Upon the outbreak of World War I in August, 1914, the Russian Imperial Government rightly suspected that for reasons both of geography and of political climate, the Grand Duchy of Finland posed a great danger on its northern flank. This was hardly surprising. Since 1899, that Government had done all it could to destroy die effective autonomy which Finland had enjoyed within the Russian Empire during the nineteenth century.
“Russification” of Finland took place in two stages. General Nikolai A. Bobrikov, Governor-General from 1898 to 1904, reduced the Finnish Diet to a consultative assembly, suppressed newspapers, and introduced the Russian language into the Finnish Senate and civil service. In 1901, he dissolved the Finnish army, which had existed since 1877, and sought unsuccessfully to conscript Finns into the Russian army. To be sure, after Bobrikov's assassination and the Russian revolution of 1905, Tsar Nicholas II agreed to exempt Finns from Russian army service, and, in 1906, permitted the modernization of the Diet and the introduction of universal suffrage.