Author Topic: Finland in coins  (Read 11888 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Finland in coins
« on: April 03, 2010, 09:38:26 PM »
The history of Finland may largely be condensed into two words: Russia, Sweden.

Russians from Novgorod waged war with Fins in the 12th century. Swedes started arriving from the 13th century. By 1249, Finland was largely part of Sweden, partly part of the Novgorod Republic. The dividing line was also a religious border between Roman catholics and Eastern catholics. From 1410, Swedish coins were struck in the Turku mint. In 1478, Novgorod lost its independence to the Czars of Moscow.

Around 1600, Russia descended into the Time of Troubles, exhausting the land, while Sweden under Gustav Wasa was getting organized. The result was devastating for Russia. Novgorod became Swedish, like the Baltic states. Sweden's incredible incursion into the holy Roman Empire would have changed history if it had been successful: France would have faced a mighty empire instead of a motley collection of squabbling states. By 1658, the Swedish empire was at its zenith.

By this time, Finland was fully integrated into Sweden. The Swedes made an effort to eradicate the Finnish culture and language. Even today, the largest migrant group in Finland is Swedes, while it is Fins in Sweden. The tables were turning on Sweden, though. It was exhausted by continuous war, while Peter the Great had re-established order in Russia. Parts of the conquered territories went back to Russia in 1721 and 1743. As Russian influence increased, Finland came under Russian pressure. It was re-constituted as the Grand duchy of Finland in 1802 for the crown prince. Wrong move. The crown prince died in 1805 and Finland became Russian after the Finnish war in 1809. The change of regime came as a relief to most Fins, even more so because the czar, as grand duke of Finland, promised to maintain religious rights and other privileges.

The period up to 1862 saw increasing Russian confidence in Finland, with more autonomy as a result. In 1840, Swedish money was withdrawn. From 1860, the quarter ruble was called markka, a unit divided in 100 penniä. In 1864, a brand new mint in Helsinki started making Finnish coins denominated in markkaa and penniä. One side was Russian, with a Russian coat of arms - be it with a Finnish heart shield, but the other side showed Finnish text and latin lettering.
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2010, 10:21:59 PM »
Finland used its autonomy well. In the years until 1898, there was a period of Finnish cultural revival. An important consequence was the revival of the Finnish language, which was made the second national language with Swedish. The law of unintended consequences struck: political parties in the Finnish parliament became language based, pushing the liberal party aside and ending hope of liberal reforms.

The coins show little change in this period. In 1872, slight changes were made to the border, but the types remained largely the same. The silver coins were continued into the reigns of Nicholas I and Nicholas II without change, but the copper coins were updated with a new monogram in 1894.

Peter
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2010, 10:47:54 PM »
In 1899, everything changed. Russia changed its policy towards Finland and started a campaign of Russification. Tension between Russians and Fins rose. Protests went from petitions to strikes to assassination, leading to more stringent oppression. In 1900, Russian was made the national language. In 1905, the Russian fleet suffered a humiliating defeat in the battle of Tsushima and a revolution broke out. Oppression was suspended, only to pick up again as the internal situation in Russia stabilized. Still, in 1906, a new parliament was formed with such "innovative" ideas as active and passive universal suffrage. The outbreak of the first world war started another period of relaxation, but the goal of the Russification of Finland was not abandoned.

As noted before. the coins show no signs of the turbulent times. Only the monogram was changed. The Russian empire had largely become incapable of change.

Peter
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2010, 11:17:43 PM »
Finland's big chance came with the October revolution of 1917. Arguing that Finland was a personal union with Russia, which was dissolved with the end of czarist rule, Finland declared independence. However, its political divisions reflected those of Russia, with "white" civil guards, who fought against the socialists and red guards, sympathetic to communism. The latter proclaimed a Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic. The reds were defeated as Russia withdrew from the first world war and sank into chaos and hyperinflation, while the whites were supported by Germany.

The whites issued a series of emergency coins, based on the last grand-ducal types but without the imperial crown and Russian lettering removed. The reds could only issue one 5 penniä coin, which became politically incorrect and is very hard to find.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 09:51:24 PM by Figleaf »
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2010, 12:03:53 AM »
The Finnish civil war left the country with a government, hostile to the Soviet Union. Border incursions kept tensions high and the army large. In addition, the extreme right "Lapua movement" tried a revolt in 1932, which failed, but again slowed development and produced extra cost. The predictable result was high inflation. As a result, coins got smaller and they were made of cheaper metals. Silver was replaced by copper-nickel and new denominations of 10 and 20 markkaa were introduced. The Russian bicephalic eagle was replaced by the lion with sword from the Swedish royal house of Folkung. The "right arm" of the lion is armoured, a symbol of Karelia, an area long contested with Russia. I have been told that the scimitar the lion is trampling on is a symbol for Russia, but I have not found any confirmation.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 04, 2010, 12:11:40 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2010, 01:27:51 AM »
From 1930, tension with the Soviet Union mounted again. After the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union blockaded the country and demanded free access for the red army. The Baltic countries surrendered, but Finland refused. The Soviet Union invaded, but was fought to a bloody standstill (with generous help from Nazi Germany) during the winter of 1939/1940. It nevertheless lost the Karelian Isthmus to the Soviet Union after the war, as it was counted as a nazi ally.

Reflecting high war expenditure, Finland issued two series of coins during the second world war. The first consists of small copper coins, with as major innovation holed 5 and 10 penniä, presumably to distinguish them from the 25 and 50 penniä, that are very close in size. The second series is made of steel, with the 10 and 25 penniä reduced in size. The latter series continued to be used after the war, supplemented by a brass 5 markkaa like the 20 markkaa shown above. The heraldic rose is a device from the Finnish coat of arms, symbolizing the provinces.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline chrisild

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2010, 11:24:39 AM »
I have been told that the scimitar the lion is trampling on is a symbol for Russia, but I have not found any confirmation.

That sabre is apparently a symbol of the Swedish-Russian conflicts, and has been there since the 16th century or so. Now Wikipedia may not really count as an official source, but this article explains the background, and the page also shows a photo from the cathedral in Uppsala, SE with Gustav Vasa's Grand-Ducal Arms of Finland (Arma Magni Ducatus Finlandiæ). One of the links at the bottom of the page takes us here http://finland.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=160085 , and that is from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs ...

Christian

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2010, 04:06:52 PM »
After the second world war, Finland found itself as a semi-independent client state of the Soviet Union. The country did not permit itself to upset its nuclear neighbour, but also guarded its remaining independence. The process, known as Finlandization, has had a bad press, but in the circumstances, it was the only option and it was almost always well executed.

One of the consequences of its status was that Finland was told to refuse Marshall aid, like all other Soviet client states. Indeed, the frontier of Marshall aid became the iron curtain. Finland landed on the other side, but its reconstruction was severely hampered by not having access to Marshall aid funds. Only a German-led period of rapid growth (Wirtschaftswunder), pulled it out of the doldrums. It helped that the Olympic Games of 1952 in Helsinki were a great success, marking a return to "normalcy". Finland used the occasion to issue the first commemorative coins for the Olympic Games since antiquity.

Another commemorative, for the markka currency, featured a stylish portrait of Johann Snellman. Snellman was the minister of finance responsible for the introduction of the markka, but he was better known as the person who had vigorously struggled for the emancipation of the Finnish language and the re-institution of the Finnish parliament, creating more autonomy from Russia for Finland in the process. The denomination of 1000 markkaa was the highest ever. The coin was probably meant as a political signal to the Soviet Union. Apologies for my unfruitful attempts to convert the red and blue shades into their original lustre.

The late, but strong recovery shows in the coins. Until 1952, war issues continued to be used, but from 1952, new designs in steel and 50% silver debuted. The penni had disappeared and the highest value was the 200 markkaa. The steel coins were quickly replaced by aluminium. The mark on them is familiar to all Apple computer users, as it graces the Apple keyboards' command key.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline chrisild

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2010, 05:02:41 PM »
The mark on them is familiar to all Apple computer users, as it graces the Apple keyboards' command key.

Ah, I have two of those right in front of me - on either side of the space bar. ;D In the Nordic/Baltic countries, however, that symbol can be found in many places as it is used on signs pointing at historic sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_John%27s_Arms

Christian

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2010, 05:36:14 PM »
As the economy grew, it changed. The number of agricultural workers, especially those merely cutting wood diminished, while city populations grew rapidly. Communism had less and less supporters as economic conditions improved.

The new self-confidence shows in a series introduced in 1963. It introduced a new markka of 100 old markkaa. Remarkably, most new coins are exactly like the old ones, except for the denomination. The aluminium coins were copper plated and the silver coins replaced by a 35% silver 1 markka coin. The Snellman commemorative had already shown the ability of Finnish artists to think differently. The new silver coin confirms the trend. The visual play on the roundness of the coin had been introduced on Israeli coins first. Finland added an abstract design. The country had found a niche: it wanted to be known for superior design.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2010, 06:16:16 PM »
The design idea worked great, as it linked with furniture, which in turn consumed a lot of wood. Woodworking and wood processing machines replaced wood as the largest industry. Yet, in 1984, a Finnish company, Mobira Oy, changed the country and the world by introducing the Mobira Talkman, the worlds' first mobile phone. The company reached huge proportions and is now known as Nokia. Significantly, one of the first PR successes was a picture of Mikhail Gorbachev, using a Mobira phone to make a call from Helsinki to his communications minister in Moscow.

The 1 penni coin was no longer struck. The silver 1 markkaa was replaced by a copper-nickel variant and a new 5 markkaa was added, which in my eyes is one of the best designed coins ever: excellent national theme (Finland has had no ice-free ports since Karelia was ceded to the Soviet Union) balanced, readable, robust, somewhat abstract yet recognizable. Note how the coin is in Finnish (SUOMI) as well as Swedish (FINLAND). The design was short lived: after 7 years it was replaced by another icebreaker and a design that in my opinion was a bit too heavy in the visual tricks department. This period saw a great number of commemorative issues, all playing on the design theme with changing success.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2010, 07:40:06 PM »
The implosion of the Soviet Union changed the world, in particular for Finland. The country recovered its full independence and started to build international ties. It had been allowed to join EFTA in 1961, but in 1995 it joined the European Union. The turmoil in the Baltic states caused fear of a large flow of migrants (I am told that Estonian and Finnish are close enough so that if you know one language, you will understand the other.) Finland therefore supported the Baltic states' economy and championed their cause. The policy met with success: the Baltic states recovered and stabilized, creating new trading partners.

A new coin series was introduced in 1990, replacing much of the heraldics with plants and animals. Only the 1 Markka is still heraldically inclined. The series was again extended upwards with a bimetallic 10 markkaa. There is little artistic innovation in the commemoratives issued. However, I find a piece commemorating independence from Russia in 1807 (an unthinkable theme before) pretty good for inviting your own interpretation. After all, history is not only written by the victorious, it is an emotional subject.

Peter
« Last Edit: April 07, 2010, 05:26:13 PM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2010, 07:56:21 PM »
Finland was a founding member of the euro area, giving up the markka for which it had fought so hard voluntarily, to gain peace and security. Once more, the economy has profited handsomely from stability. The only thing that stops me from calling it a happy end is that today isn't an end.

The euro coin series went back to heraldics, except for the two high values. Once more, the non-heraldic designs are exemplary, though they have to be enlarged to be fully appreciated. The design idea was otherwise moved to commemorative issues, which show plenty of experimentations. We can only wonder which of the experiments will be admired by the next generation.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

andyg

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2010, 09:17:54 PM »
I think the 1 Markka shows the effects of inflation quite nicely...

1872-1921, Silver
1921-1928, Cupro-Nickel
1928-1940, Cupro-Nickel - Reduced size
1940-1943, Copper (Bronze?)
1943-1952, Iron though some 1950-1951 issues were in copper.
1952-1962, Reduced size, but still in iron.  The 1953-1962 being in clad-iron.
1963-1969, redenomination 1 Old Markka = 1 New Penni, back to copper though.
1969-1979, Aluminium
post 1979 - discontinued.

Odd too how these issues roughly parallel the French Franc.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Finland in coins
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2010, 09:49:01 PM »
Nicely done, AJG.

Yes, I can see the parallel between the two countries that until the years of the first world war were Latin Monetary Union members and decided to eliminate two zeroes in the early sixties, being active in two world wars in between. Very interesting. Yet, you can read too much into it also. At the end of a war, you have to get your money supply back in order, which means either to let prices rise (inflation) or to deflate the money supply (unemployment). The British, on the basis of their experiences in the Napoleonic wars, dogmatically chose for deflating the money supply, while the French just as dogmatically chose the inflation route. In fact, you can choose a policy mix of both, as the Dutch did after the second world war.

Finland made a conscious choice for the French method, but probably not because it was French. It is far more likely that - like in France - the left was so strong that extra unemployment could have pushed the country over the edge. To illustrate that, Marshall aid was highly controversial in France. Protests against it were so violent, even murderous, that martial law had to be declared in several areas. Czechoslovakian history shows how France (and Italy) could have come down on the other side of the fence.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.