A Short History of Finland

by Walter Rydman

The Baltic circa 7000 B.C.   

Before 1155

There's almost no knowledge about who or what lived in Finland before the last Ice Age. Thousands of years ice covered the land, which is quite effective way to wipe out every sign of human influence. Recently there's been a breakthrough, when archeologists found a cave with 300'000 year old signs of humans.

After the Ice Age Finland was only sparsely populated, most probably here were no permanent settlements. But after some time few people came mainly from east to stay. Their language belonged to Finno-Ugric group, which differs greatly from Germanic and other Indo-european languages. There's also been influence from west, meaning from the area where now is Sweden. These people lived mainly on the western coast of Finland. Later these different groups mixed, but language remained Finno-Ugric. Funny thing is that modern genetical analysis have proved that genetically Finns are closer to other western people.

For a long time Finnish cultures were hunters and collectors. Farming was not so common and is most probably invented only later. Finlands bronze age started around 1500 BC and first signs of Iron age are from the year 1 AD. One should notice that the land was not empty, there were cultures in Finland first stone age which then developed.

Around 800 AD scandinavian vikings started their excursions. These journeys were directed to west and east. Eastern raids went along Russian rivers and reached as far as Constantinople (Istanbul nowadays). Vikings weren't only cruel destroyers, they also made lots of peacful trading with others. There's no doubt that also Finns participated with these trips. Finns continued these raids to neighbouring areas long after the main journeys ended. Finlands conversion to christianity was slow and happened during the first centuries of the second millenia.

1155 - 1323 (early middle-ages)

One of the first recorded event concerning Finland was the so called crusade ca. 1155. It was made by the king Eric of Sweden (kingdom of Sweden consisted at that time only the areas around the great lakes) and bishop Henry. Reasons behind this crusade were more political than religious. Western Finland where the crusade was directed was already more or less converted. Erik's main idea was to stabilize these areas under Swedish rule and so gain political momentum at home. During the rest of the century political and economical ties between western Finland and Sweden strengthened.

Same time also east stirred. Novgorod, founded earlier by Vikings, showed growing interest against eastern Finland. Mainly to areas near the lake Ladoga and the southern coast of Finland. This meant that Swedish and Novgorodian (later Russian) interests clashed over Finland. Now started the rivalry between these two, a rivalry which didn’t end until 19th century.

Next 200 years saw lots of fighting between Swedish and Novgorodians. Novgorod made constant attacks against Finnish tribes and Swedish. But Finns weren't far behind. Tribes made raids against Novgorodians and against each other. They managed to destroy Swedish capital Sigtuna in 1187. At the beginning of 13th century German and Danish influence increased in this area. The German knighthood took control in Estonia only to be replaced little later by Danish.

Swedish made second "crusade" to Finland ca. 1235 and Häme was subdued. To strengthen their power and to protect their new areas Swedish founded a castle there. but the real building of the castle began around 1260. Same time settlers from Sweden colonized the eastern coast of Uusimaa. Swedish continued their aggressive policy and attacked against Novgorod at 1240 and against Estonia

couple of years later, but both attack failed miserably.

Around 1260 western Finland and Häme were already firmly parts of Swedish kingdom. This resulted to cessation of Novgorodian attacks against Häme almost totally. Swedish policy of agressive expansion to east continued and 1293 third "crusade" resulted the founding of Viipuri’s castle.

In 1323 Sweden and Novgorod signed the peace treaty of Pähkinäsaari, which established the first border between Novgorod and Sweden. In southeastern part this border became also cultural and religious one. People in the eastern side became orthodx and part of developing Russian culture and western side was under Swedish control and roman catholic. One fundamental thing in this peace treaty was that southwestern and southern Finland were now part of Sweden and under the culturual influences from west. This in fact mainly dictated that Finland is nowadays a western country.

1323 - 1523

Swedish started to organize the goverment of Finland, so that three main centers were formed around three major castles. With this reorganization nobles from Sweden were assigned to all important govermental posts. This meant that only very few Finnish chieftains gained a rank and position. Along with this Swedish also installed their laws to these new areas, which happened ca. 1350. Revised version of these laws came into being ca. 1440. Finland developed also other way. Some Finns traveled to Europe and studied in universities. Under this period the most important centers in Finland were Viipuri in east and Turku. Western coast of Finland received lots of immigrants from Sweden and so the culture in that area changed and developed differently than in other parts of Finland.

The power of catholic church increased greatly during these centuries. Turku became Finlands religious center and it had its own bishop, whose area of control ranged over whole Finland. Same time the religious orders spread to Finland; Dominican and Fransiscan munks and the order of Birgitta established their presence. This allowed church to build lots fo beautiful stone churches all around Finland. Most of them still exists.

Swedish kingdom weakened slowly due to not so clear succession and lots of other different issues. Hansa-traders gained same time power in Scandinavia and Germany. Their union controlled more or less the whole northern trade. Swedish continued to push their settlements eastwards to Savo, over the borders established 1323. Novgorod had nothing to say to this, so their influence was pushed eastwards.

While Swedish weakened the Danish became major power in north. They gained the throne of Sweden at the end of 14th century. This was peaceful event, because Scandinavian kingdoms founded the union of Kalmar in 1497. Danish queen Margareta was elected as a union ruler, which then meant that she also got Swedish crown. This political union existed next 100 years and the ruler always came from Denmark.

1523 - 1640

The Union of Kalmar ceased to exist when young Swedish Gustavus Vasa started rebellion against Danish in 1520. Then the union was no longer political agreement, but a way for Danish to rule Sweden. Swedish of course became restless and to stop this the union ruler, Kristian II called Swedish nobles to Stockholm to negotiate. When they came the king instead murdered them all. This event then launched Gustavus Vasa’s revolution. Battles raged and Vasa gained more and more areas under his faction. 1523 he was crowned as a king of Sweden. After he freed Stockholm he turned his attention towards Finland and soon Danish were thrown out from there also. Newly reformed Swedish kingdom had obtained large debts to Hansa-traders during the years of war. Luther’s reformation came just in time and Vasa simply took churches wealth to state. With this money Sweden also got rid of debts to Hansa.

Gustavus Vasa made reforms tahat benefited Finland. Finlands govermental structure was reorganized and king opened wilderness to free settlement by taking it as crowns property. Finnish settlements expanded hundreds of kilometers eastward. King also ordered the founding of a new city in southern coast of Finland at 1550. Vasa’s meaning was to strengthen Swedish trade by establishing a rival to Tallinn. This city got the name Helsinki.

Due to the reformation Finland also got literary language. Finnish scholar Mikael Agricola translated patrts of Bibel in Finnish and created same time literary language. He also translated other spiritual literature and wrote the first Finnish ABC-book.

The end of century saw lots of fighting between Sweden and Novgorod. These battles took place more or less on Finnish soil. Fighting was not constant battle against to armies but more like long and continuous guerilla warfare and skirmishes. This stage ended at the end of the century.

When Vasa’s son king John III died 1592 his son Sigismund became king. He was catholic, so Sweden was drawn into civil war. Sigismund was opposed by his uncle duke Charles. Nobles in Finland were on the side of lawful king, so Finland suffered when Sigismund lost and duke Charles was crowned as king Charles IX.

At the beginning of 17th century war with Russia started again and finally ended when peace treaty of Stolbova was written in 1617. Gustavus II Adolphus became king in 1611. With his lead Sweden participated in the 30-years war. In this war Sweden became a major power in Europe. As a result from this war Sweden gained areas from northern Germany and Poland. During this 30 years time not much thought was put to the development of country, but after it (and death of king Gustavus II Adolphus at battle near Lutzen) development began again.

From 1640 to the end of 18th century:

Thanks to one persons good insight Finland evolved considerably. Per Brahe was the governor-general in Finland during the years 1637 - 1640 and 1648 - 1654. In his first visit he traveled lots around the country and so got a good image of Finland. He founded post office, which hadn’t existed before. He also improved the goverment of cities and founded lots of new ones (Hämeenlinna, Savonlinna...). Perhaps the most significant of his ideas was to start the project of moving Helsinki to its current place. Brahe also noticed the lack of education in country and so ordered the founding of academy in Turku (1640).

Second time when he was governor in Finland he continued his projects. Brahe founded 4 -5 new cities and improved jurisdiction and trade. All this he did because he believed in uniting Finland strongly with Sweden.

Sweden remained as one of the Europes major powers at least to the end of 17th century and the beginning of 18th. Due to this position Stockholm became more and more important and really was kingdoms capital. Same time the whole center of the kingdom started to move slowly westwards thus leaving Finland as periferia, though one can’t notice this until sometime in the first third of 18th century. Also the power of kingdoms nobles increased, when they gained more areas as rewards for their services. So they collected taxes, which meant that kingdom’s income diminished.

The war with Russia broke out again 1656 and lasted to 1658. This war caused lots of terror and destruction among the Finnish population because for some reason Swedish didn’t send aid until 1657. But after this war kingdom lived in peace to the end of century.

The important point when considering Finlands position is the year 1700. At that moment the Great Northern War started (with Russia again). This time it was the Russians who took the lead, though. First they conquered Swedish eastern territories (meaning eastern parts of Finland and areas around Ladoga). Then Swedish couldn’t resist the pressure and Russians occupied whole Finland in 1710. This occupation, called Big Wrath, lasted eleven years to 1721. The occupation was full of violence and destruction, when the occupant terrorized local populace. Also the retreating Swedish army caused part of that destruction with their tactics. The peace treaty of Uusikaupunki was dictated by Russians and signed in 1721. Sweden lost the southeastern part of Finland.

After this Finland truly became Swedish periferia because it was devastated in war and one of the major centers of trade, Viipuri, was lost. And the peace didn’t last long, because Sweden decided to attack twenty years after the peace treaty. This ended to catastrophy, when Russians defeated Swedish and occupied the land again. This time occupation lasted only from 1741 to 1743. This era is known as Small Wrath. New treaty was signed 1743.

The latter half of century was not so significant to Finland. Rest of the country became more tightly woven with Stockholm, both economically and culturally. Swedish language was common and immigration from Finnish coastal cities to Sweden was common. But the degeneration of Finland’s position meant that more Finns got a chance to work in goverment.

From Napoleonic wars to 1855

When Napoleonic wars started Finland became a battleground again. Because of world politics Russia tried to force Sweden against England by attacking Finland. They occupied it and Sweden tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the land back. Sweden had only one choice left, surrender. This happened 25.3.1809 and in following negotiations Sweden handed Finland over to Russia. The western border formed in this treaty is still same. Other interesting thing to notice is that this is last war Sweden have fought.

Finland became part of Russia as an autonomic area. At the Diet of Porvoo (28.3.1809) the position of Finland as an autonomous region was confirmed and lots of decisions made, which meant that Finland became quite unique region inside Russia. Old Swedish laws remained, religion and language were preserved. Finland got a significant independence when deciding its own things. Finland also got its own senat, which meant in fact the birth of a Finnish state. Finlands position shifted also otherwise. In one treaty it changed from periferia to front of Russia. Finnish goverment officials were only Finnish excluding the governor-general, who represented the Czar in Finland and was of course Russian.

To show the permanency of the change Czar moved Finnish capital from Turku to Helsinki in 1812. In 1816 the building of this new capital started and lasted next 25 years. The architect to design the new centre was C.L.Engel. Even nowadays almost all the buildings he designed are preserved in the centre of Helsinki. 1828 the university was moved from Turku to Helsinki. University was single most important thing, when considering the development of Finnish culture. All administratives were educated there, it was also the place for political debate and radical ideas came from students. Russian army was the other route for Finns to educate themselves. Perhaps the most known person who chosed this route is C.G.E.Mannerheim.

During the reign of Czar Nikolai I (1825 - 1855) the Finnish national identity formed. Couple of persons are good to mention in this point.

National poet J.L.Runeberg created the image of basic Finn. His poems describe peopleand events during the war 1808-09. For example the words for Finnish national anthom comes from one of his poems.

Elias Lönnrot collected old stories/poems by walking around the country and interviewing the people there. From these he then wrote the Finnish national epoch, Kalevala. He also wrote other collections of poems.

J.V. Snellmann (1806 - 1881) was perhaps one of the most important Finnish individual in 19th century. He studied philosophy at University and made his doctoral thesis 1835. But he couldn’t continue his academic carreer, because of his arguments with the university lead. Then he started journalistic career by establishing his first newspaper, which accused other newspapers of their spiritlessness. After a short stay in Sweden he began to publish two new newspapers in Kuopio (1844). In these papers Snellmann started his campaign to strengthen the position of Finnish language. He demanded the creation of literature in Finnish and enchancement of schoolsystem. Snellmann also paid attention to social problems. But mainly he is remembered for his fierce fight on behalf of Finnish language.

Industrialization of Finland also started to gain little more speed. From 1830 to 1860 the working force in factories tripled. Metalindustry was most important at that time. The value of old, very important export material, tar, diminished in 19th century. The direction of Finlands trade also changed more towards Russia.

The events of year 1848 affected to Finland too. Senat decided to prevent the spreading of wrong thoughts to Finland and ordered the Swedish border to be watched very carefully and forbid many persons to travel foreign countries. Censorship of newspapers was strengthened. And in 1850 came a decree which forbade the publication of literature in Finnish except religious ones. This decree was eased in 1854 and abolished 1860. University was also monitored very strictly.

1855 - 1916

1855 Russia got a new Czar, Alexander II. He ordered many renewals to be made. One of them was the reconstruction of Finnish merchant fleet, which was mostly sold out during the Crimean war. Trade started to rise at start of Alexanders reign.

Finns had wanted for a long time to call their Diet, which hadn’t happened since the first in Porvoo. Now the demands increased, when the imperium had a new Czar. But Alexander didn’t call it, perhaps he was afraid of Polish reaction, who wanted their lost autonomy back. When time passed the debate around the Diet increased. Finns had made a suggestion of their constitution and that needed the gathering of the Diet to be accepted. When Polish rebelled in 1863 the restlesness in Finland increased. Then the Czar called the Diet, finally, more than fifty years had gone from the last one.

The nationalistic ideas in Russia gained more power at the end of century. Russians thought it was strange that Finland had so special position in the empire. These were the first waves of Russification. Anyway the Diet convened in regular intervals at the end of century. 1881 Alexander II was assasinated and Alexander III became Czar. Alexander III ruled only to year 1894, but in his reign demands of merging Finland to Russia without special privileges grew. This russification was seen when the independent Finnish postal system was abolished in 1890, but Finnish postage stamps were still allowed for the next ten years. Plans about merging Finnish tariff and monetary system to Russian one was considered too, but then called off. Despite all this Finns strongly believed the rightfulness of Czar and didn’t think that he could somehow undermine Finnish autonomy.

Nicholas II became Czar in 1894. As his predecessors had done he also swore an oath to keep inviolate the constitutional laws of Finland, but as will be seen he didn’t keep this pledge. Russian nationalists gain more and more influence and everything was in peril when Czar appointed Nikolai Bobrikov as the governor-general of Finland in 1898. He was strong supporter of Russification and he had prepared a memo in which he stated his plans to accomplish it. In it Bobrikov stated that Finnish military must be merged to Russian, Russian language must become the official language instead of Finnish and Swedish. Finnish monetary and tariff system has to be abolished. The power of governor-general must be increased and that new Russian newspapers to be found in Finland.

In 15.2.1899 Czar issued a manifesto (called February Manifesto), which confirmed the regulations for imperial legistlation. It was stated that Finnish senate only gave its opinion about new law and then Russian statecouncil made thedecision. The senate could still pass laws which were local, but it was Czar who decided which laws were local and which weren’t. This caused a shock in Finland and students collected over 500’000 names in two weeks in an adress to be presented to Czar, who didn’t receive it. This amount was over half of Finnish adult population. Russians continued to make violations to Finnish autonomy, for example in 1900 official language was changed to Russia and 1901 Finnish army was abolished and merged to Russian one. Finns used passive resistance against these violations and even small demonstrations were seen in Helsinki. Because of this Czar and Bobrikov were annoyed and Bobrikov got full dictatorial rights in 1903. He had rigth of censorship, right to forbid meetings and right to exile Finns from country. This started active resistance and caused the assasination of Bobrikov in 1904.

When Russians war against Japan didn’t go well, restlesness in Russia increased and Czar had to give constitution. Same time he issued a manifesto (4.11.1905) which rescinded the decrees based on February Manifesto and cancelling the dictatorial powers of governor-general. The Diet was called and parliamental reform made. In this reform, made spring 1906, Finland got the most advanced parliament system in Europe. The old Diet of four Estates was replaced by a totally democratized system. The number of voters also increased tenfold, because classes without voting rights and women (2. in world) gained voting rights.

This era of increased freedom didn’t last long because second wave of Russification swept over the land. 1908 Czar ordered that all matters concerning Finland must first be submitted to the Russian Ministerial Council for examination before being referred to him. Next year more illegal edicts and decrees were issued. And in 1910 a Manifesto similar to the old February Manifesto was issued. When the Frist World War broke in 1914 Finns hoped that autonomy would be reinstated as it was before, but instead Russia increased oppression. Now Finns realized that return to old ways was out of the question and so the idea of independence grew. Finns started to send men in secret to Germany to be trained as soldiers. These Jaegers then showed their importance later.

1917 - 1939

In March 1917 there was a rebellion in Russia which took the crown from Czar. The provisional goverment in Russia confirmed the constitutional laws of Finland and nullified all illegal laws and edicts made by Czar. The Russian dominated senate resigned and new one was selected. After this the new senate suggested the so called emergency powers act, which transferred all authority to Finnish Parliament, with the exception of military matters and foreign policy. The provisional goverment didn’t like this act, which lessened Russian authority in Finland and so dissolved the Parliament. After this the Social Democrats and bourgeois parites started to quarrel with each other. The new Parliament had a bourgoise majority.

On 7th November the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia and same time also the events in Finland started to gain speed. The events led to the declaration of Finnish independence in 6th of December 1917. Russian Bolshevik goverment recognized Finland’s independence 31.12.1917, right after it France, Germany and Sweden recognized the sovereignity of Finland. And then swiftly other European countries.

Finland was now independent, but there still were 75’000 Russian soldiers in country who refused to leave. Same time the tension between Whites and Reds increased. Head of the senate P.E.Svinhuvud assigned Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim the task of creating a military organization and shortly after that assignment senate named him commander-in-chief. This meant that the Civil Guards became country’s official military. Also same time the armed troops of Reds (who had formal Russian support) became illegal forces.

Finnish civil war started in January 1918, when Whites and Reds fought first two times in Viipuri, which battles Reds won. At the end of January Whites started to disarm Russian troops in Karelia, who gave their weapons without resistance. Same time Reds in southern Finland seized power in all bigger towns and cities. The parliament fled to Vaasa. At first battles were only skirmishes and their goal was to form a stable front. Also the troops in both sides needed training, which was given. However the overall level of training was better in the White side. Foreign powers meddled also in the war, Germany helped Whites by sending weapons and most importantly Finnish Jaegers to Finland. Russia of course supported Reds. Russians also acknowledged the goverment of Reds as the official goverment of Finland.

In the beginning of war Reds were the active side, but all their bigger attacks failed. Senate, now residing in Vaasa, had applied help from Germany, who also accepted the plea. Mannerheim who objected the German intervention wanted to clear things up before the Germans came. His plan was first to attack in east in order to cut railway thus disabling Russian support to Reds. Then direct attacks towards Tampere, which was one of the Reds major centers. His task was eased when Jaegers returned 25.2. At the end of March the battle of Tampere begun and ended in Whites decisive victory 6.4. Then the White advance continued southwards. Germans made landfall in Hanko on 6th of April and marched to Helsinki. Reds didn’t stand against German heavy weaponry and surrendered. Shortly after this the war ended at 16th May 1918. In connection with the surrender more than 8’000 Reds were shot, usually after short judgments by court marshalls or even without them. After the war over 12’000 reds died in prison camps mainly from starvation and diseases. The war left big wounds to society and effectively divided it in two for many years. These wounds were then healed during the 2nd World War.

March 1919 paliamentary elections were held and in it Social Democrats, who had reorganaized themselves after the war, got 80 out of 200 seats. The new parliament formed Finnish state to rebublic, but the monarchy option was also strongly supported. The constitution gave president strong executive powers also over the parliament. 1919 parliament. Parliament elected K.J.Ståhlberg as Finlands new president, other candidate was Mannerheim who after his loss retired to private life. Still one matter remained; Finland was still formally at war with Soviet Union. The peace treaty was signed finally at Tartu 14.10.1920.

The 1920s was a time when strong political extremist forces tried to affect the official goverment. Communists organized underground movement and smuggled weapons to country. They also arranged political movement for example strikes. To oppose this trend Rightists started to move in western Finland. This activity was called the Lapua movement. These rightists used drastic measures to further their goals. They attacked directly against communist or leftists for example by destroying their presses or driving known communists over the Soviet border. The legal goverment supported this trend by deciding to close communist presses and to pass other anti-communist laws. Finlands 2nd president Relander also supported these activities. In 1932 500 armed men rallied at Mäntsälä (near Helsinki) and dictated their demands to goverment (For example also Social Democrat party should be banned as was done to Communist party little earlier). The situation resolved when current president P.E.Svinhuvud talked to rebels and they disbanded without bloodshed. After this the Lapua movement was suppressed and made illegal. The rightist then founded a party called the Patriotic People’s Movement, which drew inspiration from Nazism. In elections it however got only insignificant support.

During Svinhuvuds reign the political stability increased and money was invested to social security and to enchancement of habitation. After Svinhuvud Kyösti Kallio became president. He allowed Social Democrats into goverment after a long time. In foreign politics Finland signed for example a non-aggression pact with Soviet Union in 1932. The relations with Sweden were not so good in the beginning of 1920s but then started swiftly to better. The reason for this was the question of Åland Islands, which both countries would have wanted. The League of Nations was asked to solve the problem and it ruled in favor of Finland, but wide autonomy was guaranteed to Åland. Co-operation with other nordic countries developed. Finland also had warm relations with Great Britain.

When Hitler came to power in Germany, Soviet Union became more concerned about it’s security and the non-agreement pacts made with other countries didn’t satisfy it. It started negotiations with Finland and first offered aid, both military and economical if Germany would attack Finland. After a while it started to demand certain islands in Finnish Gulf against some replacements of course. When Germany attacked Poland and started 2nd World War, Russians also started to fulfill their part in Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which stated that Finland belonged to Russians sphere of interest. They invited Finns to negotiate about certain "concrete political questions". Soviets demanded small area on the Karelian Isthmus and wanted to lease the Hanko cape. In return they offered areas from East Karelia. They stated that territories demanded were of military importanceto and needed in order to protect Soviet Union. Finland declined these demands, which would have weakened her defences. During the negotiations Finland mobilized her defence forces so that the danger of surprise attack disappeared. Shortly after the negotiations in Moscow broke up the Soviets accused Finns of having fired artillery shells against Red Army Unit. Then Soviets broke their non-agreement pact with Finland and crossed the eastern frontier in every sector in 30.11.1939. The Winter War had begun.



Soviets thought that they would have crushed Finnish defence in two weeks, but their attacks stopped against Mannerheim Line, a defensive line of scattered pillboxes and trenches in Karelian Isthmus. The Finnish defences held for months despite the fact that Soviets had allocated 28 divisions in the front. They also had ca. 1000 planes, 3000 tanks and modern artillery. With respect to that Finland had ca. 100 planes and some 30-40 tanks plus artillery from 1st World War. As said Finnish front held until 11.2.1940 when Russians made breakthrough and advanced, but they were slowed down. The tired Finns managed to negotiate peace with Soviets, who were eager to do it, 13.3.1940. The success of Finns was mainly due to the fact that they knew how to fight in the woods at winter. They had the right equipment to do it in temperatures around -40° C. Also the fighting spirit was astonishing and marshal Mannerheim in the lead of army was just the right person to held the spirits up. In the peace agreement Finns lost part of southeastern Finland and a slice along the northeastern frontier. In addition to that they had to lease a military base to Russians from the Hanko cape. 11% of Finnish population had to move over the border to Finnish side.

The peace was not final though. Finland needed a strong ally to prevail in its current situation and the only possible choice was Germany. The ties were strenghtened and when Germans started a war against Soviet Union Finland joined them. The Continuation War started. At first Finns advanced swiftly eastwards and soon they crossed the old border. But despite the demands made by Germans Finns declined to join to attacks against Leningrad. The Finnish forces advanced to East Karelia in autumn in order to shorten the front and gain better defensive positions. When good positions were gained at the beginning of December Finnish offensive was called to halt. Then started the phase when the front was quiet, this lasted until June 1944. During this stagnant phase the people moved from the ceded areas moved back to their homes and started to build up their lives again.

Massive Soviet attack started 9.6.1944. They concentrated 450’000 men, 10’000 pieces of artillery, 800 tanks and 2’050 aircraft on the area of Karelian Isthmus and East Karelia. Artillery concentration was one of the heaviest in history and Finnish front line was smashed immediatly. Finnish fleed westwards and retreated from East Karelia. Soviets demanded unconditional surrender, when Finns tried to ask for peace. Same time foreign minister of Germany, Ribbentrop, arrived in Helsinki and offered a deal to Finland that Germany shall give military aid if Finland don’t make peace with Soviet Union. President Ryti sent personal message to Hitler where he agreed. Thus the war continued and Finns managed to slow Soviet attack down by getting couple of defensive victories which effectively stopped Russian advance.

When the situation in Isthmus had stabilized it was time to bring Finland out of war. So Ryti resigned and Mannerheim announced that he was not bound to Ryti’s personal pledge. New peace feelers were send to Moscow and this time Stalin gave conditions for peace. One of the conditions was to drive the Germans out from Lapland. Finns managed to do this but Germans devastated Lapland during the retreat. Finland lost again areas to Soviet Union, mainly the same as in Winter War, but in addition to that Finland lost also her other arm and had to rent Porkkala cape to Soviets. Also war reparations of $300 million (1938 level) had to be paid in eight years. An Allied Control Commission was founded to watch the fulfillment of conditions.

1946 -

Urho Kekkonen,
president 1956-81

Major task after the war was to maintain the independence of Finland uncompromisingly and same time manage foreign relations sunch way that they wouldn’t clash against Soviet interests. This task fall to next president J.K.Paasikivi when Mannerheim resigned in March 1946. This way of doing politics was called "Paasikivi Line" later it was called "Paasikivi-Kekkonen Line". For example Finland declined Marshall aid. The peace treaty with Soviet Union was signed 1947 in Paris. And following year Finland made its Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with Soviet Union. After this the amount of war reparations was reduced.

The domestic politics also experienced some crisis, when communists tried to change Finlands political enviroment towards their way. In parliament they didn’t get majority however. In the first elections after the war in 1945 Communists and Social Democrats got 99 places out from 200. After the war there were lots of strikes, legal or not, and lots of meetings were held in factiories etc. Other major thing was the hiding of weapons by leading officers of the army, when they feared the Soviet occupation.

In 1950 Paasikivi was re-elected as president. 1950s is in every way the decade when Finland started its way towards a normal democratic country. The payment of war reparations ended also in the beginning of the decade. One of the most important things which lifted the self-esteem of Finnish people was the Olympic Games in 1952. Soviet Union returned Porkkala in 1956 long before its 50 years lease expired. Same time Finland also became a member of United Nations and the Nordic Council. In 1956 presidential elections Urho Kekkonen was elected.

in 1947

Finland applied membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and was accepted in 1961. Same autumn a crisis with Soviet Union evolved when they demanded the starting of military consultations because of the Berlin crisis. This was cancelled when Kekkonen requested it. Shortly after this crisis was also next presidential elections were Kekkonen was re-elected. Before the elections he also dissolved the Parliament in order to get a new one which suited him better. After this so called "note crisis" Finlands military was strengthened and develeoped.

Again Kekkonen was elected in 1968 as president. Finlands international position gained more importance when Helsinki was the place of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe 1975. This meeting brought more heads of state together than ever before. When next time for presidential elections in 1974 came, Kekkonen forced the Parliament to pass an emergency law which extended his term by four years. President engineerd domestic politics with hard hand and his way provoked even some criticism, but still he was elected for the fourth time as president in 1978. In 1981 he had to resign because of his health which was not so very good anymore. Prime minister Mauno Koivisto took the post of president and was elected in it at 1982 and once more in 1988.

When Soviet Union disintegrated rapid changes happened in Finland. In September 1990, the Finnish goverment stated that limitations on armed forces imposed by the Paris Treaty were not relevant anymore and after that it declared void the Treaty of mutual assistance. In 1992 goverment signed a new treaty with Russia without any military clause. Same year Finland joined ETA and then applied membership of European Union. After the negotiations the majority of people voted in favor of joining and Finland became a member. One could say that one era ended when Martti Ahtisaari was elected as president in 1994, first time by direct popular vote.

Next Parliament elections are held soon (at the end of March) and new elections of President are held next year. Also Finland is going among the first to the last phase of European Monetary Union (EMU), where almost all of the EU members get same currency, Euro.

Page last modified on 1 Jul 1999