Stories from Finnish History

Once Upon Time in the North

07/12/2021

Would you like to hear an exciting story about what happened in Finland before it became an independent country? We’ll take a seat and let me tell you about it!

Disclaimer! Although the story in based on true events and includes lots of interesting facts, some details might have been added for artistic reason. And now, let the story begin…

The Land of Ice

Once upon a time, in a country far far away, everything was covered in ice. This might sound like a typical February weather in Finland. But no, situation was much more worse 15,000 years ago. Back then everything, and I really mean everything was covered by a thick layer of snow and ice. The layer was so thick, that we could call it a glacier. This was during the Last Glacial Period (about 115,000 – 12,000 years ago).

Because of the unpleasant living conditions, Finland wasn’t very popular living place. The Finns of the future were still looking for their own place were to settle. They just had to wait for the better days. Slowly but surely ice started to melt off and finally, about 10,000 years ago, the land was free of ice. And what a land it was! Green forests, blue lakes, clean water and fresh air. Finns thought that this was just perfect for them, so the first people started to settle about 9,000 years ago.

The prehistoric Finns were living in small groups. They were hunting, fishing, gathering resources…just minding their own business. Perhaps sometimes dealing with traveling merchants or hiding from angry Vikings. But they weren’t dreaming of kingdoms, they just wanted to live in peace.

However, the western neighbors (Swedes) thought that Finns were uncivilized and kindly decided to educate them. Swedes started to make regular trips (=crusades) to Finland as early as from the 12th century. This process integrated Finland as part of Sweden for the next 600 years.

Under The Swedish Rule

When Swedes were in control, they usually took the best and highest paid jobs in Finland. This naturally annoyed the Finns a bit. But living under Swedish ruling wasn’t all that bad. Swedes brought their legal and social systems to Finland, new cities were established, and Turku became the capital of Finland. And thanks to Swedes, there are nowadays some cool buildings in Finland, like stone castles in cities Turku, Hämeenlinna and Savonlinna, and sea fortress Suomenlinna on the coast of Helsinki.

Unfortunately, the castles weren’t built originally just as tourist attractions. They were needed to protect the borders. Conflicts between Sweden and Russia were common. Finns were expected to take part in fighting, and quite often Finland was also the battleground. The fighting over Finland ended in 1809 after Russia won the Finnish War (1808-1809) and Finland became a Grand Duchy of Russia.

The Grand Duchy of Russia

Going under Russian rule was almost a perfect deal for the Finns. At the time Russia was ruled by the Emperor Alexander I, who decided that carrot works better than a whip, and wanted to make Finns his allies. Alexander I gave Finland autonomy and thereby created the Finnish state. Finland wasn’t just a part of Russia, it was now an autonomous Grand Duchy. Under Russian rule, Finland established its own parliament and adopted its own currency (Markka). Business and industry started to develop. Finland was no longer just as a land of village idiots, but a highly developed part of Russia.

However, things took a turn for worse at the turn of the century. Demand for social reform and risk of war in Europe put pressure on Russian emperor. In this time of turmoil, Russia tried to have a tighter control over Finland. Naturally, Finns protested this as much as they could. The 1905 revolution in Russia helped situation in Finland also. Finland got its own parliament in 1906 and first elections were held 1907.

Towards Independence

The Russian Empire collapsed after the October Revolution in 1917. This was the perfect moment for the Finns to have freedom as well. Finland finally declared independence on December 6th in 1917. What happened after that? Well, that is another story to tell…