At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Russian nobility discovered the pristine landscapes of Finland. Travelling from St. Petersburg, they described the territory newly annexed to the Empire as a Northern Arcadia, a rural haven for their body and soul, while Finns were seen as peaceful “children of nature”, humble and honest. How did these idyllic images of Finland develop? More particularly, what was the value of these perceptions in the Russian imperial context? Based on published travel accounts, this An Imperial Idyll investigates the process through which Russians came to describe and depict Finland as part of their Empire. As a historical survey of the construction of Russian representations of Finland, it sheds new light on familiar places such as Imatra, Helsinki, or the Saimaa Canal by analyzing their creation as remarkable sites as a component of Russian imperialism.