Informing as National Indifference? The Case of Finnish Citizens’ Collaboration with the Russian Authorities, 1899–1917

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Between 1899 and 1917, hundreds of Finnish citizens approached the Russian authorities with letters of denunciation, in which they reported about the anti-government activity of their fellow citizens. These informers caused a public stir in Finland because their activity was associated with the intensifying political surveillance of the imperial security police. Finnish nationalists eagerly labeled informers as Russian-minded traitors, but how did the informers themselves relate to the nation and the empire? This article tackles this question by analyzing the communication of these citizens with the Governor General’s Office and the Gendarme Administration and by drawing inspiration from the concept of national in-difference, which has gained prominence in nationalism studies in recent years. The article shows the great variation with which informers framed their ideological stance in their letters to the imperial power. Some avoided referring to their Finnishness to emphasize their imperial loyalty, whereas others presented themselves as pro-Finnish and viewed the interests of Finland and Russia as uniform. As a distinctive group of informers, the article examines Orthodox people, whose letters to the imperial authorities highlight experiences of religious discrimination and consequent national ambivalence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-279
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • denouncers
  • informers
  • political surveillance
  • national indifference
  • nationalism
  • Russian Empire
  • loyalty
  • orthodoxy

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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