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Independence of Finland

Independence Day was first celebrated in 1917.

During the interregnum from the fall of Nicholas II to the end of the Finnish Civil War in 1918, sovereignty in Finland was exercised by the Finnish Parliament. And until the October Revolution and the declaration of independence by the Russian interim government which happened after the civil war, regents were appointed by the parliament and a new king was to be elected.

The nation of Finland has never been an independent sovereign monarchy. No attempt to establish a fully-fledged Finnish monarchy has been successful. When it finally became established as a modern independent nation state it was, despite a very brief flirtation with a monarchy, in the form of a republic. And actually, the only royal person buried in Finland is the wife of King Eric XIV of Sweden, Queen Karin Månsdotter.

There are no records of ancient kings of Finland, but it is likely that various tribal leaders may have held the title of king. Finland has been part of monarchial states as a subunit of a monarchy based outside of Finish territory. After the 13th century the Swedish conquest, Finland became part of the Kingdom of Sweden, nominally as the Duchy of Finland, with some brief feudal characteristics in the 16th century. Elevation of Finland to a Grand Duchy in 1581 had no effect on the stately position. King Charles IX of Sweden, briefly used ”King of Finns”, as part of his official titulary during 1607-1611, although this had no impact on the official status of Finland or Finns.

The Kingdom of Finland was an abortive attempt to establish a monarchy in Finland in the form of a German client state following Finland’s independence from Russia. In March 1918 the German Empire successfully intervened in the Finnish Civil War on the side of the Finnish White Army. By May 1918 the German Baltic Sea Division had aided the Whites to gain control over most of the country, and its commander Rüdiger von Der Goltz in practice ruled Finland as the ”regent of Finland”. Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse was elected to the throne of Finland on 9 October 1918 by the Parliament of Finland, but he never took the position and renounced the throne in December 1918 after Germany’s defeat in the First World War.

The October Revolution of 1917 turned Finnish politics upside down. The new non-socialist majority of the Parliament desired total independence and the Socialists came gradually to view Soviet Russia as an example to follow. On November 15, 1917, the Bolsheviks declared a general right of self-determination ”for the People of Russia”, including the right of complete secession. On the same day, the Finnish Parliament issued a declaration by which it temporarily took power in Finland.

Worried by developments in Russia and Finland the non-Socialist Senate proposed that Parliament declare Finland’s independence, which was voted by the Parliament on December 6, 1917. On December 18 the Soviet government issued a Decree, recognizing Finland’s independence. And on December 22 it was approved by the highest Soviet executive body. Germany and Scandinavian countries followed without delay.

Finnish journalist Adolf Ivar Arwidsson once said: We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, let us, therefore, be Finns.

So the movement for Finland’s independence started after the revolutions in Russia, caused by disturbances inside Russia from hardship connected to the First World War. This gave Finland an opportunity to withdraw from Russian rule. After several disagreements between the non-socialist and the social democrats about who should have power in Finland on 4 December 1917, the Senate of Finland, led by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, finally made a Declaration of Independence which was adopted by the Finnish parliament two days later.

Independence Day was first celebrated in 1917. However, during the first years of independence, 6 December in some parts of Finland was only a minor holiday compared to 16 May, the White’s day of celebration for prevailing in the Finnish Civil War. The left parties would have wanted to celebrate 15 November, because the people of Finland, represented by parliament, took power 15 November 1917. When a year had passed since declaration of independence, 6 December 1918, the academical people celebrated the day.

In 2018, we celebrated Finland’s 101st Independence Day. The theme was the environment. In 2017, when it was Finland’s 100th Independence Day, the theme was “Together” and celebrations were naturally much bigger. And other countries also participated in the celebration; countries around the world marked a century of Finnish independence – with light displays in blue and white- Finland’s national colors – at landmarks including Rome’s Colosseum, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer and Canada’s Niagara Falls.

Short bio of the volunteer:

Anni Ruskela, a volunteer from Kajaani, Finland.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing for a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.