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Causes of the Large-Scale Immigration

The motivation for immigration can be stated in many ways. It can be said, for example, that there are either general or individual reasons. General reasons can be broken down into temporary and permanent causes, causes which some scholars have classified under the headings of natural and unnatural. 9 But at least as far as the Finns are concerned their reasons have been so complex and so entangled that many factors have been

at work simultaneously. If, for example, the issue is studied from the American aspect, without a doubt such a factor as America's well-developed industry and economic well-being compared to that of many European countries was a continuing influence and a natural cause for immigration. Among Finnish immigrants this reason has been vital from the beginnings of mass immigration to the present date. It was given additional emphasis by Finland's own limited economic possibilities and the change from a purely agricultural society to a gradually and increasingly industrialized society.'° When a country can offer but scant return even for the hardest of toil and drudgery, and when even that return has often been lacking altogether, the search for a better existence is understandable enough. It was a reason always present in the Finland of pre-independence times, together with other factors appearing at some particular moments in history.

During the nineteenth century Finland had a whole series of famines, of which 1867 started the most calamitous one, and from which it took decades before recovery from its consequences was forthcoming. Very little grain was harvested that year, and tens of thousands of people died of starvation, and typhoid epidemic added to the death toll. Within two months, April and May 1868, six times as many people died as was statistically normal. In Parkano, one out of four inhabitants died; in Ruovesi and Orivesi, almost one in six. The highways were crowded with people begging for food; the roadsides were littered with corpses. The national standard of living was set back, and a desire to leave the country grew. The governor of the province of Vaasa reported, "Masses of people are leaving the country.""

9. See P. H. Fairchild, Immigration, p. 146; also R. Engelberg, Suomi ja Amerikan Suomalaiset, Helsinki, 1944, pp 13-60.

10. K. Kautsky, Vermehrung and Entwicklung in Natur and Gesellschaft. p. 8. 11. Th. Rein. J. W. Snellman. II, p 463.


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