Baltic Crusades: Finland’s Medieval Times


The latter part of the medieval period was marked by enlarged settlements along the coast and inland.  The Finn’s conquered the wilderness to the north, moved inland and cleared the forest, establishing agricultural communities.  This settling within the wilderness caused much conflict between Finnish farmers and Lapp reindeer herdsmen, forcing the Lapp’s to move northwards.  Towards the end of the 15thcentury a settlement of 200 x 100 kilometre area had been created along the Gulf of Bothnia.  By the end of the Middle Ages, Finland’s population had grown to 400,000 people.

Finland’s medieval economy was centred around agriculture, for a land with good soil.  Farming was substituted by times of hunting.  The majority of Finn’s lived this way.

The European institution of serfdom (A labourer who could not leave the land on which he worked), did not exist in Finland, for most farmers were freemen, with little political power.  Finland was represented by the Four Estates: Clergy – Nobility – Burghers – Farmers, with advisory powers to the King.  The Finn’s had minimal responsibilities regarding local justice and administration.

Catholicism was part of the medieval Finnish society. The church doubles as the heart of local administration, and played the role of education and development of Finnish language.  The Bishop of Turku was head of the Finnish church.

Turku, the south-western seaport, was the bishopric’s seat and administrative capital of Finland, a city dominated by German merchants.  Viipuri another city of importance, an active trade centre and military bastion, with eastern defences against the Russians.