This article explores the ways in which Russian itinerant traders in the Grand Duchy of Finland became involved in the Russo-Finnish political conflict that followed the issuing of the February Manifesto in 1899. Building on portrayals of the peddlers in Russian and Finnish newspapers and political pamphlets, including the underground press that emerged in the late summer of 1900, it traces the creation of an enemy image of mobile Russians, the role that the Finnish Constitutionalists’ strategy of passive resistance ascribed to the “peddling question,” and the reactions to this strategy in Russian nationalist circles. The analysis contributes new knowledge on the position of Russian peddlers in Finland and on the use of political propaganda in the Russo-Finnish conflict, and more generally on the mechanisms through which mobile groups of people can become utilized as political tools in times of political tension. The article also shows that the Russian peddlers did not remain passive in the conflict but exploited the turmoil by filing petitions with the Governor General's Office that aimed at strengthening their legal position in the grand duchy.

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