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Sibbo Commune

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By Gunnar Damstrom

courtesy GSF
The first habitants settled in Sibbo 6000-7000 years ago. In those days the climate was warmer and the land covered with hardwood forests. The Finnish tribes begun crossing the Gulf of Finland around the time of the birth of Christ and settled the land, driving the aboriginal people, the Saami-people north. During the Viking Era (800-1050 A.D.) Estonians visiting the South Coast on their fishing trips got competition from the inlanders from Tavastland who came south for fishing and hunting. Sibbo River was a traffic lane connecting the inland to the Gulf of Finland where the Tavastlanders were trading with eastbound voyagers.

The year 2002 was a milestone in the history of Sibbo. September 22 650 years had passed since the first time Sibbo was mentioned in an official document. On that day in 1352 King Magnus Eriksson dated a letter where he tables the crown parishes starting with Åland in the West and proceeding east. 2002 also is the year the Swedish language was no longer the majority language in Sibbo. The population growth in Svealand, (a part of Sweden) was strong in the 1200’s, which Nazarenko(1) believes triggered the migratory movement to Southern Finland’s coastlands which was sparsely populated. Before the coming of the Swedish immigrants Sibbo had a population of scorch farmers, ostensibly originating from Tavastland. The Swedish immigrants settled in the vicinity of Nikkilä and along the Sibbo River, which the scorch farmers had left alone. Nazarenko believes that the newcomers who plowed the fertile river banks and the Finnish speaking scorch farmers got along well together. No documentation relating conflicts between the Swedish speaking and the Finnish speaking have been found.

In the 1300’s, Tusby, Kerava and Träskända belonged to Sibbo, as did Vanda and Nurmijärvi. Helsingfors (Helsinki) had not been founded yet in the 1300’s. Sibbo was strategically located by the Kings Road leading from Åbo (Turku) to Viborg (Viipuri) and close to Borgå (Porvoo). Reval (Tallinn) was a major trading center on the South shore of the Gulf of Finland. During the 1500’s and 1600’s Sibbo was an area where agriculture dominated. Fishing supplemented the sustenance of the farmers. There were few large estates. In the middle of the 1600’s the nobility owned more that 50% of the farms. During the land reform of the 1680’s and 1690’s the nobility lost ownership of a large number of farms.

Already in the 1600’s the Sibbo inhabitants traded with Helsinki which had been founded 1550. When the Czar on the advice of Gustaf Maruiz Armfelt moved the Finnish Capitol to Helsinki in 1812 Sibbo’s importance increased.


Sibbo archipelago
The endless wars during the Swedish era brought famine also over Sibbo. The taxation was heavy; men were drafted into the army; the Russian invading armies burned the farms, etc. In addition the parish was plagued by crop failure, starvation and deceases. During the famine of 1696-1697 one quarter of Sibbos’s population perished from starvation and deceases. In 1710-1711 a terrible plague ravished the Finnish South Coast, diminishing Helsinki’s population by 1/3. In 1713 Czar Peter the Great invaded, ravaging and pillaging the South Coast and burning Helsingfors to the ground. This started an 8 year occupation, the so called Great Wrath during which the Russian occupational army mercilessly taxed the farmers.

In the 1400’s Sibbo’s population numbered about 1000; In the middle of the 1600’s about 1700; the year 1750 2500; in 1900 6600 of which 400 Finnish speaking; in the year 1965 10635 of which 27% Finnish speaking; and 1999 17000 of which 54% Finnish speaking and 45% Swedish speaking.

Sibbo medieval graystone church
The Sibbo medieval graystone church is dedicated to St. Sigfrid. It was completed in 1454, according to Markus Hiekkanen(2) one of the four stone churches in Eastern Nyland (Sibbo; Borgå; Pernå; and Pyttis). These four churches were all built within two decades according to the same plans by an anonymous master builder. The Sibbo Church is built by the Kings Road where it intersects with the road leading to the coast on the banks of the Sibbo River.

Today about 46% of the workforce in Sibbo work in the Service Sector, 18% in Commerce and Trade, and 16% in manufacturing. Agriculture employs about 3% of the work force, building and construction 9%, and communication 7%.

The new Sibbo church
The new Sibbo church was inaugurated 1885. The old medieval church was left to deteriorate. In 1915 summer guests started a society to save the old church. The old church was inaugurated again in 1935. Numerous artifacts and ornaments that had been deposited at the Borgå Museum were returned to the church.

The Sibbo archipelago with its sunwarm, polished red granite rocks is a popular destination for Helsingfors boaters and sports fishermen.

Throughout the summer tour boats depart daily from the Helsingfors South Harbor for cruises in the Sibbo archipelago.

  • (1) Kaarina Nazarenko: Sibbo Kommuns Historia intill 1868 (Arja Rantanen, Christer Kuvaja)
  • (2) Markus Hiekkanen: The Stone Churches of Medieval Diocese of Turku. Suomen muinaismuistoyhdityksen aikakirja 101, 1994



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