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History of Finland

Finland was a land of nomads for hundreds, if not thousands of years until the Swedes arrived in 1155. The Swedes forced Christianity on the people and they settled.

For the next couple hundred years the Swedes politically controlled the region, but were preoccupied with fighting Russia and creating trade. During this time the Swedes encouraged their own people to settle in Finland and in 1527 the Swedes adopted Lutheranism and forced this on the Finns. At about this same time the Swedish king decided to establish more settlements in Finland, and even some on Russian soil, creating a war with Russia.

As the war between Sweden and Russia went so did Finland until about 1600 when Finland was controlled by the Swedish king's uncle who cared little of the king so encouraged the people of Finland to rebel; he eventually took power in both Sweden and Finland.

In 1700 the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia began, which resulted in the land now known as Finland being shifted between Russia to Sweden for much of the century. Russian rule over the Finnish people was harsh at first, but in 1809 things improved as the capital was moved to Helsinki to be closer to Russia as economic and social programs were encouraged. This didn't last long however and the people continue to remember this history as forced repression by the Russians.

After the Crimean War, in which Finland was attacked as a part of the Russian empire, the people began a movement to gain independence; a fairly radical idea after being under foreign control for so many years. The opportunity for independence came in 1917 with the revolution in Russia. The Soviets soon recognized Finland, but soon after, the Finnish communists staged an uprising and the country fell into Civil War, with one side backed by the Soviets and the other backed by the Germans. The war only lasted a couple months though and soon after a republic was formed in Finland.

After a brief period of instability, more instability broke out with World War II (WWII). However, for Finland, this was more than a battle between themselves and the Soviets, who invaded them in late 1939 and by early 1940 had defeated the Finns and forced them to sign over more land. This encouraged the Finns to side with Nazi Germany in 1941, who was at the time attacking the Soviet Union. Finland became a staging point for Nazi attacks on St. Petersburg, but as the tides shifted and the Soviets pushed the Germans back, the Finns quickly made peace with the Soviets, but in the process lost lands and quickly realized they didn't want the Germans on their land so started removing them.

After WWII, Finland industrialized fairly quickly, but not after a few years of poverty. This time also experienced a mass urbanization and a diplomatic balancing act between their neighbors, the Soviet Union, and the west, who were in the middle of the Cold War.

In the 1990s, Finland joined the European Union (EU) and is in both the Euro zone and Schengen.

This page was last updated: March, 2013