History of Finland

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Coat of arms of Finland

The history of Finland is about the region with this name, which has become an independent state of the same name since the end of the First World War . With the introduction of women's suffrage in 1906, Finland became the first country in Europe to introduce active women's suffrage at the national level, and it was the third country in the world after New Zealand and Australia . Finland's leading position is even clearer when it comes to the right to vote: for the first time in the world, women were elected to parliament.

General overview

The history of Finland began with the earliest human settlement from 8500 BC. The roots of the Finnish people have been the subject of repeated controversy. Some research views their original home in western Siberia. Other research suggests that the ancestors of the Finns immigrated from different directions in several successive waves thousands of years ago, establishing a hunting and farming culture, and displacing the hunting and foraging indigenous seeds (rags) north.

During the Viking Age , the Finnish population consisted of four groups: Finns , Tavastians , Karelians, and Sami. The Åland Islands were then part of Sweden . The contact between Sweden and Finland was already considerable in pre-Christian times - historically the Scandinavians were known to the Finns both through trade relations and looting.

The beginning of Finland's almost 700 year long connection with the Kingdom of Sweden is usually set in 1154, when Sweden's King Erik IX. , escorted by a group of armed men, came to Finland and tried to introduce Christianity there. Swedish expansion into Finland was worrying for the Novgorod Republic , which controlled Karelia . Centuries of clashes followed between the two empires. The border between Sweden and Novgorod was established in 1323. A war between Sweden and Novgorod in 1321 and 1322 had led to negotiations in Nöteborg at the confluence of the Neva in the Ladoga. Sweden received Western Karelia and Novgorod received Ingrien and Ladoga Karelia (Eastern Karelia). North-eastern parts of Finland fell to the Novgorod Republic. The remaining part remained a province of its western neighbor Sweden.

During the following centuries there were many more armed conflicts between Novgorod and Sweden. As a result, the Finnish eastern border kept moving back and forth during Swedish rule. Overall, however, there was a slow Swedish expansion, which was only stopped by the Great Northern War . After that, from 1700 to 1808, Finland was completely or partially occupied by the Russians several times, and the southeastern part came under Russian control in the first half of the 18th century. In 1809 Finland was annexed to the Russian Empire , but was able to retain parts of its independence as the Grand Duchy of Finland .

It was not until 1917/18 that the Finns achieved their independence. At the same time, the Finnish Civil War broke out in which red troops were able to conquer the capital. However, the bourgeois side succeeded in maintaining relations of rule and in 1919 founding a parliamentary republic.

In the two Soviet-Finnish wars between 1939 and 1944, the Winter War and the Continuation War (in which Finland took part on the side of the German Nazi regime during World War II ), Finland lost a large part of South Karelia. There were great waves of flight in which around 350,000 to 400,000 people fled occupied and lost territories. However, unlike many other states in Europe, Finland was not occupied by Soviet Red Army troops.

After the end of the war, the country experienced reconstruction and economic growth. Soviet-Finnish relations also improved. After the fall of the Warsaw Treaty , Finland began accession negotiations with the European Community in 1992 and became a member of the European Union on January 1, 1995 after a referendum.

Early history

The rock carvings of Astuvansalmi in the municipality of Ristiina , evidence of the settlement of Finland around 2000 BC. Chr.

The earliest known settlements in what is now Finland comes from the time after the end of the last ice age around 8500 BC. Chr. Origin and language of the Mesolithic , important after the reference Suomusjärvi Culture Culture mentioned in southern Finland are unclear. At the same time, the Komsa culture , which probably immigrated from the west, lived in what is now Finnmark , and it also spread to what is now northern Finland. In the following millennia, immigration introduced new cultures. Around 5100 BC With the invention of clay dishes, the Suomusjärvi culture passed into the Neolithic so-called comb ceramic culture . By this time at the latest, the inhabitants of Finland spoke mainly early Finno-Ugric languages .

Around 3200 BC BC representatives of the so-called battle ax culture seeped in from the Baltic region, speaking an early Indo-European language and gradually mixing with the indigenous population and adopting their language, from which the Kiukainen culture emerged as the last Stone Age culture in Finland. The linguistic influence of the immigrants of the battle-ax culture was partly responsible for the development of the difference between the native Finnish language in the coastal area and the Sami language in the interior.

The Stone Age population consisted of hunters and gatherers ; agriculture and cattle breeding were still unknown. The Bronze Age began in Finland around 1700 BC. And continued until around 500 BC. During this time, however, the use of metal objects only gradually gained acceptance, starting from the southwest coast. At this time, agriculture and cattle breeding began particularly on the coast, while hunting cultures continued in the north and east. Due to the small number of finds, only a few findings are available from the following pre-Roman Iron Age up to the beginning of our era. Finland was continuously populated during this period, and Finno-Ugric elements formed the core of the population. During the Iron Age, settlement spread from the regions in the southwest, the Häme region and the Ladoga- Karelia region to the north. The local indigenous Sami population was displaced northwards or mixed with the immigrants.

From 100 BC Trade with Central Europe increased. Many Roman objects from this period have been found. During the time of the Great Migration , the Finnish coastal regions acquired prosperity through the lively Baltic Sea trade , which increased further in the time of the Vikings from the 8th century. Around the turn of the millennium, relations between eastern Finland and Novgorod intensified through trade with the east . With the trade connections, the people of Finland came into contact with the Christian faith, in the west with the Roman Catholic, in the east with the Orthodox.

The roots of the Finnish people have been the subject of repeated controversy and, to this day, cannot be said to have been resolved. Some researchers consider western Siberia to be the " original home ". More recent research, including what was previously considered insignificant, led to the view that the ancestors of the Finns immigrated thousands of years ago in several waves from different directions, introduced a hunting and agriculture culture and displaced the hunting and gathering seeds northward or merged with them .

Part of Sweden

Letter from King Magnus II to the Finns (Uppsala, February 15, 1362)
Grand Duchy of Finland, Atlas Maior, Magnvs Dvcatvs Finlandiæ (map from 1662)
Border between Sweden-Finland and Russia 1323–1743

The contacts between Sweden and Finland were already considerable in pre-Christian times - the Scandinavians were known to the Finns both through trade relations and looting.

The beginning of Finland's almost 700 year long connection with the Kingdom of Sweden is usually set in 1154, when Sweden's King Erik IX. , accompanied by a group of armed men and Bishop Heinrich von Uppsala , came to Finland and tried to introduce Christianity there . Although Heinrich was murdered by Lalli in 1156 , Christianity was able to gain a foothold in Finland.

Modern historians question this theory. There is archaeological evidence to show that Christianity spread to Finland as early as the 11th century, before the Swedes began their campaign. At the same time, the Orthodox faith spread in Karelia , this time from Novgorod .

Tavastien was converted to Christianity at the beginning of the 13th century. Birger Jarl embarked on a campaign in 1249, possibly to put down a revolt and prevent the Tavastians from falling back into paganism . For Novgorod, which controlled Karelia, the Swedish expansion was worrying.

Savonia and Karelia adopted Christianity at the end of the 13th century, around the same time that Torkel Knutsson was campaigning here in 1293. During this time the Swedes built a fortification, which later became Wiburg Castle . An army of Novgorod attacked Viburg unsuccessfully in the spring of 1294. The Swedish counter-attack in the summer led to the capture of the Novgorod fortress Kexholm, which was recaptured the following spring.

The next war between Sweden and Novgorod in 1321/1322 led to negotiations in Nöteborg on the outflow of the Neva from Lake Ladoga . The boundaries between Sweden and Novgorod were set for the first time in the Treaty of Nöteborg . Sweden received West Karelia, Novgorod Ingermanland and Ladoga Karelia (East Karelia). In 1337 a revolt against the Novgorod rule broke out in East Karelia. The next year Sweden sent troops to Ladoga-Karelia. A Swedish army was defeated in Ingermanland and the war ended in a peace that confirmed the treaty of 1323.

In 1347 the Swedish King Magnus II prepared a war against Novgorod, probably in response to raids the previous year. The war was supported by the clergy and the (later) Saint Birgitta . The next year a Swedish force landed on the Neva, defeated the Novgorodians and advanced to Nöteborg, which was besieged and captured. After that the king returned to Sweden. A relief army from Novgorod with new Russian troops came too late and could no longer help the besieged fortress. However, in 1349 the Swedish garrison was starved to death. That year Magnus launched another attack against Nöteborg, but it failed. In 1350 Novgorod moved against Viburg and reached the city on March 21st. It was burned down and the surrounding land devastated, but the castle could not be captured.

In 1362 King Magnus II allowed the Finns with a delegation of 13 men to participate equally in the election of a king in Uppsala, a sign of the growing importance of this part of the empire. In 1388 Sweden elected Margrete I of Denmark as regent, and in 1397 the Kalmar Union was founded. During this time there were some attacks from Swedish Karelia to Ingermanland and Ladoga Karelia.

When Bo Jonsson Grip, one of the richest men in Sweden, who had received Turku as a fief and owned other possessions in Finland, died in 1386, he left everything to his son Knut. As part of the treaty that formed the Union, these properties had been lost to the Crown. When Knut got older, he traveled to Finland in 1395 and managed to get his property back. Margrete I then sent an army to Turku. The city fell in 1398.

In 1411 hostilities with Novgorod flared up again. By then Sweden had been involved in other wars, and Novgorod had focused on the Teutonic Order . A Swedish attack on Tiurula, near the border, was followed by Novgorod's attack on Wiburg. In addition, a number of smaller raids against Oulu in 1415 and other villages in northern Finland are mentioned in the chronicles.

In 1488, the Missale Aboense, Finland's first book, was printed as a missal by Bartholomäus Ghotan in Lübeck on behalf of the Bishop of Turku Konrad Bitz .

In the centuries that followed, the eastern part of the Swedish sphere of influence (today's Finland) played an important role in Sweden's political life. Finnish soldiers made up the majority of the Swedish armies. The Finns also provided a large part of the first "Swedish" settlers in America in the 17th century ( New Sweden ). In the first centuries of Swedish rule, trade relations with member cities of the Hanseatic League were also successfully established, which led to closer contact between Finland and the rest of Europe, both materially and spiritually.

During the Swedish rule, Finland's eastern border moved back and forth over the course of many wars. Overall, however, there was a slow expansion, which was only stopped by the Great Northern War . After that, in the period 1700–1808, Finland was completely or partially occupied by Russia on several occasions, and the south-eastern part came under Russian control in the first half of the 18th century. It was subsequently referred to as " Old Finland ".

Russian rule first began in the Great Northern War, when the remaining Finnish troops near the Napue settlement (now Isokyrö municipality ) were almost completely destroyed in the battle of Storkyro . The time of great unrest followed in Finland . In the Peace of Nystad , most of Finland was returned to Sweden, only Vyborg remained with the Russian Empire. In 1741 a new war broke out with Russia , which was unfortunate for Sweden. In the subsequent Peace of Åbo in 1743, part of Finland again had to be ceded to Russia.

Finnish war and replacement of Sweden

In the course of the Napoleonic coalition wars, Russia allied itself under Tsar Alexander I on July 7, 1807 in the Treaty of Tilsit with France against Great Britain and Sweden, allied with it. On February 21, 1808, Russia attacked Sweden and started the Finnish War , which quickly led to a renewed occupation of Finland. On September 17, 1809, the two powers signed the Treaty of Fredrikshamn ; with him Sweden ceded large areas to Russia. In addition to core Finland (the southern part of today's Finland), these areas also included the Åland Islands and parts of Lapland and Västerbotten .

Autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Tsar

The separation of Finland from Sweden led to the emergence of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, in which the independent national consciousness of Finland as well as the independent political life of the country began to develop.

Origin and constitution of the Grand Duchy

The opening of the state parliament in Porvoo by Tsar Alexander I in the contemporary representation by Emanuel Thelning

Already after the occupation of Finland in March 1808, Tsar Alexander had announced to the governments of Europe that Finland had been annexed to the Russian Empire forever. In a manifesto of June 17, 1808, he affirmed Finland's annexation to Russia, but promised to uphold the country's old laws and the privileges of the estates. In 1809, the representatives of the Finnish estates were convened in the Porvoo state parliament in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Swedish constitution .

The assembly of estates met in Porvoo on March 25, 1809, before the Finnish War was ended by the Peace of Fredriksham. The following day the tsar took an oath to the throne, in which he assured the continued validity of the constitution, the civil rights and the religion. The ceded areas together formed the newly created Grand Duchy of Finland. The Finnish territories, which Sweden had lost to Russia in 1721 and 1743, were annexed to the Grand Duchy in early 1812. Finland kept its borders until it gained independence in 1917. As Grand Duke of Finland, the Russian Tsar was also the head of state of the autonomous Grand Duchy. When the new Tsar Nicholas I ascended the throne in 1825, he recognized the special status of Finland and swore the same oath of the throne as his predecessor, which would become a tradition for all his successors.

The administration of Finland was entrusted to a Senate (called the Administrative Council until 1816), the members of which were Finns. The Senate consisted of two departments, the economics and legal departments. The Legal Department acted as the highest court in the country, while the Economic Department acted as the highest administrative body for the Government of Finland. The highest-ranking representative of the Tsar and holder of administrative power in Finland was the Governor General , who formally presided over the Senate, even if he usually did not attend its negotiations. The seat of the Senate was initially the old administrative center of Turku, but it was moved to Helsinki in 1819 . After a devastating fire had largely destroyed the city of Turku in 1827, the university also moved to Helsinki, which now became the spiritual center of the country. The official language of administration became, or remained, Swedish, in which the country's laws were drawn up.

According to the constitution, which was adopted from the Swedish era, important legislative projects were only possible with the cooperation of the estates assembled in the Reichstag. It was at the monarch's discretion to convene the Reichstag. After the state parliament of Porvoo, both Alexander I and his successor Nicholas I, who ruled from 1825 to 1855, refrained from calling a meeting during their entire reign. The political life of Finland was largely at a standstill during this period. The activities of the Senate were limited to pure administration, and the necessary orders were issued by the Tsar by way of ordinances.

National awareness awakening

The poem Vårt land , Finnish Maamme , by JL Runeberg, here in a print from 1898 (became the Finnish national anthem in 1848)

In the first half of the 19th century a Finnish national consciousness gradually developed. The impetus for this development was primarily provided by academic circles at the university , influenced by the pan-European advance of national ideas and guided by the goal of securing Finland's position in the tsarist empire by strengthening its own identity. Adolf Ivar Arwidsson was one of the forerunners of political activities . His demands for the development of a Finnish national identity and for greater civil liberties, which he put forward vehemently from 1820 on, led to his dismissal from the position of lecturer in 1823. Arwidsson emigrated to Stockholm, where over time a group of emigrated Finns, usually extremely skeptical of Russia, gathered.

Influenced by Arwidsson was a generation of academics who, from the 1930s onwards, made a decisive contribution to the formation of Finnish cultural and national identity. From the point of view of state philosophy, Johan Vilhelm Snellman justified the need for Finland to acquire a place in the middle of the peoples through the development of its own language and culture. As a newspaper maker and elementary school principal, he also made many practical contributions to this goal. Elias Lönnrot collected the traditional Finnish folk poetry on extensive journeys. The national epic Kalevala , which emerged from these collections, laid the foundation for Finnish literature in 1835. As a poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg wrote numerous important works that dealt with Finnish history or rural life in Finland, thus making Finland the subject of contemporary literature. A poem from his most famous work Ensign Stahl , Vårt land ("Our Country"), was used as the Finnish national anthem from 1848 onwards.

The central role in this development was played by the endeavor to develop and promote the Finnish language as the embodiment of national identity. As a legacy of the Swedish era, Swedish was the only administrative and cultural language in Finland, while the Finnish language spoken by the vast majority of the population had no official status and was practically non-existent as a written language. The current, particularly embodied by Snellman, to develop Finnish into a full-fledged cultural language, the representatives of which called themselves fennomaniac , formed in the 1960s as a political movement to the Finnish party . The desired relationship between the Finnish and Swedish languages ​​soon became the subject of political controversy , and the defenders of the Swedish language soon formed the Swedish Party . In 1863, Tsar Alexander II announced in a manifesto that Finnish would become the second administrative language alongside Swedish. The implementation of this manifesto spanned two decades. However, Swedish remained the dominant language in the cultural field until the turn of the century. The language dispute remained one of the defining political issues in Finland until the period of independence.

The Crimean War in Finland

Bombing of Bomarsund Fortress in 1854

During the Crimean War , the Finnish waters and coasts became a theater of war. After the entry of the Western powers into the war, the British fleet sailed into the Baltic Sea in March 1854 with orders to capture all ships under the Russian Tsar or in his territory. Finland lost almost its entire merchant fleet as a result . In the spring of 1854 the British fleet attacked various locations on the coast and caused great damage. On June 7th, she attempted a landing in Kokkola . However, the attack was repulsed by residents of the village who had taken up arms. On August 8, French troops landed on Åland , and after eight days of siege and bombing, the occupation of Bomarsund Fortress surrendered to the attackers. The fortress was completely destroyed. After the war, the demilitarization of Åland was agreed.

In the summer of 1855 the British and French reappeared on the Finnish coast. In June they destroyed the fortress Fort Slava in front of Kotka , in July Svartholma in front of Loviisa . Most of the city was also burned in the latter attack. Several other coastal cities were bombed. From August 9th, the attackers fired at the Sveaborg fortress outside Helsinki for 46 hours , which was badly damaged but not captured. The capital itself was spared the bombardment. From a Finnish point of view, this remained the last act of war.

The defense of Finland during the Crimean War was primarily in the hands of Russian troops, whose strength at that time was around 70,000 soldiers. The Finnish units recruited according to the old Swedish system of division brought up nine battalions with a total strength of up to 10,711 men. As this system proved to be ineffective, the Finnish battalions were disbanded after the war.

Opening period under Alexander II.

Alexander II's accession to the throne in 1855 ushered in a period of economic and political reform. Many of the legal restrictions on business activity have been lifted. The opening of sawmills in 1861 resulted in the establishment of numerous steam sawmills, which were the driving force behind the beginning of Finnish industrialization. However, this progressed slowly on a European scale. Even after the Second World War, the vast majority of the population was employed in agriculture.

Under Alexander, Finland was given autonomy in monetary matters too. In 1860 the Finnish mark was put into use as a separate Finnish currency . As of 1865, the silver mark under the control of the Bank of Finland was the only legal tender in Finland. For the implementation of the numerous reforms, Alexander also saw the participation of the Finnish estates as necessary and in 1863 convened the Reichstag for the first time since 1809. This sparked great enthusiasm in Finland and earned Alexander the admiration of wide Finnish circles. Subsequently, the Reichstag met regularly every five years, and from 1882 every three years.

After the revival of the Reichstag system, politics found its way into general social life. The political camps were formed primarily on the basis of the linguistic differences. The Finnish party stood for the elevation of the Finnish language to the official language, for the implementation of economic and social reforms, but also for unconditional loyalty to the Russian monarch. The Swedish Party defended the position of the Swedish language and tended towards social conservatism. In the estates' Reichstag, the Finnish party consistently represented the peasant class and the clergy, while the Swedes held the majority in the nobility and bourgeoisie. Numerous attempts to expand voting rights in the bourgeoisie failed because of the Swedish Party's concern that the ruling balance of power would be overturned by the voting rights of the Finnish-speaking urban population.

Constitutional dispute and first russification period

Governor General Bobrikov as a symbolic figure of the first Russification period (murdered in Helsinki in 1904)

The exact effects of the assurances of Alexander I in Porvoo 1809 on the legal status of Finland were only vaguely outlined. The opinion that the Constitution of Finland was based on the Swedish Constitution of 1772 and 1789 soon took hold in Finnish academic circles . The Russian public viewed the Finnish special status with skepticism. After the death of Alexander II in 1882, the public discussion began to come to a head. In the Russian press ever more violent attacks on the Finnish special status were presented, while in the Finnish public Finland was portrayed as an autonomous state in its own right, which is only linked to Russia by the person of the monarch.

The new Tsar Alexander III. Initially showed little inclination to deviate from his father's policy towards Finland, but wanted to bring about a standardization in practical questions. In 1890, the question of the standardization of the postal system, which the tsar enforced by ordinance against the constitutional protest of the Finnish Senate, acquired particular symbolic power. After Nicholas II ascended the throne in 1894, Russia stepped up efforts to standardize its administration. In 1898, Nikolai Bobrikow, an advocate of a determined rapprochement between Finland and Russia, was appointed Governor General of Finland.

On February 15, 1899, the Tsar issued the so-called February Manifesto by ordinance , which significantly restricted Finnish autonomy in matters that also affected the interests of the entire empire. Massive resistance immediately formed in Finland. Within ten days, 520,000 signatures were collected on a large petition sent to the tsar, which the tsar did not accept. The next worsening of the conflict was initiated by the conscription law passed by the Tsar in 1901 against the resistance of the Finnish autonomous organs. The law abolished the separate Finnish armed forces and made the citizens of Finland compulsory military service in the army of the Russian Empire. The Finnish constitutionalists organized passive resistance, and in 1902 a large number of conscripts did not obey the draft.

The implementation of the conscription law was suspended in 1905. In the meantime, however, Governor General Bobrikov, who had been granted extensive rulership rights by the so-called dictatorship decree in 1903, had taken numerous repression measures. The repression in turn led to a radicalization of some constitutionalists, who switched from passive resistance to activism. At the height of the conflict, Bobrikov was shot dead by Eugen Schauman on June 16, 1904 in the Senate House .

Parliamentary reform, second russification period and first world war

The first session of the new unicameral parliament on May 22, 1907 in the building of the volunteer fire brigade

The year 1905 was marked by the unrest of the Russian Revolution , which also affected Finland. Meanwhile, the founded in 1899, had Social Democratic Party of Finland , the universal suffrage taken up the cause. In April 1905 the Reichstag again discussed the question of voting rights, but the reform failed this time too. On October 29, 1905, the workers decided on a general strike , which was viewed with goodwill by conservative circles because of the smoldering constitutional crisis.

In November, the politically weakened tsar gave in. He asked the Finnish Senate to draft a new law that would provide universal suffrage for men. Because of the protests in the streets and the attitude of the Social Democrats, the committee also included women's suffrage in its draft law. On July 20, 1906, Nicholas II ratified the law. This made Finland the first country in Europe to introduce active women's suffrage at the national level, and the third country in the world after New Zealand and Australia . Finland's leading position is even clearer when it comes to the right to vote: for the first time in the world, women were elected to parliament. The February Manifesto and the laws based on it were repealed and parliamentary reform was carried out on the basis of universal and equal suffrage. The new Finnish parliament consisted of only one chamber with 200 members. The new order of the Reichstag gave parliament the form it has in its main features to this day. However, the powers of parliament in relation to the tsar were not expanded.

Soon conservative circles began to regain the upper hand in Russia. The new Prime Minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin aimed to create a tight central government, which the autonomy of Finland stood in the way. In 1908 Nikolaus II put the provisions of the February Manifesto on the legislative procedure back into force, and in 1910 the Duma passed a law according to which Finland had to send representatives to the Russian Imperial Parliament. The Finnish parliament consistently opposed the Russification efforts. In particular, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud , who was President of Parliament until 1912, became the leading figure of the constitutionalist resistance. Parliament was repeatedly dissolved and re-elected. The second Russification phase lasted until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and was then replaced by an extensive standstill in Finnish politics.

After the outbreak of war, the activist movement developed into the so-called hunter movement . In the hope of a defeat for Russia in the war, the movement made contact with Germany and finally in 1915 sent around 2,000 volunteers for military training in the imperial German army . The hunter battalion formed in this way was partly deployed at the front and thus gained military experience that was otherwise rarely found in Finland.

Initially, the war did not have a significant impact on living conditions in Finland. Finnish soldiers did not take part in the war unless they voluntarily joined the Russian army of the tsar . Parts of the Finnish economy were even able to initially make gains through war production and fortification work in various parts of the country. However, in late 1916 the war situation began to have a significant impact on Finland's basic food supplies.

Independence and civil war

Suomen tasavalta ( Finnish )
Republics Finland ( Swedish )
Republic of Finland
Flag of Finland
Coat of arms of Finland
flag coat of arms
Official language Finnish 1 and Swedish
Capital Helsinki
Form of government Parliamentary republic
Government system parliamentary democracy
surface 388,451 km²
population 3,721,000 (1934)
Population density 9.6 inhabitants per km²
currency Markka
independence December 6, 1917 (by Russia)
National anthem Maamme - Vårt land
National holiday December 6th (Independence Day)
Time zone UTC + 2 ( EET )
License Plate FIN
Suomi, tilastokartta 1935.jpg

In the wake of the Russian revolutions, the Senate declared Finland independent from Russia on December 6, 1917. State independence was accepted by Lenin on December 30th. At the same time, however, the public order fell almost completely, and a socialist attempted coup on January 27, 1918 led to a three-month civil war, from which the bourgeois "whites" emerged victorious with German support.

Constitutional crisis after the February Revolution

After the Russian February Revolution , on March 20, 1917 , the new Provisional Government of Russia restored Finland's autonomous rights. The Finnish parliament, which had not met during the war, was convened. Despite the war, parliamentary elections were held in the summer of 1916, in which the Social Democrats received 103 of the 200 seats and thus an absolute majority.

A coalition senate was formed, headed by the social democrat Oskari Tokoi . All parties agreed that Finland should become independent from Russia after the constitutional monarch was lost. Attempts by the Senate to reach an agreement with the provisional government on greater independence for Finland, however, failed. The most active role in the pursuit of independence was initially played by the Social Democrats, to whom the Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin promised full freedom of choice and the right to independence. When the power of the provisional government wavered due to a Bolshevik uprising, the Social Democrats introduced the so-called state law ( valtalaki ) into parliament on July 18, 1917 , with which parliament declared that it would now exercise supreme power in the state itself.

The state law was passed with a large majority, but the provisional government emerged victorious from the internal unrest and dissolved the unauthorized Finnish parliament. Tokoi and the social democratic senators then withdrew from the Senate, and Eemil Nestor Setälä of the Young Finnish Party became the new head of government . In the new parliamentary elections held at the beginning of October, the Social Democrats suffered a defeat and lost their absolute majority with 92 seats.

The February Revolution brought about a rapid decline in public order in Finland. The large Russian army units in the country formed workers 'and soldiers' councils , as in Russia , which exercised control over the army from March onwards. Pressure from the councils also brought the police to a standstill. The power of order was taken over by the workers' militias. During the summer of 1917, social tensions intensified dramatically, particularly as a result of increasing food shortages and unemployment. There were repeated violent demonstrations and clashes. The base of the labor movement became radicalized, while the more moderate party leaders increasingly lost control over them. In this heated atmosphere, bourgeois sections of the population founded armed protection corps, while the labor movement organized itself in Red Guards, which were also armed.

October Revolution and Independence

The so-called PE Svinhufvuds Independence Senate, appointed on November 27, 1917

On November 6, 1917, the day of the Russian October Revolution , the Bolsheviks took power in Petrograd . Lenin intensified his efforts to induce a revolutionary uprising also in the Finnish labor movement. Indeed, on November 14th, the leaders of the labor movement called a general strike that would result in the revolution. The call to strike was followed across the country, and power in the country was in fact exercised in those days by the Red Guards. On November 20, the Revolutionary Committee ended the strike because of Lenin's still uncertain position in Russia. During those days there were numerous acts of violence and killings across the country.

The bourgeois parties, startled by the events of the general strike, now endeavored to bring about state independence as quickly as possible. On November 27, the parliament elected at the beginning of October elected a new Senate headed by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud . The latter presented a formal declaration of independence to parliament , which was passed on December 6th - now against the votes of the Social Democrats. Independence was recognized by Russia's Bolshevik government on January 4, 1918, followed by Imperial Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

Civil war

The decisive battle of the Finnish Civil War raged in the city of Tampere, which was largely destroyed in the course of the fighting.

However, the establishment of independence did not calm the situation in the country. On January 12, 1918, parliament decided to form an army, which the socialists saw as a direct measure to suppress the working class. For commanders of the army was Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim appointed, who was preparing once to disarm the country located in the Russian garrisons. Protection corps were formed and declared the government's regular army on January 25th . At the same time, the socialists were preparing for an attempted coup, which began on the evening of January 27, 1918.

The revolutionary Red Guards took control of most of southern Finland by January 28, while the white government troops operating from Vaasa were able to assert themselves in the north. The government in the red Finland took over in Helsinki People's Commissariat under Chairman Kullervo Manner . The bourgeois senate escaped arrest and some senators fled to Vaasa, where they formed the government of white Finland.

The front of the civil war initially stabilized for a few weeks; the parties used this time to clean up their own hinterland. At the same time, the whites, who received valuable reinforcements from the Finnish hunters who had returned from Germany, gained a decisive advantage through systematic training and the introduction of conscription. In mid-March, the whites began their major offensive, initially around the city of Tampere , which was captured on April 6th after heavy fighting. Shortly before that, German troops had landed in Hanko on the south coast, who had formed an aid expedition at the request of the Senate. They took Helsinki on April 13th. The last insurgents surrendered on May 5, 1918 in the Kymenlaakso region .

The side effects of the war included acts of political violence on both sides, and its aftermath was a hunger and epidemic tragedy among the Reds in the prison camps, which killed significantly more people than the fighting. The war left a deep rift in society and thus burdened domestic politics for decades.

Finland at the end of the First World War and in the lead-up to World War II

Constitutional dispute and creation of the Republic of Finland

After the end of the civil war, the bourgeois parties in parliament initially kept to themselves. In order to find an interim solution for the state constitution, they orientated themselves on the constitution of 1772 as well as the old Swedish practice and appointed the previous chairman of the Senate, Svinhufvud, as imperial administrator as the king's deputy . Prime Minister was Juho Kusti Paasikivi . Both Svinhufvud and Paasikivi were staunch monarchists . The new Senate began preparing a new, monarchist constitution. In addition to the political convictions of the protagonists, the close ties to Germany created during the civil war spoke in favor of this directional decision. The royal office in Finland was to be taken over by Prince Friedrich Karl von Hessen , who was related to the German imperial family .

The monarchist direction was, however, controversial among the parliamentary parties. In particular, the Landbund under Santeri Alkio and parts of the Young Finnish Party , led by Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg , were part of the republican camp. In June, the Senate submitted the draft of a monarchist constitution to parliament, but the strong republican opposition prevented the necessary five-sixth majority in three ballots by August. The Senate then invoked the still valid constitution of 1772 and had a king election carried out on its basis. Friedrich Karl von Hessen was elected King of Finland on October 9, 1918. At the same time, his fourth son Wolfgang was appointed Crown Prince of Finland through him .

The collapse of the German war and the flight of the emperor Wilhelm II. After the November Revolution , however, on 9 November 1918. withdrawn from the plans the ground. The orientation towards Germany was given up and Gustaf Mannerheim, who had submitted his resignation in May due to his critical stance on this orientation, among other things, was appointed as the new Reich Administrator. On December 14th, the nominated German Friedrich Karl officially renounced his crown. Mannerheim succeeded in improving relations with the Entente powers . Since the normalization of Finnish constitutional life was a prerequisite for normalization of foreign relations, parliamentary elections were held in March 1919, which gave the republican parties an overwhelming majority.

In this political situation it was now obvious that Finland's new constitution would be a republican one. While the parliamentary majority wanted to concentrate state power entirely on parliament, the monarchists wanted a strong head of state. The latter were strong enough in parliament to be able to substantially delay the adoption of a constitution. As a result, they were given substantial concessions. The constitution, passed by parliament on June 21, 1919 and drawn up by Mannerheim on July 17, established the Republic of Finland, but provided for a strong president at the head of the state, whose competences were based on previous monarchical rights. On July 27, 1919, parliament elected Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg from the Progressive Party as the first President of the Republic .

Eastern war campaigns and peace of Dorpat

As early as the 19th century, parts of the Finnish national movement had been thinking about the creation of a Greater Finland , which would also include the areas populated by Ostkarelians and other peoples regarded by the Finns as related. After independence was achieved and secured, several military expeditions, mostly formed by volunteers but partly tolerated and partly supported by official Finland, undertook several military expeditions to the East Karelian regions and to Pechenga . The numerically weak troops ultimately failed, among other things because the local population was not enthusiastic about an annexation to Finland to the extent hoped.

Hostilities between Finland and Soviet Russia ended in October 1920 with the Peace of Dorpat . Russia recognized Finland within the boundaries of the old Grand Duchy. In addition, Finland received the Petschenga area and thus access to the Arctic Ocean . At the same time, peace with its eastern neighbor stabilized Finland's international position, which was admitted to the League of Nations that same year .

Tug of war around the Åland Islands

Because of the predominantly Swedish-speaking Åland Islands, the young republic got into a dispute with Sweden . Since Finland was unwilling to cede these islands, they were offered autonomous status. However, the residents did not accept this proposal and the dispute over the islands was brought before the League of Nations . He decided that Finland should keep its sovereignty over the islands, but that they should form an autonomous province. Finland had to give the island residents the right to cultivate the Swedish language, culture and traditions. At the same time, an international treaty was signed making Åland a neutral area where no military units may be stationed.

Domestic tensions and the Lapua movement

The domestic policy of Finland was confronted in the 1920s with similar problems as those of the Weimar Republic . When a communist youth organization marched through the western Finnish town of Lapua at the end of November 1929 , the bourgeois population there took the opportunity to take action against the socialists; the Lapua movement was born . After ex-President Ståhlberg was deported to the Soviet border on October 14, 1930, however, the conservative forces distanced themselves from the movement. An attempted coup in March 1932 failed because the army did not join the Lapua movement. After their leaders had been sentenced to short prison terms, the Fascist Patriotic People's Movement (ICL) was founded in April 1932 , although it only played a subordinate role.

Finland in World War II

Finnish territorial losses in the Peace of Moscow (1940) and in the Peace of Paris (1947)

A non-aggression pact (signed January 21, 1932 in Helsinki) did nothing to change the fact that Finland was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939 . In October 1939, the Soviet Union demanded the assignment of a small strip of land around the place Koivisto , which should enlarge the hinterland of Leningrad , as well as a naval base on the southern coast of Finland. The Finns refused for fear of further demands, so that Stalin resorted to violence. The Russian artillery shelled the village of Mainila ( Russian Майнило ) on its own territory and accused Finland of aggression ( Mainila incident ). On November 30th, Soviet troops crossed the border and the “ Winter War ” began.

On December 1, Stalin had a Finnish counter-government ("Finnish People's Government") formed in the conquered border town of Terijoki (today Selenogorsk ) under the former leader of the Communist Party of Finland Otto Kuusinen , which signed a fictitious peace treaty on December 2, 1939 on behalf of the Finnish Democratic Republic signed with the Soviet Union, which provided for an "exchange of territory". However, this increased the resistance of the Finns, who now feared full incorporation into the Soviet Union. With great effort, the Russian onslaught was stopped. They also hoped for support from the West. The League of Nations declared the Soviet Union to be the aggressor and excluded it (this was its last official act).

In February 1940, Soviet troops broke the Mannerheim Line in the Vyborg section ; the Finns sought an armistice. In the meantime, Stalin had refused the Kuusinen government to take part in the negotiations and was ready for peace, apparently because he was afraid of being drawn into the world war by an announced British-French expeditionary force . In the Peace of Moscow (signed March 12, 1940; ratified on March 21, 1940) the winter war was ended and Finland suffered territorial losses ( Karelia , Salla , fishing peninsula ). The city of Hanko on the south coast had to be leased to the Soviet Union as a naval base. In return, the Finnish counter-government was dissolved by the Soviets, and Kuusinen became head of the newly formed Karelo-Finnish SSR .

After the invasion of the German Reich (the "on the Soviet Union, Finland participated in the German side in the Russian campaign Continuation War : no involvement recovering the lost territories, the attack on Leningrad" with the aim of the war).

As early as August 1940, Germany was present in northern Finland with a division to calm the Finns' fears of a Soviet attack. After Germany's attack on the Soviet Union (from June 22, 1941), Soviet Air Force planes dropped bombs on Finnish cities.

On September 19, 1944, Finland signed a separate armistice with the Soviet Union . In 1944/1945 the Lapland War followed against troops of the Wehrmacht in order to force them to withdraw from northern Finland.

In the Peace of Paris (1947) Finland also ceded the area around Petsamo , which had been conquered by the Soviet Union in October 1944, to the Soviet Union and with it the ice-free port, which was the only access to the North Sea . Instead of Hankos , Porkkala (west of Helsinki ) was leased as a Soviet base. In 1955 the Soviet Union returned Porkkala to Finland.

Finland was the only ally of Germany and at the same time the only neighboring state of the Soviet Union to maintain its independence and democratic constitution. But it was punished far more than other German allies, had to pay very high reparations , an eighth of the population was resettled and a tenth of its territory was lost, including the industrial core area around Vyborg. It carried out a successful land reform and industrialized.

Finland during the Cold War

Finland retained its democratic constitution and market economy structure during the Cold War . In 1947 and 1948 treaties were signed with the Soviet Union that regulated rights and obligations as well as territorial concessions. Both treaties were annulled by Finland after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the borders remained unaffected. Although the proximity to the powerful Soviet Union sometimes led to extreme caution in foreign policy (see the term Finlandization coined by German politicians ), Finland developed close ties with the Scandinavian countries and declared its neutrality on several occasions with regard to the policies of the two superpowers.

Above all, foreign policy towards the Soviet Union was a constant tightrope act. There were repeated attempts on the part of the Soviet Union to integrate Finland into the communist system of the East, but they fought against it by all means. For example, Finland was invited to the meeting of the Eastern Bloc countries in Warsaw in May 1955 , where the participants finally founded the Warsaw Pact . The Finnish leadership stayed away from this meeting on the pretext that the establishment of such a military alliance was already becoming apparent due to West Germany's admission to NATO .

In 1952 Finland and the other member states of the Nordic Council agreed free movement of their citizens. Many Finns used this freedom of movement to get better-paying jobs in Sweden, creating the first wave of Swedish immigrant workers after World War II. Although the Finnish standard of living could not compete with that of prosperous Sweden until the 1980s, the Finnish economy overcame the setback after World War II with remarkable speed, which later led to the establishment of yet another welfare state based on the Nordic pattern and what is now Finland's economic success.

Finland became an associative member of the European Free Trade Area in 1961 and a full member in 1986. The trade agreement with EFTA was supplemented by another with the Eastern Bloc countries . Finland became an observer of Comecon , numerous Finnish unemployed found jobs commuters in the Soviet Union. The first conference on security and cooperation in Europe , which later led to the establishment of the OSCE , was held in Helsinki on July 3, 1973. In Finland, this conference was seen as an opportunity to reduce the tension of the Cold War, and it was a personal triumph for President Urho Kekkonen , who, like no other head of state before or after him, dominated Finnish politics in all respects for 20 years.

Finland in the post-Soviet era

The Finnish economy was closely linked to the Soviet one for decades. The collapse of the Soviet Union left clear marks in Finland in the early 1990s: the country went through a severe economic crisis ; up to 20% of the employed were unemployed .

Finland soon recovered from this crisis. On October 16, 1994, a referendum was held on the country's possible accession to the EU ; 56.9% of voters voted to join. On January 1, 1995 Finland joined the European Union together with Austria and Sweden .

In the second half of the 1990s, Finland cut unemployment in half, reorganized its budget and met the Maastricht criteria for the introduction of the euro . Finland was one of the 14 founding members of the euro. These 14 countries introduced the euro as their booking currency on January 1, 1999 and also as cash on January 1, 2002. The Finnish mark cash was exchanged for euro cash.

From 1 March 2000 was in Finland Tarja Halonen for the first time in the country's history a woman as President of the Republic at the head of the state. She was re-elected for another six years on January 29, 2006 .

On February 5, 2012, Sauli Niinistö won the presidential election ; he took office on March 1, 2012 and was re-elected in the January 28, 2018 election with 62.7 percent of the vote.

After the general election on April 14, 2019 , five parties formed a center-left coalition. This elected Antti Rinne as Prime Minister and, after his resignation, Sanna Marin as his successor. When she was appointed, she was not only the youngest Prime Minister of Finland, but also the youngest head of government in the world.


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Web links

Wikisource: Finland  - Sources and full texts
Commons : History of Finland  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Marika Tandefelt, Fjalar Finnäs: Language and demography: historical development . In: International Journal of the Sociology of Language . tape 187 , 2007, ISSN  1613-3668 , pp. 35–54 , doi : 10.1515 / IJSL.2007.049 (English, online [PDF]).
  2. Aura Korppi-Tommola: A Long Tradition of Equality: Women's Suffrage in Finland. In: Blanca Rodríguez-Ruiz, Ruth Rubio-Marín: The Struggle for Female Suffrage in Europe. Voting to Become Citizens. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden / Boston 2012, ISBN 978-90-04-22425-4 , pp. 47-60, pp. 51-52.
  3. ^ Jad Adams: Women and the Vote. A world history. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2014, ISBN 978-0-19-870684-7 , page 437
  4. Knaurs Weltatlas, edition v. 1935
  5. The youngest head of government in the world. In: tagesschau.de. Norddeutscher Rundfunk , December 10, 2019, accessed on June 19, 2020 .
  6. The dark side of the brother in arms In: FAZ of September 19, 2011, p. 8.