Military Governors and Imperial Frontiers c. 1600-1800: A Study of Scotland and Empires

By A. Mackillop; Steve Murdoch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
FIELD-MARSHAL JAMES KEITH: GOVERNOR OF THE
UKRAINE AND FINLAND, 1740–17431
Atina L.K. Nihtinen

The Finns were used to the civic administration of Scotsmen by the mid-eighteenth century. During the previous 100 years, a number of Scots had acted as governors and commandants of Finnish towns. One particularly high-profile governor in Finland was a Swedishborn Scot called Gustav Otto Douglas (1687–1771), the grandson of Count Robert Douglas.2 Otto had fought against the Russians at Poltava in 1709, but had been captured during the rout of the Swedish army. He afterwards entered Russian service and in 1717, at thirty years of age, became governor of the newly acquired Russian province.3 Douglas succeeded in creating some semblance of order within the region's administration and ensured the emergence of a stable legal and taxation regime, in Western Finland in particular.4 He was, however, extremely unpopular and his name was held in fear and contempt among the Finnish population.5 Renowned for his temper and violence, his tenure as governor was to witness Finns being taken by force during the conscription levies of 1720 and sent to the battlefields of Astrakhan on the Russian Empire's south eastern frontier. Many of these men hid themselves in the forests, but

____________________
1
I would like to thank Dr Steve Murdoch and Dr Andrew Mackillop of the University of Aberdeen for their help in the preparation of this article.
2
Robert Douglas came to Sweden in 1627 where he became a colonel in the army of Gustav II Adolph. He later served under Charles X in a campaign in Poland. In 1657 he became Field-Marshal and died in 1662; I. Matley, 'The Scots in Finland', Terra (Helsinki: 1986), 76; The Scottish origin of Otto Douglas is mentioned in just a few Finnish sources, e.g. K.O. Lindeqvist, Isovihan aika Suomessa (Porvoo: 1919), 477.
3
At first, the military governed all civil matters, but a civil administration was set up in the western parts of Finland in 1717 and in the eastern regions in 1719.
4
Y. Blomstedt, ed., Suomen historia. Suurvalta-aika (Espoo: 1985), III, 266. On the positive aspects of his administration see also Lindeqvist, Isovihan aika Suomessa, 481.
5
See H. Marryat, One Year in Sweden (London: 1862), 463.

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