History of Turku…What Happened Here?

Turku is Finland’s oldest town and former capital of Finland. Here are some things you might want to know about the history of Turku.

Turku is Finland’s oldest town and former capital of Finland. It is not known the first people settled in the area of Turku, but it is known to have been a trading place a lot longer before it became a town. Did you know that the name Turku comes from an ancient word tǔrgǔ, which means a trading place. Here are some more facts about the history of Turku.

10 Things to Know about the History of Turku

1229 – Turku is Founded

Turku (known by it Swedish name Åbo) is mentioned for the first time by the Pope Gregory IX in 1229. And this is when the history of Turku began.

1276 – Finland’s First School

Finland’s first school, the Cathedral school (Turun katedraalikoulu in Finnish) is believed to be founded in 1276. It was opened to educate the priests who worked for the church.

1280 – Turku Castle

The construction of the Turku Castle began around 1280, and continued for hundreds of years.

1300 – Turku Cathedral

Turku Cathedral, another famous building in Turku, was consecrated as a cathedral in 1300. The church building that you can visit today isn’t the same however. The first church building was quite small and made of wood, which unfortunately burned down later. The construction of a stone church was started about in the middle of the 14th century.

1543 – The First Book in Finnish

The first book in Finnish language, the Abckiria (alphabet book) by Mikael Agricola was published in Turku in 1543.

1640 – Finland’s First University

Finland’s first university, the Royal Academy of Turku (Turun Akatemia in Finnish) was founded in 1640.

1775 – First Finnish Newspaper

The first newspaper in Finnish language, the Suomenkieliset Tieto-Sanomat is published in Turku in 1775. Here is a link to the first edition.

1809 – The Capital of Finland

When Finland was part of Sweden, Turku was Finland’s unofficial capital. But when Finland became the autonomous Grand Duchy, Turku’s status as capital became offical. Unfortunately, Turku got to keep its status only for three years. In 1812 Helsinki became the capital of Finland.

1827 – The Great Fire of Turku

The Great Fire of Turku (Turun Palo in Finnish) in 1827 almost destroyed the whole town. It was (and still is) the most destructive city fire in the history of the Nordic countries.

2029 – Turku Turns 800

Turku will celebrate its 800th birthday in 2029.

History of Turku
Image by Carl von Kugelgen, 1823, Finnish Heritage Agency

Finland’s Long Road to Independence

Finland isn’t a very old country. The decleration of independence was signed on December 6th, 1917. That’s when Finland became independent. But how Finland became independent, is a bit longer story.

Finland isn’t a very old country. Independence Day has been celebrated in Finland just over a hundred times since 1919. Before Finland became independent, it was first part of Sweden for hundreds of years and then part of the Russian Empire in 1809-1917. So it took a long time for Finland to become independent. But what things paved Finland’s long road to independence? Here are some of the things which strengthened the feeling of nationalism and made independence possible.

1543 – First Book in Finnish

Mikael Agricola published the first book in Finnish language. It was basically an ABC book called the the Abckiria. Mikael Agricola also translated the New Testament into Finnish and thus laid the foundation for the Finnish written language.

1809 – Autonomy

When Finland was joined to Russia in 1809, Russian Emperor Alexander I granted Finland an extensive autonomy creating the Finnish state.

1809 – Finnish Senate

Finland’s new governing body, the Senate was established in 1809. The members of the Senate were Finns. The Grand Duke of Finland was the Russian Emperor, whose representative in Finland was the Governor General.

1809 – Diet of Four Estates

Finland’s Diet of the Four Estates (nobles, clergy, burghers and peasants) met for the first time in the city of Porvoo in 1809. Then there was a long break, until they began to meet regularly since 1863. The Finland’s Diet of the Four Estates passed over 400 pieces of legislation.

1835 – Finnish National Epic

Elias Lönnrot created the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The book consists of short ballads and lyrical poems collected from oral tradition. Kalevala was first published in 1835.

1848 – Finnish National Anthem

The Finnish national anthem was performed for the first time in 1848.

1860 – Finnish Currency

Finland adopted its own currency, the markka, in 1860.

1863 – Finnish becomes Official Language

In 1863, Finnish became Finland’s second official language. Until this point, Swedish had been the only official language in Finland, although only a small minority of the Finland’s population spoke Swedish as their first language.

1878 – Finnish Army

In 1878, it was made possible for Finland to form its own army.

The First Era of Oppression (1899-1905)

Finland’s long road to independence took a step back in 1899-1905. In the first era of oppression, Russia tried to gain stronger control over Finland. In 1900 it was decreed that Russian would be Finland’s third official language, and in 1901 it was decreed that Finns would serve in the Russian army, while Finland’s own army should be disbanded. But Finns struggled hard against these Russification attempts.

1905 – National Strike

The 1905 Revolution in Russia eased the situation in Finland. And after the national strike, the Emperor was forced to restore the situation that had prevailed before 1899.

1906 – Finnish Parliament

One result of the strike was the complete reform of the Finland’s parliamentary system. It was proposed that a new legislative body would replace the old Estates. The Emperor approved the proposal and the Finnish Parliament was established. With one big step Finland’s Diet of the Four Estates was replaced with a unicameral parliament.

1907 – First Parliamentary Elections

The first parliamentary elections in Finland were arranged in 1907. No longer was the right to vote dependent on social status or gender. Everyone over the age of 24 were allowed to vote. This meant that Finnish women were among the first in the world to have the right to vote and to stand for election.

The Second Era of Oppression (1909-1917)

Unfortunately, the new Parliament soon lost its legislative power. During its first years, the Parliament was dissolved by the Emperor several times. And in 1910, all important legislative work was transferred to Russia.

1917 – Finland becomes Independent

The turmoil caused by the First World War and the Russian Revolution made it possible for Finland to separate from the Russian Empire. In March 1917, Finland obtained its autonomy again. And in November, the Finnish Parliament declared itself the supreme organ of the state.

Few weeks later, on December 6, Finland declared its independence. The Bolshevik government, which had seized power in Russia after the October Revolution, recognised Finnish independence on December 31, 1917.

This is Finland
Parliament of Finland
Prime Minister’s Office
Finnish National Agency of Education
Image by Johanna Moorhouse / Parliament of Finland

History Museum: The National Museum of Finland

Are you interested in the history of Finland? Then the National Museum of Finland is just the place for you!

Are you interested in the history of Finland?
Then the National Museum of Finland is just the place for you!

And by the way, even if you are not a history fan, don’t skip this one just yet. I’ll promise you that visit to the National Museum of Finland might turn out to be surprisingly interesting.

The National Museum of Finland

The National Museum contains the oldest and most comprehensive cultural history collections in the country. So we could easily rename it as the national history museum of Finland!

But the National Museum is more than just a boring history museum. It is a national cultural history museum. It means that the museum has a lot more to offer than just the Finnish history. Instead it tells the story of Finland.

Museum’s permanent exhibitions reveal the story of Finland starting from the prehistory times all the way to modern days. Experience the history through fascinating stories and a collection of artefacts. Study ancient mysteries, discover when the area of Finland was settled, and where the people might have come from? Or you can find out how Finland became Finland and what have happened during Finland’s first 100 years as an independent country.

And with a collection of about half a million objects, there is a lot to see here. The collection includes interesting artefacts, which might not all be valuable alone, but are important to Finns. These include rare findings from the ancient water burial site, a ballot box from the first election, and a suitcase of a little refugee girl who had to leave her home in Karelia during the Second World War.

Intriguing Example of Finnish Architecture

Fun thing about visiting the National Museum is that the museum building itself is a kind of an exhibition of its own. Having an excellent location along the Helsinki’s main street, the building is hard to miss. But what is it? Is it a castle? Or perhaps a church? No, the building was in fact designed as a museum from the start, although the museum was known by a different name at the time.

The predecessor of the National Museum was a State Historical Museum. It was founded in 1893 when several older collections were combined and placed in the care of the state. When Finland became independent, it was renamed as the National Museum of Finland.

The museum building was designed by Finnish architects Eliel Saarinen, Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren in 1902, and it is an excellent example of Finnish architecture. With its granite facade and steatite decoration, the National Museum is one of Finland’s most significant national-romantic works of architecture. The construction was completed in 1910 and the museum opened to the public in 1916.

In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the National Museum of Finland also has temporary exhibitions, short-term pop-up exhibitions and events as well as themed tours and workshops.

Have I already convinced you that the National Museum is a bit of a must-visit in Helsinki?
If so, check the opening hours at National Museum’s website.

The National Museum of Finland
Mannerheimintie 34
00100 Helsinki

Finnish Heritage Agency
Photographer Soile Tirilä. Image by The National Museum of Finland

History Trip: Korteniemi Heritage Farm

What life was like on a Finnish farm a hundred years ago? Visit Korteniemi Heritage Farm to find out!

What life was like on a Finnish farm a hundred years ago? Visit Korteniemi Heritage Farm to find out!

Korteniemi Heritage Farm is a former forest ranger’s estate. What makes Korteniemi quite unique is that it’s the only forest ranger estate in Southern Finland which has remained almost unchanged for over a hundred years. The grounds and the buildings on the estate are almost the same as they were in 1910s.

Story of Korteniemi

History of Korteniemi can be traced back to 1880s. After Finnish government bought the forest lands, the district forest surveyors needed a place to stay during their inspection trips. The secluded farm in Korteniemi was a perfect for this purpose.

In the late 1800s the main house got an extra room. Also, the additional buildings, including the sauna, shed, stable, livestock barn and the woodshed were built around the same time period between 1880-1900. The government took part in construction expenses and monitored the quality of the buildings, but other than that, there were no instructions or blueprints. Houses were built mainly just by following traditional construction methods. Because of this the buildings have a real cultural value.

Who were the Forest Rangers ?

So why forest rangers were needed? The main duties of the forest rangers were to monitor and to protect the crown-owned forests. Their job was to prevent forest fires and illegal logging, assist foresters, and sometimes arrange hunts of the large carnivore. Forest rangers usually lived on the secluded farms with their families. They took care of the farm and the livestock, while taking care of their forest ranger duties.

At first forest rangers worked part time, but as they got more tasks, it slowly became a full time job. And often sons took over their father’s job. At the Korteniemi farm, the men from the Lönngren family held the forest ranger’s position for over a hundred years.

Korteniemi Heritage Farm

Nowadays, buildings on the Korteniemi farm are protected and maintained by Metsähallitus, the same goverment organization which manages Finnish national parks. Metsähallitus has restored the farm buildings and created a unique destination.

At the farm old Finnish crops are farmed in both the estates gardens and fields by traditional methods. Rye is cut with scythes, dried on racks and threshed with flails in the drying barn. Farm is also home to indigenous Finnish farm animals like horses, cows, sheep, chickens and of course a rooster.

Korteniemi can be visited during summer, and like Finnish national park, there is no entry fee. Korteniemi is located in Liesjärvi National Park, so if you want an authentic forest ranger experience, why not taking a hiking trip on one of the trails in the national park.

Address to the farm is Korteniementie 270, Tammela, Finland.

Korteniemi Heritage Farm
Korteniemi Heritage Farm
Main house at the Korteniemi Heritage Farm
Buildings at the Korteniemi Heritage Farm
Sheep at the Korteniemi Heritage Farm


Why President Relander was Called “Traveling Lauri”…and other nicknames of Presidents of Finland

Most of the former Finnish presidents have earned beloved nicknames from the people. Do you know who was “Manu”, or why Relander was called “Traveling Lauri”?

Most of the former presidents of Finland have earned beloved nicknames from the people.
Do you know who was “Manu”, or why Relander was called “Traveling Lauri”?

Pehr Evind Svinhufvud was “Old Man Pehr”

P.E. Svinhufvud was the president of Finland from 1931 until 1937. He was very popular president and was known simply as “Ukko-Pekka” (Old Man Pehr).

Lauri Kristian Relander was “Traveling Lauri”

L.K. Relander was the president of Finland from 1925 until 1931. He made several state visits to neighboring countries and hosted many visits to Finland. As in those days tourism wasn’t as common as it is today, Finns were very interested to know about his trips. This earned him his nickname “Reissu-Lasse” (Traveling Lauri).

Urho Kaleva Kekkonen was “Urkki”

Urho Kaleva Kekkonen was the longest serving president of Finland from 1956 until 1982. He is often referred to by his initials UKK or remembered simply as “Urkki”.

Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim was “Marski”

C.G.E Mannerheim was most famous Finnish military leader and the president of Finland from 1944 until 1946. Everyone in Finland knows who is “Marski”.

Mauno Koivisto was “Manu”

Mauno Koivisto was the president of Finland from 1982 until 1994. He was known as “Manu”.

Image features president L.K. Relander in 1930s.
Photographer Aarne Pietinen. Image by Finnish Aviation Museum.