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Finland's Agrarian Structure and Overseas Migration

John Ilmari Kolehmainen

Department of History and Government, Heidelberg College

Migration, as the late Marcus L. Hansen lucidly pointed out, involves "Freedom to move, desire to move, and means to move".1 The correlation of the first of these factors, namely mobility, with Finlands agrarian structure is of particular interest as 85 percent of the total overseas migration has originated in the rural areas.2

The census reports of 1910 provide a typical cross section of the agricultural population.3 The landed rural population, using the word "landed" in a liberal sense, were classified into five categories:

Category

Number of Families

Percent of Rural Population

A,

Maanomistajia (proprietaires fonciers)

129,409

26.0

B,

Kruunun tai uudistalojen haltijoita (dententeurs de terres de la couronne ou de ferme de colon)

2,691

0.5

C,

Virkatalojen vuokraajia (fermiers de la terre adherente à la charge)

970

0.2

D,

Itsenäisten tilojen vuokraajia (fermiers de fermes independantes)

3,787

0.7

E,

Lampuoteja ja maatorppareita jotka ovat päätilan alaisia, kruununmetsätorppareita (fermiers et tenanciers dependents d'une ferme plus considerable, tenanciers de petites fermes de la couronne)

64,863

13.0

These five groups accounted for a little more than 40 percent of the total rural population of Finland.4 The first and last, by virtue of their size, were the most important and will be considered later.

The landless rural population, on the other hand, fell into the following classification:

Category

Number of Families

Percent of Rural Population

F,

Muonatorppareita, muonamiehiä ja renkejä jotka ovat omassa ruuassaan (tenanciers et hommes payant leur redevance en ble et valets de ferme non nourris)

14,345

2.9

G,

Vouteja, työnjohtajia ja muita ammattioppineita (maîtres valets, chefs d'equipe et personnes ayant recu une education professionelle)

2,551

0.5

H,

Palkollisia isäntäväen ruokakunnassa (domestiques nourris par leurs maîtres)

65,862

13.2

I,

Päivätyöläisiä, loisia ja mäkitupalaisia (journaliers ayant leur propre logement et journaliers n'ayant pas leur propre logement)

212,602

42.7

These four groups constituted almost 60 percent of the total agricultural population with categories F, H, and I being the more important.5

The mobile elements in each of the larger categories deserve closer definition. It was not to be expected that many persons, be they maanomistajia or torppareita, who possessed vested interests and rights in the soil would abandon their households. Categories A and E, for example, furnished only 26,357 emigrants during the years 1893-1933 or 24 percent of the total landed migration stream and only 11.2 percent of the total rural emigration.6 Category F, the genuine torppari class, while nominally listed as landless, had, nevertheless, certain vested rights in the land. The operation of this fact is shown in the small contribution made by the torppari to the migration stream. Out of a total landless emigration of 111,605 during 1893-1933, the torpparit accounted for only 7,485 or 7 percent of the landless movememt and only 3.3 percent of the total rural stream.7 Thus the three groups having a handicap to mobility in the form of property rights in the soil (the maanomistajat, the lampuodit, and the torpparit) contributed only 14.5 percent of the total emigration from the rural areas.

The day workers, or päivätyöläiset, constituted a relatively mobile group, and consisted of two classes: those owning their habitations, itsellisiä or mäkitupalaisia; and those who did not, the loisia. While these are not segregated in the migration statistics, it is reasonable to assume that the latter formed the larger proportion of the day workers' migration stream. Out of a total of 111,605 rural and landless emigrants during 1893-1933, the päivätyöläiset accounted for 77,032 or 69 percent, and of the total agrarian stream of 225,710 during the same period they furnished over 34 percent. The rural proletariat was then one of the largest sources for emigrants and its members by virtue of their unencumbered status were relatively free to emigrate.

Categories A, E, F, H, and I, however, accounted for less than 49 percent of the total rural migration. From what sources, then, did the larger part of the emigrants come? The agrarian structure of Finland included a mobile element that has not yet been considered, namely, the sons and daughters of the maanomistajat, the lampuodit, and the torpparit. Two-fifths of the farms had less than 8 acres each of improved soil,8 and it was unlikely, therefore, that they would be further divided into smaller holdings when estates were settled. The eldest son usually retained the farm intact, and the other claimants were compensated by the purchase of their rights. Within the family of each maanomistaja, lampuoteja, and torppari there thus developed a free and independent group of persons who, if they so desired, were able to leave the hearth of their parents. The offspring of the maanomistajat and the lampuodit accounted for 76 percent of the landed migration and 37.9 percent of the total agrarian stream.9 Thus the children of these two groups furnished the greatest number of rural emigrants - 85,670 out of a total of 225,710. The children of the torpparit, on the other hand, played an important though lesser role in migration. During 1893-1933 they numbered 27,088 or 24 percent of the total landless stream and 12 percent of the total rural stream. The offspring of the maanomistajat, the lampuodit, and the torpparit formed over 51 percent of the total number of emigrants originating from the rural regions of Finland.

The three largest classes of rural emigrants were thus the offspring of the maanomistajat and the lampuodit; the päivätyöläiset; and the children of the torpparit. Their respective contributions to the total rural stream were 37.9, 34, and 12 percent. If the first of these is included with the landed category and the last in the landless, it will be seen that the landed groups, although constituting only 40 percent of the agrarian population, furnished 49.6 percent of the total number of emigrants, and that the landless, while outnumbering the landed, accounted for 49.4 percent of the rural migration stream.

The rise and development of mobility was given impetus by a changing rural economy. Dairying and forestry were making inroads upon agronomy. Their rapid advance is attested by a few statistics. There were only 28 cooperative dairies in Finland in 1902, but the number had grown to 328 by 1910; their total sales rose from 3,500,000 Smk. (Finmark) in 1903 to 33,000,000 Smk. in 1911.10 The exports of milk increased from 1,937,646 liters in 1900 to 9,603,098 liters in 1910; and the value of cheese exports mounted from 291,741 Smk. to 868,020 Smk. during the same period. Although there had been an exportable surplus of 29,986,000 kilos of oats in 1890, the domestic production proved utterly inadequate in later years to meet the needs of large-scale husbandry; in 1911, for example, the imports of oats exceeded the exports by 1,501,000 kilos. The growth of dairying, moreover, tended toward a one-crop agriculture. In 1875 hay had accounted for only 10.5 percent of the total land under cultivation; in 1910 it required over 46 percent. The decline in the production of cereals is also shown in the case of rye; the proportion of land devoted to it fell from 26.4 percent in 1875 to 10 percent in 1910.

The increased importanee of lumber in the world markets and the subsequent interest in forestry resulted in a relaxation in the process of transforming wooded regions into arable land. While the number of logs sawed rose from 14.6 million to 40.6 million during the period 1895-1913 and the exports of sawed goods increased from 1,950,715 to 3,620,643 cubie metres, there was no perceptible decline in the proportion of forest to cleared lands. There remained in 1926 over 25 million hectares of forest in Finland, an average of 7.7 hectares for each inhabitant.11

The cumulative effect of the growth of dairying and forestry was to reduce the number of employed. While it is true that these rising industries created nw jobs, it is extremely doubtful whether they absorbed as many employables as they had, directly or indirectly, thrown out of employment. Hundreds of hectares in either hay or spruce required less in terms of human labor than similar areas in cereals or potatoes. The displacement of man units was, moreover, enhanced by the introduction of labor-saving agricultural and dairy machinery. The value of the imports of the first, for example, rose from 1,288,000 Smk. in 1900 to 3,512,000 Smk. in 1908, and of the second, from 379,000 Smk. in 1900 to 1,162,000 Smk. in 1910.12

It is very easy to confuse the creation and rise of mobility within the agrarian body with economic motivation, the so-called "push" for migration. In truth, the small holdings and changed rural economy did not cause emigration from Finland: they merely provided a relatively free and unfettered population from which the migrants could be drawn. The "desire to move, and means to move" are problems related to, but distinct from. the matter of mobility.

References

[1] Marcus L. Hansen, "The History of American Immigration as a Field for Research", in American Historical Review, 32:501 (April 1927).
[2] Although the urban element in the migration stream increased considerably after 1900, the total urban migration averaged only 15 percent of the total overseas movement. In absolute figures the cities and towns of Finland contributed only 40,606 out of a total of 334,873 emigrants during the years 1883-1933. See Suomen Tilastollinen Vuosikirja 1934, p. 79-80 (Helsinki, 1934); the annual volumes of the Siirtolaisuustilasto (Helsinki, 1905-) are indispensable for the study of Finnish overseas migration.
[3] Suomen Virallinen Tilasto. Väestötilastoa. Suomen Väkiluku 31 p:nä Joulukuuta, 1910. 11 Nide, Läsnä Olevan Väestön Ryhmitys Ammatin ja Elinkeinon Mukaan, p. 56-68 (Helsinki, 1915). On the agrarian structure of Finland, see also the important volume of H. Paavilainen, Maataloudesta ja Toimenpiteistä sen Kohottamiseksi vv. 1908-10 (Helsinki, 1913).
[4] Väestötilastoa 1910, 2:60. The distribution of the landed rural populations by provinces and categories was:

Province

A

B

C

D

E

Uusimaa

6,089

63

168

389

4,639

Turku-Pori

13,403

129

345

273

15,877

Häme

7,741

38

174

290

8,115

Viipuri

37,102

1,432

24

471

3,249

Mikkeli

9,173

58

80

552

6,256

Kuopio

13,853

133

33

913

8,114

Vaasa

25,674

94

99

409

11,812

Oulu

16,374

724

47

490

6,801

[5] Ibid. The distribution of the landless classes by provinces and categories was:

Province

F

G

H

I

Uusimaa

5,566

690

6,070

20,079

Turku-Pori

3,382

586

14,127

34,758

Häme

3,504

552

8,311

29,279

Viipuri

823

225

6,153

20,232

Mikkeli

602

150

5,221

22,872

Kuopio

151

188

9,174

34,050

Vaasa

257

114

7,882

32,852

Oulu

60

46

8,924

18,480

[6] Tilastollinen Vuosikirja 1934, p. 81.
[7] Ibid.
[8] National Bureau of Economic Research, International Migrations, 2:531-533. (New York, 1931). See also Martti Kovero, L'agriculture et l'industrie dans la vie économique de la Finlande (Helsinki, 1923); Die Bodenreform in Finnland, Offizieller Bericht (Helsinki, 1923); Kyösti Haataja, "Land Reform in Finland", Bank of Finland Monthly Bulletin, 8(12):22-26 (December 1928); Frank Fox, "Finnish Farming: Its Lessons for Great Britain", Nineteenth Century, 100:352-357 (September 1926); "The Agrarian Reform in Finland", International Review of Agriculture; Part 2, Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Economics and Sociology, 20:319-331, 362-377 (August, September 1929).
[9] Tilastollinen Vuosikirja 1934, p. 81.
[10] Paavilainen, Maataloudesta vv. 1908-10, p. 104-110. See also Kovero, L'agriculture et l'industrie; A. Raussi, "The Cooperative Dairy Movement in Finland", Bank of Finland Monhly Bulletin, 8(7):22-28 (July 1928); Yleinen Katsaus Suomen Ulkomaiseen Merenkulkuun ja Kauppaan vuosina 1871-75 (Helsinki, 1877); and Suomen Kauppa Ulkovaltojen Kanssa sekä Tullilaitoksen Ylöskanto vuonna 1917 (Helsinki, 1919).
[11] Martti Kovero, The Wood Industry of Finland, passim (Helsinki, 1926).
[12] Paavilainen, Maataloudesta vv. 1908-10, p. 131-132. It is to be noted, in addition, that the domestic manufacture of agricultural and dairy machinery increased considerably during the same period.

Published by Agricultural History, Volume 15, p. 44-48, January, 1941.

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