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Grand Duchy of Finland

Last modified: 2014-05-22 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: grand duchy of finland |
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The Grand Duchy of Finland was ceded to Russia in 1809 after Sweden lost the War of Third Coalition. It became an autonomous territory in union with the tsar, but in the period of 1899 to 1917 the Grand Duchy suffered under the Russification policies. In 1917 Finland proclaimed independence from Russia and with aid from the Germany it became independent after a civil war (1917-19).

Flags of the Grand Duchy

1. Merchant flag of Finland, 1809-21

[Merchant Ensign 1809-21]
image by Željko Heimer

The blue ensign with the Russian tricolour in the canton. The flag was initially prescribed but was relatively soon revoked and the normal Russian merchant ensign was to be used by Finnish ships as well. The Finnish merchant fleet was the main part of the Russian merchant navy anyway (and the Russian merchant ensign was, apparently, often referred as Finnish by the seamen of the time).

Commemorative flags in Porvo

In 1809 present day Finland was taken from Sweden and made a Grand Duchy under the Emperor of Russia. The first parliament for the new country was held in Porvo. Last years, special "flags" were raised along the streets of Porvo to commemorate this.
http://www.porvoo.fi/index.php?mid=2055&a=show&id=323  (in Swedish)
http://www.porvoo.fi/easydata/customers/porvoo/files/Tiedotteet/090102valtiopaivaliput_liput.pdf  (images)
The man protrayed on the flags is Baron Robert Wilhelm De Geer who was planning the event in 1809 and was elected land marshal (i.e. speaker) of the house of the nobility.
The flags were designed by graphic artist Paula Jääskeläinen.
Elias Granqvist, 25 July 2010

Unofficial flag of the Grand Duchy of Finland

In 1848 (13th of May) the Students from the Imperial Aleksandrovskiy University organized the first Floral Day and in that occasion they raised the (unofficial) flag of the Grand Duchy of Finland (Velikoe Knyazhevstvo Finlyandskoe) - white with the coat of arms of the Duchy and the laurel wreath below it. You can see that moment on a lithography of Raphael Herzberg from 1888.
Valentin Poposki, 20 June 2012

Nyland Yacht Club

2. Nyland Yacht Club, Yacht club flag model of 24, May, 1882

[Nyland Yacht Club, 1961-1919]
image by Željko Heimer

The white flag with blue slightly off-set cross throughout and the Yacht Club badge in the canton.1 The badge consists of the traditional coat of arms of the province of Nyland (Uusimaa) within a wreath of (oak?) leaves and a blue ribbon. The coat of arms  is azure boat or between two wavy bars argent and is topped with a baronial coronet.

3. Nyland Yacht club, Yacht club flag model of 18 January 1910

[Nyland Yacht Club, 1961-1919, alternate]
image by Željko Heimer

A variant of the NYC flag is shown. This one is as previous but with the badge in the hoist lower quarter, while the canton is occupied with the Russian tricolour.

This is the usual pattern of the Russian yacht club ensigns of the time. The NYC flag is considered to be the root of the current Finnish national flag, though they way of adoption was not straight and simple. In any case, the NYC ensign was very popular on private boats of the period.


4. Proposal in Helsingfors Dagblad 1863

[1863 Flag Proposal image]
image by Željko Heimer

(from sewn examples in Turku Provincial Museum and Satakunta Museum)

A Red flag with blue fimbriated yellow cross.

This is different from the proposals shown currently on FOTW, this real sewn flags has regular, not Scandinavian, crosses.

5. Proposal by Carl Fredrik Forsman in Finlands Almänna Tidningar

[Forsman national proposal]
image by Željko Heimer

Date: 1.6.1863 (national flag)

Yellow and red horizontal bicolour.

6. idem (merchant flag)

[Forsman merchant flag proposal]
image by Željko Heimer

Red flag with thin yellow cross (not Scandinavian).2

Finnish Department of Pilots and Customs, 1902

7. Chief of Department Pennant

[Pilots and Customs Department Chief]
image by Željko Heimer

White triangular pennant with rounded tip, with a blue cross and a black compass rose in the canton.

This and the following flags are Russian in layout - but maybe they were being used in Finland only? In any case, the caption says Finnish Department of Pilots and Customs.

8. Department Flag

[Pilots and Customs Department flag]
image by Željko Heimer

A white flag with a blue cross and a black compass rose in the canton.

9. Department Masthead Pennant (Pilot ships)

[Pilot Ship masthead pennant]
image by Željko Heimer

Triangular swallow-tailed pennant with a white panel containing a black compass rose and the tricolour white-blue-red fly.

10. Department Masthead Pennant (Customs ships)

[Department masthead pennant]
image by Željko Heimer

Triangular swallow-tailed pennant with a blue panel containing two white caduceus in saltire and the tricolour white-blue-red fly.

11. Customs flag

[Customs flag]
image by Željko Heimer

A blue flag with the Russian tricolour in canton and two white caduceus in saltire. It is not clear from the caption whether this was the ensign used on customs vessels, or if it was a flag used on land, or something else.

12. Pilot jack

[Pilot Jack]
image by Željko Heimer

The Russian tricolour bordered all around with a white border of width equal to the width of each of the tricolour stripes. This was used as the jack on the pilot boats, apparently, but it is not clear what was used as the ensign - the usual Russian merchant ensign of the time, I guess (the tricolour I believe).

Source: article by Bergroth in the proceedings of the 20th International Congress of Vexillology, Stockholm
Željko Heimer, 8-9 October, 2004


1. This was the flag which could be the original inspiration to the flag which became the Finnish national flag in 1918.

2. Red and yellow are the tinctures of the Finnish state arms. This should be the reason for these colours in these flags.
Elias Granqvist, 11 October 2004

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