History of Finland

Brief history of Finland summarized

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If you are interested in knowing a little more about the history of Finland, you are in the right place.

Former finland

The first humans arrived in Finland around 7,000 BC after the end of the last ice age. The early Finns were stone age hunters and gatherers. For thousands of years, successive waves of people migrated to Finland.

From the year 2,500 BC, the population of Finland began to live from agriculture. Around 1500 BC they learned to make bronze tools and weapons. Around the year 500 BC in the Finnish lands they learned to use iron. The inhabitants of these lands had little or no contact with the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome.

Middle Ages

The recorded history of Finland begins in the 12th century. Around 1120, the Christian missionaries directed their gaze there. They were willing to use force to convert all of Finland. Swedish King Eric led a crusade in 1157. An Englishman, Bishop Henry of Upsala, assisted him.

Henry stayed after the Swedish soldiers left and was martyred. Later, he became the patron saint of Finland. In 1172, the Pope said that the Finns would convert and renounce their faith as soon as their enemies were gone. He advised the Swedes to subdue the Finns by permanently occupying fortresses in Finland.

However, the Swedes had rivals on Finnish soil. The Danes invaded Finland twice, in 1191 and 1202. Also, the Novgorodians (part of Russia today) hoped to control Finland and convert the people to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

They fought the Swedes on the Neva River in 1240 and won a decisive victory. However, the Swedes returned in 1249. Birger Jarl led this second crusade. He managed to conquer Häme and built a castle at Hämeenlinna.

However, the Swedes were eager to conquer Karelia. In 1293, they sent an expedition under the command of Marshal Torgils Knutsson. At first they were successful, but in 1381 the Novgorodians struck back. Both sides made peace in 1323. Karelia remained in the hands of the Novgorodians.

Meanwhile, the Swedes emigrated in large numbers to Finland, and after 1323 Finland became a province of Sweden. Swedish law came into force in Finland (although it was watered down by Finnish custom).

In 1362, the Swedes allowed the Finns to participate in the election of the Swedish king. Then in 1397 Finland, Norway, and Sweden were grouped together in the Kalmar Union, which was to last until 1523.


The Protestant Reformation in Finland was led by Mikael Agricola who became Bishop of Turku in 1554. When he died in 1557, Finland was staunchly Lutheran. In 1581, Finland became a Grand Duchy. Helsinki was founded in 1550.

In the years 1596-97 Finnish peasants revolted in the War of Clubs (so called because the peasants were armed with clubs, clubs and maces). The nobles ruthlessly suppressed the rebellion. Afterwards, the situation of the peasants did not improve, but Finland became an integral part of Sweden.

The end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th were years of hardship for the Finns. In 1695-97 there was a severe famine. Malnutrition and disease reduced Finland’s population by about a third (150,000 deaths).

Then came the Great Northern War of 1709-21. In 1713 the Russians invaded and marched through Finland and the Swedish-Finnish army was defeated. The Russian occupation from 1713 to 1721 is known as the Great Wrath. Wealthy Finns fled to Sweden, but the peasants were unable to escape.

King Charles XII ordered the Finns to start a guerrilla war against the Russians, which naturally led to retaliation. In 1721 peace was made, but Charles XII had to hand over the southeastern part of Finland to Russia.

To all this, in 1710 the plague arrived in Helsinki and devastated the population.

In 1741 war broke out again between Sweden-Finland and Russia. The Swedes were defeated at Lappeenranta. The Russian army occupied all of Finland, but the Treaty of Åbo (or Turku), which ended the war in 1743, left the status quo unchanged, except that Russia took a small part of Finland.

War broke out again with Russia in 1788. Magnus Sprengtporten led a separatist movement. However, he attracted few followers and the war ended in 1790.

XIX century

Finland finally seceded from Sweden in 1809. The Russians invaded Finland on February 21, 1808. The Russians captured the fortress of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) in May, but the Swedish-Finnish army won a victory at Lapua (Lappo) in July. However, in September 1808, the Russians won a decisive victory at Oravais.

The Swedish troops left Finland and left the Finns to their fate with the Tsar. During the 18th century, Sweden was in decline and Russia was becoming increasingly powerful, so the Finns bowed to the inevitable.

In March 1809, the Diet of Porvoo (a form of parliament) accepted Tsar Alexander as its ruler. He agreed that Finland should become a Grand Duchy instead of being part of Russia and promised to respect Finnish law. In 1812 the Tsar moved the capital of Finland from Turku to Helsinki.

Little else changed in Finland in the early 19th century. Already in the second half, in 1856, the Saimaa canal was built. It allowed the Finns to export timber from their great forests to Western Europe more easily.

At the end of the 19th century, Finnish nationalism began to grow. As early as 1835 Elias Lönnrot published a collection of popular Finnish poems called Kalevala. After 1850, interest in the Finnish language and culture grew stronger. In 1858 the first Finnish language secondary school was opened. In 1889, half of the secondary schools in Finland spoke only Finnish.

However, in the late 19th century, Tsar Nicholas II attempted to suppress Finnish nationalism. In 1899 he issued a manifesto, which said that the Tsar had the power to issue laws for Finland, without the consent of the Diet of Finland if those laws affected Russian interests.

Twentieth century

In 1902, Finnish became the official language along with Swedish, and in 1905 the Tsar withdrew the 1899 manifesto. In 1907, a new assembly was elected to replace the old Diet, the Parliament of Finland.

Starting in 1906, Finnish women were also allowed to vote. Finland was the first European country and the third in the world, after New Zealand and Australia, to allow women to vote in national elections. Also, in 1907, Finnish women became the first in the world to win seats in a national parliament.

However, in 1910 the Tsar again severely restricted the power of the Finnish legislature. He declared that he would have the power to pass laws for Finland if the effects were not limited to internal affairs of this region.

But the Tsar’s reign soon ended. He abdicated in March 1917. In July 1917 the Parliament of Finland declared that he had authority in all matters except foreign policy. On December 6, 1917, the Parliament declared Finland an independent republic.

Meanwhile, in October 1917 a conservative government was elected in Finland. The extreme left decided to try to seize power by force, resulting in a Finnish Civil War. The Red Guard took Helsinki and other cities. General Gustaf Mannerheim led the White Guard.

In April 1918 they captured Tampere. Meanwhile, the Germans intervened on behalf of the Whites. German troops captured Helsinki. By mid-May the rebellion had been defeated. 8,000 Reds were subsequently executed. Another 12,000 died in prison camps.

In October 1918, the German Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse-Kassel was appointed King of Finland. However, his reign was extremely short. After Germany signed the armistice on November 11, 1918, Mannerheim became regent.

Shortly after, in 1919, Finland got a new constitution. In July 1919 the first President of Finland, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg replaced Mannerheim. Finland was finishing its process of becoming a republic.

After Finnish independence, agriculture was reformed. In the years 1918-1992 many tenants managed to become small landlords.

In 1929, the communists demonstrated in Lapua. As a result, right-wingers formed a far-right anti-communist movement called the Lapua Movement. In February 1932 the Lapua Movement attempted to seize power in Mäntsälä. President Stahlberg defeated the rebellion, but the rebels were treated leniently.

Finland became involved in World War II. In 1939, Stalin feared an attack from the west. He wanted to take territory from Finland to protect his northern flank. So Stalin offered to give Finland another territory in exchange, but the Finnish government refused, so Stalin decided to use force.

The Winter War began on November 30, 1939, four days after the Mainila Incident. The Finns were outnumbered, but they fought bravely. The Russians invaded north of Lake Ladoga, but were defeated at Tolvajärvi and Suomussalmi.

Meanwhile, along the Karelian Isthmus, Finland was protected by the Mannerheim Line, a network of forts and concrete bunkers and trenches. The Russians tried to break through, but were held up by the Finns for several weeks.

However, on February 14, 1940, the Russians penetrated the Mannerheim line and Finland was forced to make peace. The war ended with the Moscow Peace Treaty on March 12, 1940.

Subsequently, Finland was forced to surrender to the southeast, including the city of Viipuri (Vyborg) and more territory north of Lake Ladoga. Some 22,000 Finns died in the Winter War.

In June 1941, Finland joined Nazi Germany in attacking Russia. The Finns called it the Continuation War. The Finns quickly recaptured their territory. However, in December 1941 Britain declared war on Finland and after the German defeat at Stalingrad in 1943, the Finns realized that they had to leave the war.

Negotiations began in March 1944, but Finland rejected the Russian demands. However, defeat was inevitable and Finland entered into a ceasefire with Russia on September 5, 1944.

After the war, Finland was forced to hand over large amounts of territory to Russia. The Finns also had to pay reparations. The Continuation War cost 85,000 Finnish lives. In 1947, the final peace treaty with Russia was signed.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the 1947 treaty was replaced by a new treaty in 1992 in which both sides agreed to settle their differences amicably.

There were some 450,000 refugees in the Russian -held territory, increasing pressure on Finland’s economy. However, Finland slowly recovered from the war. In the early 1970s, the Finnish economy was booming. However, in the late 1970s it declined.

In the mid to late 1980s, Finland enjoyed rapid economic growth, but ended in recession in the early 1990s. There was mass unemployment. However, at the end of the century Finland recovered.

Before World War II, Finland’s main occupation was agriculture. Since 1945, the metal, engineering and electronics industries have grown, but Finland is still less industrialized than the other Scandinavian countries. Finland’s main resource is wood.

In 1995, Finland joined the EU and in 1999 it joined the euro.

XXI century

In the year 2000, Tarja Halonen was elected the first female President of Finland. That same year Helsinki celebrated the 450th anniversary of it. Today, it is a prosperous country. It has a population of 5.5 million inhabitants.

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