The beginning of Finnish civil society (1770–1850)
In Finland the history of civil society is closely connected with the history of the Finnish nation and society.
The history of established civic activity goes back to the end of the eighteenth century in Finland as in the rest of Europe. Inspired by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the bourgeoisie and the middle classes started to demand a redistribution of social rights and responsibilities: the equality before law and the abolition of privileges typical of the class-society.
Aurora Society started off in 1770. In this society the discussion was on literal topics and issues of national interest. The Turku Musical Association, founded in 1790, concentrated on advancing musical culture, while the Finnish Economic Society, founded in 1797, sought to inform and encourage people in the sphere of economic life. The first religious associations also sprung up in the 1810s.
First big issues were temperance and philanthropy
In Finland the temperance societies were the first group of organizations with a large membership. Excessive drinking of alcohol was a considerable problem, especially among the workers and the rural proletariat.
From the 1830s on, some members of the educated class actuated the foundation of various temperance organizations all over the country. The number of members of the temperance organizations was at its highest in the early twentieth century.
The ladies’ associations focused on philanthropic activities in the urban areas. The volunteer fire-brigades took care of fire safety in towns.
Article is based on the text “The history of civil society” by Aaro Harju, published earlier on this web site.