History of Finland

The history of Finland has been heavily influenced by the relationships Finland has had with neighboring counties. The origins of the Finnish people are unclear and controversial, with genetic research indicating that their ancestors may have originated in central Europe. Regardless, Finland was settled by 8500 BC, as archeological artifacts have been found from this era. In the 18th through 20th centuries, Finland was taken over three times by Russia, and in the 20th century, Finland faced a difficult role in international politics due to its close proximity to the Soviet Union.


Earliest origins of the Finns

Finnish and Sami — the language of Lapland's small indigenous minority — are both Finno-Ugric languages and are in the Uralic rather than the Indo-European family. The closest related language to the Finnish still widely in use is Estonian. Both Finnish and Estonian are Baltic Finnish or Finnic languages, while other Finno-Ugric languages are more distant.

The origins of the Finnish people and their language are a matter of reinvigorated controversy. Some established scholars contend that "their original home" was in what is now west-central Siberia. Others have suggested a wide-ranged "homeland" between the Volga river and Scandinavia. Some approaches from specialities previously considered ancillary to the question, have produced divergent viewpoints to challenge this accepted view. The ancestors of the Finns arrived at their present territory thousands of years ago, in numerous successive waves of immigration coming from east, south and west, establishing a hunting-farming culture. During this the possible linquistic and cultural ancestors of hunting-gathering Sami were pushed into the more remote northern regions.

A newer theory, formulated during the 1990s among a small circle of mainly Finnish and Estonian scholars, says that during the Ice Age the ancestors of the Finns lived at one of the three habitable areas of southern Europe, so called refugias. The two other habitable areas were home for Indo-European and the Basque languages. According to this theory the Finno-Ugrics spread to the north as ice melted. They populated central and northern Europe, while Basques populated western Europe. Later the Indo-European language speakers presented agriculture to their neughbouring hunter-gatherers. While the Finno-Ugric and Basque hunter-gatherers learned how to cultivate land they also learned the culture and the language of cultivators, so they became Indo-Europeans. Soon these new Indo-Europeans had population growth caused by agriculture, and they moved to new areas and Indoeuropeanized the local hunter-gatherers, and so on. This is how Celtic, Germanic, Slavic and Baltic languages were born. Finns were not Indo-Europeanized because of their isolated location, and this explains why their language is not related but genes are closely related with Indo-Europeans of central Europe. However, this theory is not accepted by the majority of linquistic researchers. It is not disproved with archaeological evidence, but many linguistical scientists consider it impossible.

The genetic research points out that the Finns are most related with the Germanic language speakers. According to a wide genetic research the closest group to the Finns are suprisingly the Germanic Flemings of Belgium. It is also remarkable that the similarity is in genes that inherit only from female to female. This suggests that they had a common ancestress, probably in the same late Ice Age refugia. However, the genetic similarity does not necessarily prove that a common language ever existed, or that the common language would have been a Finno-Ugric one. The Finno-Ugrian language may have developed and spread also after the Ice Age. Indo-European language family, though, is newer in Europe.


The archaeological evidence of the Paleolithic, pre-Ice Age settlement in Finland is a debated issue. After the Ice Age, the archeological evidence for the first settlers of Finland, coming from the south and east, can be traced back around 8500 BC. The Mesolithic hunter-gatherer settlement is known as the "Suomusjrvi culture". Around 5300 BC the "Comb ceramic cultures", known for their pottery, took over. This marks the beginning of the neolithic for Finland, although the subsistence was still based on hunting and fishing. Extensive networks of exhange existed in Finland and Northeastern Europe during 5th millennium B.C. Great amounts of flint and amber were imported to Finland. Rock paintings, apparently related to shamanistic and totemistic belief systems, exist especially in Eastern Finland.

It is believed that the proto-Finnish language spread to Finland at this time, if not before.

After 3200 BC immigrants or strong cultural influence from south of the gulf of Finland settled in southern Finland. This culture was a part of the European Battle Axe cultures, which have often been associated with the movement of Indo-European speakers. The Battle-Axe or Cord Ceramic culture seem to have practised agriculture and animal husbandry in Finland as well. Further inland the societies were less advanced. The Finnish language got an influx from the Indo-European Baltic languages (and vice versa) approximately in the period 3500-1000 BC[1] (http://victorian.fortunecity.com/christy/32/ak2e.html), and the Sami languages diverged from standard Finnish.

The Bronze Age began some time after 1500 BC, this time spreading from the west. The coastal regions of Finland were a part of the Nordic Bronze Culture, whereas in the inland regions the influences came from the bronze-using cultures of Northern Russia. After 500 BC the Iron Age began. Findings of imported iron blades and local iron working appears at about the same time.

During the 1st century AD trade and exhange with Scandinavia increased and some Roman artifacts from this period have been found. During the first millenia AD, the population groups of Finland exchanged their products (mostly furs) with Scandinavian traders. Influences came from the south and east as well. The society was stratified: the existence of richly furnished burials, usually with weapons, suggest that a chiefly elite existed from the 3rd century AD onwards. However, a centralized society did not evolve in Finland, not even during the Viking Age.

During this time the population in Finland can be discerned into different groups: (proper-)Finns, Tavastians, Karelians and Sami. land is Swedified during this time, if not before. These terms are used in linguistical sense, not to suggest that the Iron Age people would have used or understood modern ethnonyms.

The Middle Ages

Contact between Sweden and what is now Finland was remarkable even during pre-Christian times — the Vikings were known to Finns both due to their participation in commerce and plundering. However, there is no evidence of Scandinavian settlement in Finland during the Viking Age, with the expection of land Islands.

According to the archaeological finds, Christianity gained foothold in Finland during the 11th century AD. According to later sources, Saint Henry, possibly an Englishman, arrived in Finland around 1155, apparently to organize the church and ecclesial taxes. Probably he was backed by the Swedish king. Henry was martyred soon, but a significant cult grew around his memory.

According to the very few written documents that have survived, the Church in Finland was in chaotic state during the later part of 12th century. In the early 13th century, the missionary bishop Thomas apparently managed to bring some stability and order. At the same time, there were several secular powers who aimed to bring the Finns under their rule. These included the young Swedish kingdom, Denmark, Republic of Novgorod in Northwestern Russia and probably the German crusading orders as well. Finns had their own chiefs, but no central authority. Despite the cultural and linguistical similarity, the feelings of common "Finnish identity" must have been very vague, if existing at all. The name "Finland" signified only the southwestern province that has been known as "Finland Proper" since the 18th century. The concept of a Finnish "country" in the modern sense developed only slowly during the period of the 15th–18th centuries. This development was chiefly promoted by the unifying effect of the Catholic Church that considered the populated parts of present-day Finland to be one episcopal see and took it for granted that the Christians of that see would consider themselves as kinsmen.

It was apparently the Swedish regent, Birger Jarl, who managed to stabilize the Swedish rule in Finland after a "crusade", most often dated to 1238 or 1249. Novgorod gained the rule in Karelia, the region immediately east of Finland, with a population still today closely related to the Finns in a linguistic and ethnic sense. Thus, the border between the Catholic and Orthodox Christendom came to lie at the eastern border of Finland.

During the 13th century Finland was integrated in the medieval European civilization. The Dominican order arrived in Finland around 1249 and came to exercise huge influence there. In the early 14th century, the first documents of Finnish students at Sorbonne appear. In the south-western part of the country, an urban settlement evolved in Turku. Turku was one of the biggest towns in the Kingdom of Sweden, and its population included German merchants and craftworkers. Otherwise the degree of urbanisation was very low in the medieval Finland. Southern Finland and the long littoral of the Bothnian Gulf had a sparse farming settlement, organised as parishes and castellanies. In the other parts of the country a small population of Sami hunters, fishermen and small-scale farmers lived. These were exploited by the Finnish and Karelian tax collectors. During the 12th and 13th centuries, great numbers of Swedish settlers moved to the southern and north-western coasts of Finland, to the land Islands and to the archipelago between Turku and the land Islands: in these regions, the Swedish language is widely spoken even today. Swedish came to be the language of the high-status people in many other parts of Finland as well.

During the 13th century, the bishopric of Turku was established, sometimes identified as the medieval counterpart to Finland of our days, since there were no other sees in Finland. The cathedral of Turku was the centre of the cult of Saint Henry, and naturally the cultural centre of the bishopric. The bishop had the ecclesial authority over much of today's Finland and was usually the most powerful man there. Bishops were often Finns, whereas the commanders in the castles were more often Scandinavian or German noblemen. In 1362, representatives from Finland were called to participate in the elections of king for Sweden; and this year is often held to signify the incorporation of what would become Finland into the kingdom of Sweden. Similarly to in the Scandinavian part of the kingdom, a gentry or (lower) nobility consisted of magnates and yeomen who could afford armament for a man and a horse. These were concentrated in the southern part of Finland.

The strong fortress of Viipuri (Swedish: Viborg) guarded the eastern border of Finland. Sweden and Novgorod signed the Peace of Nteborg in 1323, but that would not last long. For example, in 1348 the Swedish king Magnus Eriksson staged a failed crusade against the Orthodox "heretics", managing only to alienate his supporters and finally losing his crown. The bone of contention between Sweden and Novgorod were the northern coast-line of the Bothnian Gulf and the wilderness regions of Savo in Eastern Finland. Novgorod considered these as hunting and fishing grounds of its Karelian subjects, protesting against the slow infiltration of Catholic settlers from the West. Occasional raids and clashes between Swedes and Novgorodians occurred during the late 14th and 15th centuries, but for most of the time an uneasy peace prevailed. There existed internal tensions as well. During the 1380s a civil war in the Scandinavian part of Sweden brought unrest to Finland, too. The victor of this struggle was Queen Margaret I of Denmark, who brought the three Scandinavian kingdoms of Sweden, Denmark and Norway under her rule ("The Kalmar Union") in 1389. The next 130 years or so were characterized by attempts of different Swedish factions to break out of the Union. Finland was sometimes involved in these struggles, but in general the 15th century seem to have been relatively prosperous time, characterixed by population-growth and economic development. Towards the end of the century, however, the situation on the eastern border was becoming more tense. The Principality of Moscow conquered Novgorod, preparing the way for an unified Russian nation-state, and soon tensions arose with Sweden. In 14951497, a brutal war was fought. The fortress-town of Viipuri stood against a Russian siege: according to a contemporary legend, it was saved by a miracle.

The 16th century

In 1521, The Kalmar Union finally collapsed and Gustav Vasa became the King of Sweden. During his rule, the Swedish church was reformed. The state administration underwent extensive reforms and development too, giving it much stronger grip on the life of local communities - and ability to collect higher taxes.

King Gustav Vasa died in 1560 and his crown was passed to his three sons in separate turns. King Erik XIV started an era of expansion when the Swedish crown took city of Tallinn in Estonia under its protection in 1561. It was the beginning of an extremely warlike era which lasted for 160 years. In the first phase, Sweden fought of the lordship of Estonia and Latvia ("Livonia") against Denmark, Poland and Russia. The common people of Finland suffered because of drafts, high taxes, and abuse by the military personnel. This resulted in the Cudgel War, a desperate peasant rebellion, which was suppressed brutally and bloodily.

An important part of the 16th century history in Finland was growth of the area settled by farming population. The crown encouraged farmers from the Savo province to settle the vast wilderness regions in Middle Finland. This was done, and the original Sami population often had to leave. Some of the wilderness settled was traditional hunting and fishing territory of Karelian hunters. During the 1580s, this resulted in a bloody guerrilla warfare between the Finnish settlers and Karelians in some regions.

The 17th century - the Swedish Empire

In 1617 - 1632 Sweden was ruled by the king Gustavus Adolphus, whose military reforms transformed the Swedish army from a peasant militia into a efficient fighting machine, possibly the best one in Europe. The conquest of Livonia was now completed, and some territories were taken from internally divided Russia in the Treaty of Stolbova. In 1630, the Swedish (and Finnish) armies marched into Central Europe, as Sweden had decided to take part in the great struggle between Protestant and Catholic forces in Germany:

  • 1630-48 Finns fight in the Thirty Years War on the European continent. The Finnish light cavalry, known as the Hakkapeliitat, spreads fear among the Catholic troops in Germany who are used to more orderly warfare (and, maybe, less brutal treatment of prisoners and civilians).

After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Sweden was ranked among the great European powers (the Swedish Empire). During the war, several important reforms had been made in Finland:

  • 1637-40 and 1648-54 Count Per Brahe functions as general governor of Finland. Many and important reforms are made, towns are founded, etc, etc. His period is generally considered very beneficial to the development of Finland.
  • 1640 Finland's first university, Academy of bo is founded in Turku, at the proposal of Count Per Brahe by Queen Christina of Sweden. This is said to be the only European university founded by a female.
  • 1642 The whole Bible is finally published in Finnish.

However, the high taxation, continuing wars and the cold climate (the Little Ice Age) made the Imperial era of Sweden rather gloomy times for Finnish peasants. In 1655 - 1660, a new series of bitter wars was fought, taking Finnish soldiers to the battle-fields of Livonia, Poland and Denmark. In 1676, the political system of Sweden was transformed into absolute monarchy.

In Middle and Eastern Finland, great amounts of tar were produced for export. European nations needed this material for the maintenance of their fleets. According to some theories, the spirit of early capitalism in the tar-producing province of Pohjanmaa may have been the reason for the witch-hunt wave that happened in this region during the late 17th century. The people were having more expectations and plans for the future, and when these were not realised, they were quick to blame witches - according to a belief-system the Lutheran church had imported from Germany.

In the religious sense, the 17th century was an era of very strict Lutheran orthodoxy.

In 1697 - 99, a famine caused by climate killed apparently 30 % of the Finnish population. Soon afterwards, another great war was started (The Great Northern War 1700 - 1721).

The 18th Century - Age of Reason

During the Greater Wrath (17131721), Finland was occupied by the Russians, and the south-eastern part, including the important town of Viipuri, was annexed to Russia after the peace of Uusikaupunki. The border to Russia came to lie roughly where it returned to after WWII. Sweden's status as European great power was gone, and Russia was now the leading might of the North. The absolute monarchy was finished in Sweden. During this Age of Liberty, the Parliament ruled the country, and the two parties of Hats and Caps struggled for control leaving the lesser Court party, i.e. parliamentarians with close connections to the royal court, with none-to little influence. The Caps wanted to have a peaceful relationship with Russia and were supported by many Finns, while other Finns longed for revenge and supported the Hats.

Finland by this time was no populous land. By the mid-18th century, the population was less than 470.000 according to official statistics, that however was based on (Lutheran) church records, so a few Orthodox Christian parishes in Northern Karelia are not included. But the population grew rapidly, and doubled before the turn of the century. 90% of the population are typically classified as "peasants", however most of them belonged to the class of free taxed yeomen. 45% of the male population were enfranchised with full political representation in the legislature — although clericals, nobles and townfolks had their own chambers in the parliament, boosting their political influence and excluding the peasantry on matters of foreign policy.

The 18th century was a relatively good time, partly because the life was now more peaceful. However, during the Lesser Wrath (17411742), Finland was again occupied by the Russians after the government, during a period of Hat party dominance, had made a botched attempt to reconquer the lost provinces. Instead the result of the Peace of bo was that the border was moved further to the west. During this time, Russian propaganda hinted at the possibility to create a separate Finnish kingdom.

Both the ascending Russian Empire and pre-revolutionary France aspired on Sweden as a client state. Parliamentarians and others with influence were susceptible for bribes which they made their best to push up. The integrity and the credibility of the political system waned, and in 1771 the young and charismatic king Gustav III made a coup-d'tat, abolished parliamentarism and re-instated the royal power in Sweden — more or less with the support of the parliament. In 1788, he started a new war against Russia. Despite a couple of victorious battles, the war was fruitless, managing only to bring disturbance for the economical life in Finland. The popularity of King Gustav III waned considerably. During the war, a group of officers made the famous Anjala declaration demanding peace-negotiations and calling of Riksdag (Parliament). An interesting sideline of this process was the conspiracy of some Finnish officers, who attempted to create an independent Finnish state with Russian support. After an initial shock, Gustav III crushed the opposition. In 1789, the new constitution of Sweden strenghtened the royal power further, as well as improved the status of peasantry. However, the continuing war had to be finished without conquests - and many Swedes now considered the king as a tyrant.

With the interruption of the war 17881790, the last decades of the 18th century had been an era of development in Finland. Trade increased and the peasantry was growing more affluent and self-conscious. The Age of Reason climat of broadened debate in the society on issues of politics, religion and morals would in due time highlight the problem that the overwhelming majority of Finns spoke only Finnish, but the cascade of newspapers, belles-lettres and political leaflets was almost exclusively in Swedish — when not in French.

The two Russian occupations had been harsh and were not easily forgotten. And these occupations were a seed of a feeling of separateness and otherness, that in a narrow circle of scholars and intellectuals at the university in Turku was forming a sense of a separate Finnish identity representing the eastern part of the realm. The shine of the Russian imperial capital Saint Petersburg was also much stronger in southern Finland than in other parts of Sweden, and contacts across the new border dispersed the worst fears for the fate of the educated and trading classes under a Russian rgime. At the turn of the century, the Swedish speaking educated classes of officers, clerics and civil servants were mentally well prepared for a shift of allegiance to the strong Russian Empire.

King Gustav III was assassinated in 1792, and his son Gustav IV Adolf assumed the crown after a period of regency. The new king was not a particularly talented ruler, at least not talented enough to steer his kingdom through the dangerous era of the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars.

Russian Grand Duchy

(Main article: Grand Duchy of Finland)

During the Finnish War between Sweden and Russia, Finland was again conquered by the armies of Tsar Alexander I. The four Estates of occupied Finland were assembled at the Diet of Porvoo on March 29, 1809 to pledge allegiance to Alexander I of Russia. Following the Swedish defeat in the war and the signing of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn on September 17, 1809, Finland remained an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917, with Karelia handed back to Finland in 1812. During the years of Russian rule the degree of autonomy varied. Also periods of censorship, political prosecution, etc. occurred, particularly in the two last decades of Russian control, but the Finnish peasantry remained free unlike their Russian counterparts as the old Swedish law (including the relevant parts from Gustav III's Constitution of 1772) remained effective. The old four-chamber Diet was re-activated in the 1860s agreeing to supplementary new legislation concerning internal affairs. Industrialisation begun during the 19th century from forestry industry, mining and machinery and laid the foundation of Finland's current day prosperity, even though agriculture employed a relatively large part of the population until the post-WWII era.


Particularly following Finland's incorporation into Swedish central administration during 16th and 17th centuries, Swedish had been the dominant language in administration and education. Before that, in medieval semi-anarchy, German, Latin and Swedish were important languages beside native-spoken Finnish. Finnish recovered its predominance after a 19th-century resurgence of Finnish Nationalism - also Russian controllers working to separate Finns from Sweden and to ensure of the Finns' higher loyalty.

The publication in 1835 of the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala, a collection of traditional myths and legends, the folklore of the Karelian people (the Finnic Russian Orthodox people who inhabit the Lake Ladoga-region of eastern Finland and present-day NW Russia), first stirred the nationalism that later led to Finland's independence from Russia. The Finnish national awakening in the mid-nineteenth century was the result of members of the Swedish-speaking upper classes deliberately choosing to promote Finnish culture and language as a means of nation building, i.e. to establish a feeling of unity between the people in Finland including, and not the least important, between the ruling elite and the ruled peasantry.

In 1863, Finnish got a position in administration, and 1892 Finnish finally became an equal official language and gained a status comparable to that of Swedish, and within a generation Finnish clearly dominated in government and society.

(See also: Finland's language strife)


See: Russification of Finland

In 1906, as a means to improve the Russo-Finnish relations, the old four-chamber Diet was replaced by a unicameral Parliament (the "Eduskunta"), which was elected by universal suffrage, with Finnish women being the first in Europe to be given the vote.

Independence and Civil War

In the aftermath of the February Revolution in Russia, Finland received a new Senate, a coalition-Cabinet with the same power structure as the Finnish Parliament. Based on the general election in 1916, the Social Democrats had a small majority, and the Social Democrat Oskari Tokoi became Prime Minister. The new Senate was willing to cooperate with revolutionary government of Russia, but no agreement was reached. The Finns' view was, basically, that the personal union with Russia was finished after the Tsar was dethroned. They expected the Czar's authority to be transferred to Finland's Parliament, which the provisional government of Russia couldn't accept. For the Finnish Social Democrats it seemed as the Russian Bourgeoisie was an obstacle on Finland's road to independence as well as on the Proletariat's road to justice. The non-Socialists in Tokoi's Senate were however more confident. They, and most of the non-Socialists in the Parliament, rejected the Social Democrats' proposal on Parliamentarism (the so-called "Power Act") as being too far-reaching and provocative. The act restricted Russia's influence on domestic Finnish matters, but didn't touch the Russian government's power on matters of defence and foreign affairs. For the Russian Provisional government this was however far too radical. As the Parliament had exceeded its authority, it was dissolved.

The minority of the Parliament, and of the Senate, were content. New elections promised a chance to gain majority, which they were convinced would improve the chances to reach an understanding with Russia. The non-Socialists were inclined to cooperate with the Provisional government also because they feared the Socialists' power would grow, resulting in radical reforms, such as equal suffrage in municipal elections, or a land reform. The majority had, of course, the squarely opposite opinion. They didn't accept the provisional government's right to dissolve the Parliament.

The Social Democrats held on to the Power Act and opposed the publication of the decree of dissolution of the Parliament, whereas the non-Socialists voted for publishing it. The disagreement over the Power Act led to the Social Democrats leaving the Senate. When the Parliament met again after the summer recess in August 1917, only the groups supporting the Power Act were present. Russian troops took possession of the chamber, the Parliament was dissolved, and new elections were carried out. The result was a (small) bourgeois majority and a purely non-Socialist Senate. The abolishment of the Power Act, and the cooperation between Finnish bourgeois forces and the oppressive Russia, provoked great bitterness among the Socialists, and dozens of politically motivated terror assaults, including murders.

Successful independence

The Bolshevik Revolution turned Finnish politics upside down. Now the new non-Socialist majority of the Parliament felt a great urge for total independence, and the Socialists came gradually to view Russia as an example to follow. On November 15, 1917, the Bolsheviks had declared a general right of self-determination, including the right of complete secession, "for the Peoples of Russia".

Worried by the development in Russia, and Finland, the non-Socialist Senate proposed for the parliament to declare Finland's independence, which was agreed on in the parliament on December 6, 1917. According to the Bolshevists' declared adherence to the principle of self-determination, Finland's independence could be expected to get accepted by Russia's revolutionary government, but it came to last almost a month until the independence was acknowledged by Russia (on January 4, 1918). Germany and the Scandinavian countries followed without delay.

In 1918, Finland experienced the brief but bitter Civil War of Finland that colored domestic politics and the foreign relations of Finland for many years. Finland's government defeated a socialist rebellion with support from Imperial Germany; and only Germany's defeat in World War I saved Finland from becoming a German satellite state. The neighbor-country Sweden was in the midst of her own process of democatization, with socialists in government for the first time. For many decades, Finns on both sides remained bitter over Sweden's reluctance to mix in the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed between the Central Powers and Bolshevist Russia, regarding Finland stating:

Germany and Austria-Hungary purpose to determine the future status of these territories in agreement with their population.
Finland and the land Islands will immediately be cleared of Russian troops and the Russian Red Guard, and the Finnish ports of the Russian fleet and of the Russian naval forces. So long as the ice prevents the transfer of warships into Russian ports, only limited forces will remain on board the warships. Russia is to put an end to all agitation or propaganda against the Government or the public institutions of Finland.
The fortresses built on the land Islands are to be removed as soon as possible. As regards the permanent non-fortification of these islands as well as their further treatment in respect to military technical navigation matters, a special agreement is to be concluded between Germany, Finland, Russia, and Sweden; there exists an understanding to the effect that, upon Germany's desire, still other countries bordering upon the Baltic Sea would be consulted in this matter.

Finland in the inter-war era

Despite of the Declaration of Independence calling Finland a Republic, initially, Finland was to be a constitutional monarchy. A German prince, Frederick of Hesse was elected King, with the name Vin I of Finland, with Pehr Evind Svinhufvud and General Mannerheim serving as Regents. However, Germany's defeat in World War I, meant that the idea was abandoned. Finland instead became a republic, with Kaarlo Juho Sthlberg elected as its first President, in 1919.

The new republic faced a dispute over the land Islands, which were overwhelmingly Swedish-speaking and sought retrocession to Sweden. However, as Finland was not willing to cede the islands, they were offered an autonomous status. Nevertheless, the residents did not approve the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the League of Nations. The League decided that Finland should retain sovereignty over the land Islands, but they should be made an autonomous province. Thus Finland was under an obligation to ensure the residents of the land Islands a right to maintain the Swedish language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the same time, an international treaty was concluded on the neutral status of land, under which it was prohibited to place military headquarters or forces on the islands.

Directly after the Civil War there were many incidents along the border between Finland and Soviet Russia, such as the Aunus expedition and the Pork mutiny. Relations with the Soviets were improved after the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, in which Finland gained Petsamo, but gave up the claims on East Karelia.

Finland in World War II

During World War II, Finland fought the Soviet Union twice: in the Winter War of 1939-1940 (with limited but crucial support from Sweden), resulting in the loss of Finnish Karelia, and again in the Continuation War of 1941-1944 (with considerable support from Nazi Germany), leading also to the loss of Finland's only ice-free winter harbour Petsamo. This was followed by the Lapland War of 1944-1945, when Finland fought against the Germans to force them to withdraw their forces from northern Finland.

Finland managed to maintain its independence and democratic constitution, contrary to most other countries proximate to the Soviet Union, but was punished far more than other German allies and cobelligerents, having to pay onerous reparations, resettle an eighth of its population, and lose an eighth of its territory, including its industrial heartland and the second city Vyborg/Viipuri. After the war, the Soviet Union settled these gained territories with people from many different regions, for instance from Ukraine.

Anti-Communist sentiments had, following the Civil War, been even more pronounced in Finland than in most other West European societies. The propaganda war between Bolshevist Russia/the Soviet Union and her western border state neighbours had been harsh and intense. The Finns were also better informed of the Great Purge than more distant nations. Hence, at the eve of the World War, the Finns had very concrete fears for their survival as a people — let alone as a nation state. The Finns perceived the defence against the Soviet Union as literally a fight on life and death — and during the Winter War, this perception was also shared by the spectator nations in the West.

During and immediately after the wars, approximately 80,000 children were evacuated from Karelia and from cities harshly hit by Soviet bombing. 5% to Norway, 10% to Denmark, and the rest to Sweden. Most of them were sent back in 1948, but 15-20% remained abroad. In retrospect, the separation from their parents, siblings and language, and then later again a repeat of the separation, this time from their foster homes, has proved to be an often forgotten tragedy.

For information about Jews in Finland during WWII, see this link (http://www.uta.fi/~tuulikki.vuonokari/fin-1.html).

Finland's friendship with the Soviet Union

Finland retained the democratic constitution and free economic structure during the Cold War era. Treaties signed in 1947 and 1948 with the Soviet Union included obligations and restraints on Finland, as well as territorial concessions. Both treaties have been abrogated by Finland since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, however leaving the borders untouched. Even though being a neighbour to mighty Soviet Union sometimes resulted in overmuch caution concerning foreign politics ("Finlandization"), Finland developed closer cooperation with the other Nordic countries and declared her neutrality in regard to superpower politics.

In 1952, Finland and the countries of the Nordic Council entered into a passport union, allowing their citizens to cross borders without passports and soon also to apply for jobs and claim social security benefits in the other countries. Many from Finland used this opportunity to get better paid jobs in Sweden in the 1950s and 1960s, dominating Sweden's first wave of post-war labor immigration. Although Finnish wages or standard of living could not compete with wealthy Sweden until the 1980s, the Finnish economy rose remarkably well from the ashes of World War II, resulting in the buildup of another Nordic-style welfare state.

Despite the passport union with Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland Finland could not join the Nordic Council until 1955 because the Soviet fears that Finland might get too closely related with the West. Back then the Soviet Union saw the Nordic Council as part of the NATO with Denmark and Norway being members of it. The same year Finland could join the United Nations, though it had already been associated with a lot of the UN's suborganisations. The first Finnish ambassador to the UN was G.A. Gripenberg (1956-1959), followed by Ralph Enckell (1959-1965), Max Jakobson (1965-1972), Aarno Karhilo (1972-1977), Ilkka Pastinen (1977-1983), Keijo Korhonen (1983-1988), Klaus Trnudd (1988-1991), Wilhelm Breitenstein (1991-1998) and Marjatta Rasi (since 1998). Max Jakobson even candidated as Secretary-General of the UN in 1972. Another remarkable event in 1955 was that the Soviet Union decided to return the peninsula Porkkala to Finland, which had been rented to the Soviet Union in 1948 for 50 years as military base and was somewhat endangering the souvereignty and neutrality of Finland. Finland became an associate member of the European Free Trade Association in 1961 and a full member in 1986. A trade agreement with the EEC was complemented by another with the Soviet Bloc. The first Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), that started the development leading to OSCE, was held in Finland 1972-1973. In Finland, CSCE was widely considered as a possibility of reducing the tensions of the Cold War, and a personal triumph for president Kekkonen.

Finland in the post-Soviet era

On January 1st 1995 Finland joined the European Union along with Austria and Sweden. Before the parliamentary decision to join EU, a consultative referendum had been held April 16th 1994. 56.9% of the votes were in favour of joining. Leading Finland into the EU is held as the main achievement of the Agrarian government of Esko Aho then in power.

See also

External links

de:Geschichte Finnlands fr:Histoire de la Finlande ko:핀란드의 역사 it:Storia della Finlandia ja:フィンランドの歴史 no:Finlands historie ro:Istoria Finlandei fi:Suomen historia sv:Finlands historia


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