Autonomy was gradually establishing, which was reflected in the decreasing voting percentages of the provincial elections, possibly because they were not regarded very important. The only political groups with a party profile were leftist, commanding very little support, while the traditional constituency associations stood for continuity. The political disputes on Finnish mainland did not particularly disturb the daily life of the Ålanders who were preoccupied with agriculture, fishing and seafaring. Shipowner Gustaf Eriksson on Åland could continue operating with sailing ships mainly because of low crew costs, receiving worldwide romanticizing in the press. Tourism made its mark on Åland in summertime, with many boarding houses offering accomodation and meals.
As the external pressure diminished there was growing space for conflicts between the two leading figures on the Åland Islands, Julius Sundblom and Carl Björkman; the latter even became a victim of attempted murder in 1935.The inflamed conflict flared up again in 1938 when they became aware of the so-called Stockholm Plan, which advocated for a partial change in the status of the Åland Islands. The Governments in Finland and Sweden, worried about the growing tension in Europe, had requested the military authorities of both countries to draft a plan for a joint defense of the Åland Islands, including fortifications in the southern part of Åland and the introduction of temporary conscription of Ålanders. Carl Björkman had to resign from his post after having publicly given support to the plan.
Sweden, however, withdrew from the project in 1939 after protests from the Soviet Union. The outbreak of the Winter War made the Ålanders change their minds and even Julius Sundblom supported the foundation of a local militia, Ålands hemvärn. Finnish troops arrived in the Åland Islands and the construction of fortifications along its coastline began. The acts of war experienced by the Ålanders were restricted to a couple of bombings and mining of the surrounding waters. The Finnish military forces remained in the Åland Islands even after the Winter War and the construction of fortifications were speeded up.
Soviet Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vjatjeslav Molotov surprisingly demanded on 27:th June 1940, only a couple of weeks after the annexation of the Baltic countries to the Soviet Union, that his country would be allowed to participate in the fortification of the Åland islands; alternatively the already built fortifications should be destroyed. Under Soviet pressure Finland had to accept; the Finnish troops were removed from the Åland Islands and destruction of the fortifications began under the supervision of a Soviet commission. A new treaty on the demilitarisation of the Åland Islands between Finland and the Soviet Union was signed on 21:st October 1940. The Soviet Union founded a consulate in Mariehamn to ensure that the treaty was adhered to. The Baltic Fleet of the Soviet Union had already in September 1940 made a plan for the conquest of the Åland Islands as part of planning concerning entire Finland.
Sailing vessels in the Western harbour of Mariehamn in 1933. Museum of Åland
Provincial Councillor Carl Björkman gives a speech in Godby in 1938. Museum of Åland.
Medical Councillor Lars Wilhelm Fagerlund in 1911–1916. Photo: Atelier Universal. Finnish Heritage Agency.
Finnish submarine in the Åland archipelago. Photo: Arvo Ääri. SA-kuva.
Handling of bombs on the Åland Sea. Photo: L. Zilliacus. SA-kuva