Current issue: 53(1)
The article is a review on the lands that were donated to the Russian aristocracy in Eastern and Southeastern Finland in 1700s. The farmers in the area used to be tenants of state lands or independent land owners. The insufficient and diverse stipulation of the ownership of the lands in the donation documents caused later disputes between the landlords and the farmers. One of the issues was who had right to use the forests. For the farmers this meant significant reductions in their right to harvest timber and household wood, or practice shifting cultivation. There were attempts to improve the situation of the tenants, but the final solution came in the end of 1800s, when the parliament began to promote farmers’ right to purchase the lands. In the land reform, the state raised a loan to purchase the donated lands, and give them to the farmers, who would then pay back their share of the loan. Part of the forests remained state lands in the reform. Several jointly owned forests were also established using the state forests to give access to household wood for farms that had little own forests. The private forests on donated lands had larger standing crop than the private forests in general. Together with increasing demand of wood for the developing manufacturing industry, this gave possibility for abusive practices in timber trade. The timber prices were low, and farmers exchanged felling rights to loan.