Finland is characterized by a long history of Lutheranism. Until 1809, Finland was part of Sweden and in 1809-1917 a Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire. Tsar Alexander I recognized Lutheran confession, and the Lutheran Church remained a state church. The status of the Orthodox minority was also guaranteed. Until the 1860s (1880s), Finnish citizens had to belong to the Lutheran Church (or the Orthodox Church). Only foreigners were allowed to practice other religions. The 1869 Church Law, and more explicitly the Dissenters’ Act in 1889, allowed Finns to join other Protestant churches. In 1917 Finland gained independence. Although the 1869 Church Law treated the state and the church as separate institutions, the Finnish state remained a confessional Lutheran state until the new constitution in 1919. In the twentieth century Lutheran church leaders preferred to use the concept of the people’s church. The official status of the Orthodox Church was confirmed and both churches were defined as established churches. Freedom of religion was granted in 1923.