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Finnish history

People arrive in Finland

Approximately 10,000 years ago, people began to move to Finland. They came from the east from current Russia and from the south through the Baltic region. The roots of the Finnish language are in Central Russia, but the language has elements of Baltic and Germanic languages, too. Swedish-speaking people have lived in Finland for over 800 years.

Finland as part of Sweden and Russia

Finland was a part of Sweden for over 600 years from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century. During this time, Sweden and Russia fought frequently over their influence in Finland. Finally in 1809, Finland in its entirety came under Russian rule after Russia won its war against Sweden.

Finland belonged to Russia from 1809 to 1917. During this period, Finland was autonomous, which meant that Finns could decide on many matters independently. However, the ruler of Finland was the Emperor of Russia.

The language, culture and economy of Finland developed greatly during the period under Russian rule. However, in the early 20th century, Russia began to restrict Finnish autonomy, which the Finns did not accept.

Finland gains independence

In the final phases of World War I, Finland separated itself from Russia when the Parliament of Finland approved the declaration of independence on 6 December 1917. This made Finland an independent country, and the day is still celebrated as Finnish Independence Day.

In the spring of 1918, a civil war broke out in Finland in which the Reds representing the working people and the Whites representing the bourgeoisie and landowners fought one another. The war ended in May 1918 with the Whites gaining victory over the Reds.

The independent Finland became a republic where laws are passed by a parliament elected by the people. The head of state is the president, instead of an emperor or king.

Winter War and Continuation War

At the end of November in 1939, the Soviet army attacked Finland. During World War II, Finland fought two wars against the Soviet Union: first the Winter War from 1939 to 1940, followed by the Continuation War from 1941 to 1944.

The wars caused Finland to lose areas to the Soviet Union. Over 400,000 Finns left the lost areas as refugees to escape to the Finland that still remained. However, the most important thing to the Finns was that Finland maintained its independence.

Finland after the wars

After the wars, many Finns feared that the Soviet Union would attempt to make Finland a socialist nation, as this had happened to other European neighbours of the Soviet Union. However, Finland succeeded in forging good relations with the Soviet Union, maintaining its democratic system and increasing trade with Western countries. In terms of foreign policy, Finland was forced to balance between the Soviet Union and the West for a long time.

After the wars, Finland transformed from an agricultural country into an industrial one. With this industrialisation, Finns could sell more and more industrial products abroad. Finland especially exported paper and other forestry products.

Many things in Finnish society changed. Plenty of people moved from the countryside to cities, and an increasing number of women began to work outside the home. The development of public services began, which led to public health care, social welfare and comprehensive school. In the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of Finns moved to Sweden as there was more work there and the pay was better.

From the 1990s into the new millennium

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Finland plunged into recesssion as the trade with the Soviets ceased. At the time, numerous companies went bankrupt, which led to many people losing their jobs. After the recession, plenty of high-technology industry and related jobs were created in Finland. More and more people were also working in various service sector professions.

In the 1990s, an increasing number of people began to move to Finland from other countries. Refugees arrived in Finland from many countries, along with people from the former Soviet Union who had a Finnish background. Many also moved to Finland for studies, employment or family reasons.

In 1995, Finland became a member of the European Union (EU). In 2002, Finland adopted the common EU currency, the euro, among the first EU countries, thereby relinquishing its own currency.

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