The French Perspective on the Åland Islands:

A Cyclic Interest?

Between Geopolitics, Historiography, and a Case Study



Matthieu Chillaud

Combining historical depth and political analysis, this article examines the way that France has perceived the strategic role of the Åland Islands, as well as the French role in the construction of their status of demilitarisation and neutralisation. For that, we strove to draw a parallel between, on the one hand, the intensity of French activities in the Baltic Sea in general and on the Åland Islands in particular, and, on the other hand, the amount of literature in social sciences and the humanities that examines the Åland Islands. This exercise substantiates the hypothesis that whilst this region used to be quite well known in France, nowadays this is no longer the case. It is bound to change, as the majority of the riparian States of the Baltic Sea and France belong henceforth to the same security and defence organisations, namely the EU and NATO. Subsequently, France cannot be indifferent to an area in which she has to assume her historical role, so far almost consigned to oblivion.

About the Author

Matthieu Chillaud ( holds a PhD in political science (Bordeaux) and in history (Montpellier). He has published extensively on strategic issues in Northern Europe. He is currently completing a book on the history of the academic field of strategic studies in France.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The French interest in the Åland Islands: a geopolitical and historiographical perspective
3. France and the ‘Åland factor’ on the European diplomatic chessboard between 1853 and 1921
3.1. ‘Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds’: the Åland Islands between French allies and  enemies
3.2. ‘Making the best of a bad job’: towards the Finnish solution
4. Conclusion

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