Great Famine of 1695–1697

The Great Famine of 1695–1697, or simply the Great Famine, was a catastrophic famine that affected the present Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway and Sweden, all of which belonged to the Swedish Empire with the exception of Norway. The areas worst affected were the Swedish province of Finland and Norrland in Sweden proper.

The Great Famine of 1695–1697 was concurrent with the "seven ill years", a period of national famine in Scotland in the 1690s.



In the Swedish province of Finland, the Great Famine of 1695–97 was also referred to as "The Years of Many Deaths" by some Finnish historians, because it killed about a third of the Finnish population in only two years,[1] or about 150,000 out of 500,000.[2] People widely relied on eating bark bread. It was Finland's worst demographic catastrophe.

The summer of 1695 was particularly cold, and grains grew abnormally slowly. Rye was reported to grow as late as August 6, and early frost destroyed the little that had grown.[3] January and February 1696 were exceptionally warm, and the harvest was started as early as mid-February, but the frost that came in March destroyed the harvest again.[3] The abundant snow caused massive floods in the Spring, which delayed the harvest again.[4]

People resorted to begging on the streets for food, and even cannibalism was reported at least once.[5]


From 1688 onward, Sweden had been affected by early frost and bad harvests. This culminated in the winter of 1695, which was described as the coldest since 1658 and the rye did not flower before July. Because of this, the Great Famine of 1695 is also referred to as Det stora svartåret ("The Great Black Year").[2] The harvest of 1696, furthermore, was reportedly so bad that each farm produced only one loaf of rye bread.

Outside of Finland, the northernmost provinces of Sweden were the most severely affected. Desperate famine victims from the countryside left for the cities in search for food, especially to the capital of Stockholm, where in the spring of 1697 the streets were reportedly strewn with corpses and people dying of starvation.[2]

Israel Kolmodin wrote the psalm Den blomstertid nu kommer in 1695 in connection to the famine, intended as a prayer to God that the next summer would bring food.[2]


The 1690s marked the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, of colder and wetter weather.[6] This reduced the altitude at which crops could be grown and shortened the growing season by up to two months in extreme years, as it did in the 1690s.[7] The massive eruptions of volcanoes at Hekla in Iceland (1693) and Serua (1693) and Aboina (1694) in Indonesia may also have polluted the atmosphere and filtered out significant amounts of sunlight.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Neumann, J.; Lindgrén, S. (1979). "Great Historical Events That Were Significantly Affected by the Weather: 4, The Great Famines in Finland and Estonia, 1695–97". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 60 (7): 775–787. Bibcode:1979BAMS...60..775N. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1979)060<0775:GHETWS>2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1520-0477.
  2. ^ a b c d Topelius, Zacharias (1899). ”Stora hungersnöden”. Fältskärns berättelser. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers förlag. P. 388-399
  3. ^ a b Iso tietosanakirja, 5. osa (Ihminen-Kansallisfilosofia), "Isot Kuolonvuodet" (in Finnish). Otava. 1933. p. 301.
  4. ^ Zettenberg, Seppo (1997). Suomi kautta aikojen (in Finnish). Otava. p. 134. ISBN 951-1-14925-3.
  5. ^ Lindeqvist, K. O. pp. 126–127. {{cite book}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ I. D. White, "Rural Settlement 1500–1770", in M. Lynch, ed., Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), ISBN 0199693056, pp. 542–3.
  7. ^ T. C. Smout, "Land and sea: the environment", in T. M. Devine and J. Wormald, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), ISBN 0191624330, pp. 22–3.
  8. ^ I. Morrison, "Climate: ", in M. Lynch, ed., Oxford Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), ISBN 0199693056, pp. 99–101.