The project of annexing Åland to Sweden was launched by a small group of activists and became finally a veritable peoples’ movement. At a meeting held in August 1917 representatives of several municipalities on Åland demanded that the Åland Islands should be annexed to Sweden. The Islanders regarded it as ”reunification”. The meeting decided to send a delegation to Stockholm to inform the Swedish Government of the desire of the inhabitants. Julius Sundblom, member of the Finnish Parliament and publisher of Åland, the only newspaper on the islands, and Solicitor Carl Björkman gradually emerged as leaders of this movement. Earlier contacts with the Government of Sweden had not been encouraging, but the project was backed by a growing number of leading men on Åland and ordinary Ålanders, particularly when Finland had issued a declaration of independence. During the last days of the year a petition was collected in which 7146 Ålanders expressed their wish that the islands should be annexed to Sweden. It provided the project with democratic backup. The project of the Ålanders simultaneously became a separatist one, because the movement did not in any way get in contact with the Finnish government. It was all about joining Sweden; the Ålanders did not bring forth any option for autonomy.
As the status of the Åland Islands was determined by an international treaty, almost none of the great powers would regard the result of the proceedings with total indifference. They regarded it, however, as a Russian internal matter as long as Russia was led by the Interim Government. The islands were also physically in the possession of Russian military forces. Soviet-Russia did not utter any reservations concerning for the Åland Islands when it recognized Finland’s independency. Soviet-Russia had, however, no intention to recognize any international security agreements concerning the islands in case it was not a party in such agreements.
During the World War, the Åland Islands immediately also became an object of diplomatic trade. In addition to Russia only Germany possessed the ability to intervene militarily in the matters of the Islands without delay. Its long-term goal had been to try to get Sweden to join the Central powers in the World War, and one of the incentives was to promise the Åland Islands as a prize. In fact, the King of Sweden provided an incentive for this in 1917 – withholding information about his own role in this matter from the Government of Sweden and the Swedish Parliament. However, neither the Government nor the Parliament wanted to endanger the neutrality of Sweden. For Britain, the Åland Islands was of great interest from the viewpoint of commercial interests and sea power, but the Islands were at that time outside the sphere of British influence.