A Brief History of Finland

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  • Topic: Finland, World War II, Soviet Union
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A Brief History of Finland

When looking through the main events in Finnish history, broadly speaking, it can be divided into three chapters: the Swedish period prior to 1809, the Russian period from 1809 to 1917, and the independent period from 1917 to the present day.

Finland was part of the Swedish Empire from 1150 to 1809. As we are focusing on the main events in Finnish history, we are going to begin from the 17th century. During the 17th century, while Finland was under Swedish Rule, it started to develop significantly. Between 1637–1640 and 1648–1654 Count Per Brahe functioned as general governor of Finland. During this time many towns were founded and many laws were reformed. In 1640, Finland’s first University was founded in Turku. It was called the Academy of Abo. Count Per Brahe’s period of administration is generally considered very beneficial to the development of Finland. Despite the progress made during this time, the 17th century is generally considered as a gloomy time for the Fins. High taxation, continuing wars such as the northern wars, and the cold climate made it very difficult for the Fins. During the final years of the 17th century, a devastating famine caused by climate struck Finland, massacring 30% of the Finnish population.

The 18th century didn’t start off any better for Finnish people, with the great northern war (1700-1721) taking place and shaping Finland’s future significantly. During the Great Northern War, Finland was occupied by the Russians and the southeastern part, was seized by Russia after the Treaty of Nystad. During this war, Sweden's status as a European great power was lost, and Russia was now the leading power in the North. Throughout the 18th century Finland was partly controlled by Russia and partly by Sweden and was subjected to a tug of war between the two countries.

The next significant event in Finland’s history was the period where Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire. During the Finnish War between Sweden and Russia, Finland was again conquered by the armies of Tsar Alexander I. Following the Swedish defeat in the war and the signing of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn on September 17, 1809, Finland remained an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire until the end of 1917. During this period, there was constant pressure from the government of Russia for the Russification of Finland. It was a government policy of the Russian Empire to limit the special status of the Grand Duchy of Finland and possibility the termination of it's autonomy. One of the policies bought into Finland included the February Manifesto of 1899, which was a decree by Emperor Nicholas II which asserted the imperial government's right to rule Finland without the consent of local legislative bodies. This basically means that the head people in Russia could make decisions and create laws in Finland without consulting and asking the people in charge of Finland. Also, there was the Language Manifesto of 1900 which was a decree by Emperor Nicholas II which made Russian the language of administration of Finland. Finally there was the conscription law which was signed by Emperor Nicholas II in July 1901 and incorporated the Finnish army into the imperial army. The Russification campaign resulted in Finnish resistance, starting with petitions, that then grew to strikes followed by active resistance and demonstrations. The worst resistance seen during the campaign was when the Russian governor-general Nikolai Bobrikov was assissinated by Eugen Schauman in June 1904. The efforts of Russia to employ the tactics of Russification in Finland was one of the major reasons that lead to resistance that ultimately resulted in Finland's deceleration of independence in 1917.

Following the Russian Rule, Finland declared its independence on December 6th 1917. During the first world war and as the attempts by the Russian Empire were made to Russificate Finland, Finland's population became...
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