Pre 20th Century
For seven centuries Finland was a province and then a Grand Duchy of the Swedish Kingdom from the 12th to 19th century. Precariously situated between the heavily Protestant Swedish people and the Eastern Orthodox Russians, it is not surprising that the region became a battleground between the two countries. From 1696-1697 severe famines wiped out a third of all Finns, and the following years during the 1700s were marked by bitter wars with Russia. The fighting ended in 1809 when Finland surrendered to Russia, eventually becoming a Grand Duchy of Russia during the latter half of the 19th century. Gaining a certain amount of autonomy, Finnish nationalism spread and fever for independence was only encouraged when Russification began its oppression. The country’s passion for its nationalism is just as evident when you travel to Finland today.
The dawn of the Communist Revolution and the removal of the tsar from power gave the Finnish senate a window of opportunity to declare independence, which they did so on December 6, 1917. Internal violence ensued between Russian supporters and Finnish nationalists. After 108 days of civil war, about 30,000 Finnish were dead, and the nationalists claimed a weary victory. The local politics could do little to heal the wounds, and the massacres that occurred during ‘peacetime’ are still being discovered today. Anticommunist violence broke out in the early 1930s, and the Soviet Union invaded parts of Karelia in the Winter War of 1939. During your Finland travel you will notice how isolated the country is; this isolation prevented help from the Western allies, thus Finland called upon Germany for help in taking back portions of Karelia that were in Russian possession. The Soviets staged another advance in the summer of 1944, and the Finns looked for peace, while at the same time attempting to oust the Germans from Lapland in a bitter war, which lasted until the conclusion of WWII. Finland endured enormous military defeat and faced huge economic disaster due to the reparations imposed by the Soviets. The Finns ceded the Karelian Isthmus and the following presidency of Urho Kekkonen from 1956-1981 became a huge challenge of balancing efforts to globalize without provoking the giant easterly neighbor.
Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Finns took the opportunity to free themselves from the restrictions imposed by the Paris treaties of 1947. Finns made great effort to convert the former farming/forestry economy into a more diversified and modern economy. Finland voted to join the European Union in late 1994, and has generally taken positions of neutrality and military nonalignment in other matters. Aside from their UN peacekeeping duties, Finland has no other military responsibilities other than maintaining a strong independent defense. The Finns have managed to build their economy and have become one of the most globalized nations in the world. Finland travel also offers a chance to explore, what the UN has also determined as the 5th ranking country to have the best standard of living.