Presentation, speech or public appearance
Conference presentation: "Hero" and "Victim" in the Political Conflict between Finland and Russia: the Equality Law of 1912 and the Passive Resistance of Brutus Lagercrantz (1857–1929)
Start date: 12/09/2018
End date: 14/09/2018
Event name: Elites and the State: Organisation, Dissolution and Re-invention of State and Government, 1725–1925
Paper presented at the Third Finnish-Russian Conference on Elite Studies

Saint Petersburg, Russia, 12–14 September 2018


‘Hero’ and ‘victim’ in the political conflict between Finland and Russia; the ‘equality law’ of 1912 and the passive resistance of Brutus Lagercrantz (1857–1929)

In 1912, Russian authorities passed the so called ‘equality law’, making all Russian subjects in principle equal with people who had citizenship rights in the Grand Duchy of Finland. It was yet another measure taken in order to undermine Finnish autonomy, and further aggravated the already existing conflict between Finnish and Russian perceptions of Finnish statehood. The law was incompatible with Finnish law and Finnish conceptions of justice, and thus several civil servants in the Grand Duchy refused to comply with it. They applied the principle of passive resistance, ignoring petitions and applications that Russian subject made with reference to the law.

Brutus Lagercrantz (1857–1929), a civil servant at the magistrate of Vyborg, became the first Finnish ‘victim’ of the equality law. In the summer of 1912, Russian subject I. M. Sopetov notified the magistrate that he intended to open a meat shop in Vyborg. The magistrate ignored the notification, maintaining that it lacked authority to do so according to Finnish law. Lagercrantz, together with two other civil servants, were arrested and brought to Saint Petersburg, where a Russian court sentenced them to jail. In the following years, this procedure was repeated on regular basis with other Finnish civil servants.

This paper examines the consequences of the ‘equality law’ from the perspective of an individual civil servant in Finland, who regarded himself as representative of Finnish statehood on the local level. As the first ‘victim’ of the law, Brutus Lagercrantz for a short period became depicted as a ‘national hero’ in Finnish newspapers. On the other hand, his stance meant that he ‘sacrificed’ his professional career as a civil servant as long as Finland remained a part of the Russian Empire. Thus, the paper illuminates how a political conflict can influence the life and career of an individual civil servant on the local level and the mechanisms that can make him both a ‘hero’ and a ‘victim’.

Last updated on 2018-19-09 at 23:46