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Edvard Isto's painting Attack (1899) symbolizes the Russification.

The Russification of Finland (1899-1905, 1908-1917, sortokaudet/sortovuodet (times/years of oppression) in Finnish) was a governmental policy of the Russian Empire aimed at the termination of Finland’s autonomy. It was a part of a larger policy of Russification pursued by late 19th-early 20th century Russian governments which tried to abolish cultural and administrative autonomy of non-Russian minorities within the empire. The policy included the following measures:

  • The February Manifesto of 1899 was a decree by Emperor Nicholas II which asserted the imperial government's right to rule Finland without the consent of local legislative bodies.
  • The Language Manifesto of 1900 was a decree by Emperor Nicholas II which made Russian the language of administration of Finland.
  • The conscription law was signed by Emperor Nicholas II in July 1901 and incorporated the Finnish army into the imperial army.

The Russification campaign resulted in Finnish resistance, starting with petitions and escalating to strikes, passive resistance (including draft resistance) and eventually active resistance, even to the assassination of the Russian governor-general Nikolai Bobrikov by Eugen Schauman in June 1904. During the Russo-Japanese War with the financial aid from Japan the rebels bought a shipment of thousands of rifles aiming an uprising and forming an independent state. However, the ship was wrecked in the coast and the plan fell apart. Interestingly, during the First World War when Russia and Japan were allies fighting against Germany the Japanese handed to the Russian government a list of leading men in the freedom movement (now in WW1 working with Imperial Germany).

The imperial government responded with a purge of opponents of Russification within the Finnish administration, more stringent censorship, and, from April 1903 until the Russian Revolution of 1905, granting of dictatorial powers to the Russian governor-general. The resistance campaign had some successes, notably a de facto reversal of the new conscription law. In retrospect, Finnish resistance to the policy of russification was one of the main factors that ultimately led to Finland's declaration of independence in 1917.

The Russification campaign was suspended and partially reversed in 1905–07 during a period of civil unrest throughout the Russian empire following Russian defeats in the Russo-Japanese War. The program was reintroduced in 1908 on, costing Finland much of its autonomy and again causing further Finnish resistance, including the Jäger movement. Many measures were again suspended in 1914–17 during the First World War, but secret government documents published in the Finnish press in November 1914 suggested that the imperial government still harbored plans for the complete Russification of Finland.

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