Emotions, trading practices and communication in transnational itinerant trade: encounters between ‘Rucksack Russians’ and their customers in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century Finland

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Johanna Wassholm, Anna Sundelin
Publisher: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group
Publication year: 2018
Journal: Scandinavian Economic History Review
Journal acronym: SEHR
Volume number: 66
Issue number: 2
Start page: 132
End page: 152


This article examines
the relations between so-called ‘Rucksack Russians’, itinerant traders from
Russian Karelia, and their local customers in late 19th and early 20th rural
Finland. Finland was a part of the Russian Empire, but, according to Finnish law,
itinerant trade was illegal for people without citizenship rights in the Grand
Duchy. The trade was, thus, illicit, although often seen through the fingers by
both customers and authorities. We study trader–customer relations through
emotions, trading practices and communication, with special focus on the role
of itinerant trade for the consumption of women. We argue that analysing the
relations from these perspectives deepens the understanding of the functions of
itinerant trade in society in general and of the shaping of a consumer society
in particular. For access to a consumer perspective, we use ethnographic
questionnaires, a source type that historians have acknowledged only in recent
decades. The questionnaires complement and nuance the predominantly negative
attitudes towards itinerant trade conveyed in the newspapers, which mainly
represent the viewpoints of the authorities and local merchants. Previous
research has shown that itinerant trade played an important role for answering
to the growing demand for consumer goods in the 19th- and early 20th centuries.
This article, which applies recent theoretical perspectives presented within
the field of consumption history, and shifts focus from the consumption of the
elite to that of that of the lower strata of society, offers a fresh take on
such aspects of trader–consumer relations that previous historical research on
itinerant trade has overlooked.


Emotions, Finland, Itinerant trade, Russian Karelia


Last updated on 2020-28-09 at 02:40