History of the ministry

The Finnish Ministry of the Interior was set up in 1809 as the Administrative Department for General Management. In 1869, the name was changed to the Administrative Department for Civil Affairs, and in 1917, to the Administrative Department for Internal Affairs. In 1918, following Finland’s independence, it became the Ministry of the Interior. Despite all the name changes, the Ministry has had, from its very inception in 1809, the maintenance of public order and internal security as its foremost objective - just as it does today after the Decree of 2007.

On its creation, the Department was the ‘superministry’ of its time. In addition to its security role – which remains its duty to this day – it was responsible for almost all public services. Thus, the Department was initially also responsible for education and training, post and transport services, public buildings, public roads and bridges, poor relief and public charitable institutions, the prison service, public health, the medicines institute and a host of other matters.

These duties were over time transferred to other (often new) ministries. In 1841, responsibility for educational matters was transferred from the Department for General Management to the Department for Ecclesiastical Affairs, setting it on the road to becoming the modern Ministry of Education.

In the 1860s, the Department for General Management started to deal with matters relating to municipal government, and in this connection assumed responsibility for fire services across the country. These duties were officially acknowledged in a Decree of 1869. In the same Decree, the Department was renamed the Department for Civil Affairs.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Department’s duties changed again. Those relating to social affairs, the prison service, the postal and telegraph service, public roads, bridges and public buildings were taken away, and the Department was given responsibility for setting the country’s administrative boundaries and for provincial administration (1888). When a national police service was set up in the early 1900s, it fell, unsurprisingly, under the Department for Civil Affairs.

The Border Guard, which was established following Finland’s independence, came under the Ministry of the Interior in 1919. In the 1930s, responsibility was assumed for land use planning, housing affairs and civil defence. Promotion of regional development became the task of the Ministry in the 1980s.

The Ministry had, for many years, responsibility for the medicines institute but in 1968 this was transferred to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Matters relating to land use planning, housing and environmental protection were reassigned to the new Ministry of the Environment in 1983.

The last major change in the Ministry’s duties took place at the beginning of 2008 when issues relating to regional and local government, development of public administration, and population registration were transferred to the Ministry of Finance and questions relating to regional development to the new Ministry of Employment and the Economy. Migration and integration matters were brought together under one roof at the Ministry of the Interior. Previously these matters had been handled jointly by the Ministry of the Interior and the former Ministry of Labour. Today, the Ministry of the Interior is effectively the ministry for internal security and migration.

The Department for General Management became operational in 1809 and was first located in the rented premises at Richter’s House in Turku. In 1819, the Department was relocated to Helsinki where it was moved to the Senate building, later the Government Palace, in 1822. The Ministry of the Interior got its own premises on Kirkkokatu in 1981, but these were not able to house the whole personnel. There are now two other offices located on Vuorikatu and Korkeavuorenkatu.

Since the 1800s, the Department/Ministry has grown from some 10 people to today’s approximately 220 public servants.