Main Events in Finland's History Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Main Events in Finland's History

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A Finnish State flag, used by Finnish government agencies.

Finland is a small republic in north-east Europe between Sweden and Russia, with a population of around 5,200,000 and land-area of 338,000 square kilometres. The earliest residents followed the continental ice sheet as it receded from Finland in around 10,000 BC. No written documents exist from pre-Swedish times1. People lived in small villages without central government. Contacts with the outside world were limited to trading of furs for iron, salt and so on.

Under Swedish Rule

1150s - First Swedish 'crusade' launched in south-west Finland. Not surprisingly, they were more interested in expanding their territories than in converting pagans to Christianity.

1200s - Two more Swedish 'crusades' advanced deeper and deeper into east Finland. Turku ('Åbo' in Swedish) became capital of Finland.

1323 - First peace treaty agreed between Sweden and Novgorod (later Russia). Finnish-speaking people were divided into two different countries. This situation has existed ever since2.

1493 - Finland appeared as part of Europe, in Hartman Schedel's map printed in Liber Chronicarum3.

1543 - Bishop Mikael Agricola produced the first Finnish-language book, a volume of Finnish grammar.

1640 - Queen Christina of Sweden established Finland's first university, the Swedish-language Åbo Akademi in Turku. Russia later transferred the university to Helsinki.

Autonomy Under Russian rulers

1808-1809 - Sweden lost Finland to Russia and the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland was formed with the Tsar as its ruler. Finland retained its own legislation and its old form of society, including the free status of peasantry, the Lutheran religion and the old Swedish system of law and government.

1812 - Russia thought that Turku was too close to Sweden and declared Helsinki to be capital of Finland.

1835 - Kalevala, the Finnish national epic was published. It was compiled and edited by Elias Lönnrot who gathered poems from the Kainuu and Karjala regions while working as a doctor. An enlarged edition appeared in 1849.

1848 - First public performance of the Finnish national anthem, Maamme ('Our Land') occurred.

1860 - Finland adopted its own currency, the markka.

1870 - The first novel in Finnish, Seitsemän Veljestä (The Seven Brothers), by Aleksis Kivi was published.

1882 - Emma Irene Åström became the first Finnish woman to receive a university degree.

1906 Finland's own national parliament was modernised to one elected by equal and universal suffrage. Finnish women were the first in the world to be granted full national political rights, including eligibility to stand for election to their national Parliament.


1917 - After the Russian revolution, Finland declared independence on 6 December.

1918 - Finland was torn by a short but bloody civil war. Left-wing Red guards tried to seize power, but were defeated by white guards in four months.

1939-1940 - Soviet Russia attacked Finland; Finns managed to hold off the Russians, although they were outnumbered by about ten to one. Better motivation, lousy road connections and extremely hard winter helped in the 'Miracle of the Winter War'. After 105 days the peace treaty was signed and Finland ceded about 1/10th of its territory in the south-east. Residents from those areas were evacuated.

1941-1944 - Finland tried to regain territory lost in the Winter War, bolstered by aid from Germany, which included 200,000 soldiers to defend Lapland. Despite this help, Nazi ideology did not get very much support. For example, Finnish Jews were not put into concentration camps or deported to Germany; instead they fought side by side with the rest of the population.

1944 - In July, Soviet Russia launched a massive offensive that was barely stopped and an armistice was signed in September. Peace terms required that German troops had to be driven out of Lapland. The unpleasant task of fighting former allies was completed by early 1945.

1952 - The Olympic Games were held in Helsinki. They meant a great deal to this nation of sport-lovers, which had just paid huge war reparations to Russia and finally started to get down to business as usual.

1955 - Finland joined the United Nations.

1995 - Finland became a member of the European Union.

2002 - Finland began using the Euro and the markka (5.95 markka = 1€) was retired after 142 years of service.

2006 - In May, Lordi, a heavy metal band from Helsinki whose members like to dress as monsters, wins the Eurovision Song Contest for Finland for the first time ever with 'Hard Rock Hallelujah'.

1Unless you count rock paintings as written documents.2Currently between Finland and Russia. 3Also known as The Nuremberg Chronicle.

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