The Brief History of Finland


For my first actual content post I figured I’d tell you a bit about my homeland of Finland. The country is not that well known outside of the Nordic area and outside of Europe it is practically unheard of. Do note the usage of the word “Nordic” rather than “Scandinavian”. This is due to the fact that whilst Finns have had a long and in-depth relationship with the politics of the Norse peoples, mainly due to having been a part of the Kingdom of Sweden for over 800 years, the Finns were never Scandinavian. Finns belong to their own linguistic and cultural group that are the Finno-Ugrics, consisting of the Finnic group (Finns, Estonians, Karelians, Livonians and a few others) and the Ugric group (mostly compromised of the Hungarians) forever separating them from their closest neighbors.

The name “Finland” originates from one of two sources… or possibly both. The earliest reference to a possible “Fenni” was by Tacitus’ Germania , but it is unlikely that these were the Finns of Finland proper. The far more solid reference can be found in two Runestones in Sweden. The one in Söderby mentions finlont whilst the one in Gotland mentions finlandi. Pretty close approximation to the south-western tribes name in Swedish. But what is this about tribes?

Prior to the Swedish conquest between 1150 and 1200, the area that we now know as Finland was ruled over by a number of tribes. We don’t know much about them due to the lack of any records from them, but we do know that there were three dominant tribes. The Suomalaiset (Finns) around modern day Turku and Finland-Proper, the Hämäläiset (Tavastians) whom controlled much of Central Finland and the Karjalaiset (Karelians) whom ruled over the eastern stretches all the way to the Ice Sea. However as the growing powers to the east and west (The Republic of Novgorod and the Kingdom of Sweden) consumed these lands these tribes became less and less similar, adopting customs and linguistic traits from their conquerors. For the sake of clarity I will focus on the western half, namely the former domain of Finns and Tavastians since that’s where I am from.

For the next 800 years, the area known as Österland (Eastern land) became a traditional area of Sweden, and became inseparable from the normal feudal lifestyle of Western Europe. Certainly, the Finnish peasant had more rights than the serfs in most parts of Europe, but it was no more or less than their Swedish counterparts. It is during this time that the foreign usage of the word “Finn” became less and less likely to be heard since Finns became Swedes by virtue of being subjects of the Crown. The next notable event in Finland proper would take centuries.

Indeed, four centuries. At that time King John III of Sweden desired to add more titles into his royal introduction, and created the position of Grand Duke of Finland (Storfurste av Finland). The title might’ve been Grand Prince, but the title didn’t become popular until the Russian rule three centuries later. For the next three centuries continued to fight alongside their Swedish counterparts during the period that is now known as the “Swedish Empire” which is a misnomer as at no point in their history was it referred to as such in Sweden. In Sweden it was known as the Stormaktstiden literately “Great Power Era”. Finnish cavalry became especially favoured by some of the Swedish monarchs (such as Gustavus Adolphus) mostly due to the fact that whilst Finnish horses were smaller than the destriers used by most other western nations, they were still far more capable than the small… practically pony like horses raised in Sweden proper.

The next change would happen in 1809 when the Kingdom of Sweden lost the Finnish War and Finland became an autonomous Grand Principality within the Russian Empire. The wording and actual interpretation of the papers written during the paper can be said to leave an impression that this was the beginning of an Independent Finland, only one under personal union under Russia, but that is more than likely just speculation and fantasy.

After the fall of the Russian Empire and rise of Soviet Russia, Finland declared independence on the 6th of December 1917. The form of government was parlayed for a while, with monarchist, communists and conservatives debating the merits and flaws on and off the battlefield (see the Civil War of 1917), but in the end Finland chose to embrace a democracy, setting it on the path it is today. The more recent events should be well known enough for me not have to mention them, but I will if people show interest in either earlier events (the possibility of a Kingdom of Finland in 1742 AND 1918) or the events after independence, such as the Winter and Continuation wars.

This is Olli, signing off.