodassa sekä Venäjän vallankumouksissa ja sisällissodassa. Helsinki: Books on Demand. pp. 82–83, 86–87. ISBN 978-952-49838-3-9.
  23. ^ Lindqvist, Herman (29 March 2014). "Då höll Åland på att bli en del av Sverige". Aftonbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 7 January 2017.
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History of Åland
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