Finland's Constitution Act 1919

The first foundations for Finland's constitution and general administration were laid during the Swedish and Russian rules. Until 1919, Finland’s constitution and general administration were based on the 1772 Constitution and the 1789 Union and Security Act, which dated from the period of Swedish rule. The most significant additions made during autonomy under Russian rule were the Parliament Acts of 1863 and 1906.

Finland's long democratic traditions – universal and equal suffrage which was enacted in 1906, the unicameral parliament that was elected in 1907, decision-making by local government, and the improvement of citizens’ basic rights – all paved the way for the enactment of the 1919 Constitution Act.

In the early 20th century, a republican form of government was an exception, for most European countries were still monarchies. The decision to adopt a republican form of government for Finland was preceded by a period of nearly two years, during which supreme authority in the newly independent state was alternately held by various public entities while different solutions were repeatedly debated in Parliament. One of the adopted options was in favour of a constitutional monarchy, but that decision was discarded in late 1918.

The father of the 1919 Constitution was statesman K.J. Ståhlberg, who already in 1917 proposed a constitution along the lines of the one finally reconfirmed on 17 July 1919.

From the declaration of independence to a republican constitution