About 12,000 years ago, the area that today
constitutes Finland was almost completely covered by the
inland ice. To the east of Kristinestad on the west
coast of Finland is the so-called Wolf
Cave, which is believed to be the oldest settlement in
the Nordic region. The finds in the Wolf Cave consist of stone tools, chips and bone
pieces in untouched soil layers that, according to the
geologists, are over 120,000 years old.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Finland, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The Finnish population migrated from the east and
south for millennia before our era. Åland was colonized
by Swedes around 500 AD, while the Swedes gained a
foothold on the mainland only during the 1100s.
According to traditional history writing, King Erik was
the saint who Christianized Finland and placed the
country under Swedish rule. Bishop Henrik, who
participated in the so-called crusades to convert the
Finns, later became the patron saint of the diocese of
Turku and of all of medieval Finland.
During the ensuing centuries, Finland became
increasingly attached to Sweden. Finland also became the
scene of many wars between Sweden and Russia. Especially
heavy were the emergency years of 1696–1697, when about
a third of the population suffered from starvation and
disease, and “The Great Victim” 1700–1721 when Finland
was occupied by Russian troops.
The deplorable wars caused some leading people to
question the Swedish government. The decision came after
the Finnish war of 1808–1809 between Sweden and Russia,
which resulted in Sweden in 1809 being allowed to leave
all of Finland to Russia.
Grand principality with increased self-government
Representatives of the Church and Army now saw an
opportunity for Finland to find their own path as an
autonomous Grand Principality under the Russian czar
Alexander I. He promised to respect Finland's laws and
during most of the 19th century Finland could develop
towards increased internal autonomy, as long as one did
not oppose the Russian supremacy.
During the 19th century, Swedish cultural influence
in Finland decreased, while the Finnish language and
Finnish culture were strengthened. The Finnish-speaking
majority gained more and more rights. In addition to
Finland getting its own state institutions, the Russian
tsar in 1812 decided that Helsinki would become the
capital of the Grand Principality of Finland.
The Tsar's position weakened during the Russian
revolution of 1905, which led Finland to push through a
radical parliamentary reform the following year. One
Chamber Day and general voting rights were introduced.
Finland now became the first country in Europe where
women got the right to vote.
A period of refreshment attempts began in 1908 and
Finnish self-government was limited. During the last
year of the tsarism, high unemployment and food
shortages prevailed, which gave rise to revolutionary
moods in Finland as well. After the Russian October
Revolution of 1917, both the bourgeois and leftist
parties in Finland demanded independence.
"White" defeats "red"
The bourgeoisie formed "white" protective corps to
drive out the Russian soldiers, while socialists and
other radical groups formed "red gardens". The whites
consisted of politicians and leading circles in business
and government as well as self-sufficient farmers. The
reds were made up of social democrats, workers, crooks
and a large rural proletariat as well as radical
During a major strike in November 1917, armed clashes
occurred between the red and white guards. The
bourgeois-led parliament, or country day as it was
called, declared Finland independently on December 6 of
that year. The white guards were then given the
government's mission to restore law and order, while the
red ones sought assistance from the Soviet Union to
continue its uprising for social justice in the country.
Both sides fought until January 28, 1918. With the
open support of Russia, the Reds formed a revolutionary
government in Helsinki, while the whites disarmed the
Russian troops in Ostrobothnia. The white troops were
led by General Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, who was
commissioned to defeat the uprising. This led to open
battles, which lasted until May 1918. The Whites won,
despite being significantly fewer, thanks to greater
military professional skills and support from German
troops and voluntary Swedes.
Several thousand people were killed in the fighting
during the civil war. Many more also lost their lives
after the war, when the whites established prison camps
where people from the red side were arched or died of
starvation and disease. Over 35,000 people are estimated
to have died during or in connection with the war.
Large losses of war
The contradictions of the civil war came to influence
politics for a long time. Domestic politics was
dominated by bourgeois governments during the 1920s and
1930s. Party political divisions led to frequent changes
in government. Right-wing extremist movements, including
the anti-Communist Lappa movement, had some successes,
while the Communist Party was banned.
After the outbreak of World War II in the fall of
1939, the Soviet Union demanded to lease the port city
of Hanko in the southwest and incorporate part of the
Karelian nose. The Finnish government said no. On
November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland.
After three months of fighting during the so-called
winter war, the numerically inferior Finnish army had to
give up. Swedish volunteers also participated in the
fighting. In peace in March 1940, Finland had to abandon
certain areas in the north and large parts of Karelia,
and leave Hanko to the Soviet Union for 30 years.
Finland saw its chance to get revenge when Germany
attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. Finnish troops
joined the German side and in the so-called war of war
took back Karelia and conquered the Soviet East Karelia.
After the fighting in Stalingrad in 1943, where the
Germans were defeated by the Russians, Finland wanted to
make a separate peace with the Soviet Union but got no.
In order to free Finland from the pact with Germany,
President Risto Ryti resigned in the summer of 1944.
Mannerheim, who now holds the title of marshal, was
elected under a special law for president and peace
negotiations began. In September 1944, Finland entered
into an agreement with the Soviet Union where the
country pledged to expel the remaining German forces
from the country. This happened during devastating
battles in Finnish Lapland. Finland lost about 88,000
men during the winter and the continuing wars and about
200,000 soldiers were wounded.
Seven children are killed in shooting drama
An 18-year-old boy shoots seven children and a headmaster at a school before
shooting himself to death. The violence has sparked the debate on Finland's
relatively liberal gun laws.
Teal government is formed
Center leader Matti Vanhanen continues as prime minister in a new blue-green
government consisting of the Center, the Socialist Party, the Swedish People's
Party and the Greens. The party leader Jyrki Katainen becomes finance minister.
The Social Democrats are in opposition.
Election success for the bourgeois
In the parliamentary elections, the Liberal Conservative Assembly Party is
advancing, from 40 seats in the 2003 elections to 50 seats. Despite a decline,
the Center Party remains the center's largest party with 51 seats. The Social
Democrats get third with 45 seats, while the Left Association receives 17 seats
and the Green League gets 15 seats. The EU and immigration-critical party True
Finns wins 5 seats. The turnout is 68 percent.