The first Finnish-speaking persons to enter the region, who were mostly nomadic hunters and fishers, migrated into Finland from the south. By the 8th century they had displaced the small number of Lapps who lived in central and S Finland and who were forced to move to the far north of the country, where they live today.

The Finns were organized in small-scale political units, with only loose ties beyond the clan level. From the 11th century Christian missionaries were active in Finland. In the 13th century Sweden conquered the country. Under the Swedes, Finland enjoyed considerable independence, its political sophistication grew, commerce increased, and the Swedish language and culture were spread. In the mid-16th century lutheranism was established in Finland, and in 1581 the country was raised to the rank of grand duchy.

Finland suffered severely in the recurring wars between Sweden and Russia. In 1696 famine wiped out almost athird of the population. By the Treaty of Nystad (1721), which ended the Northern War Peter I of Russia acquired the province of Vyborg, and additional areas were lost to Russia in 1743. During the Napoleonic Wars, Finland was invaded (1808) by Russia, at the time an ally of Napoleon I, in an attempt to pressure Sweden into altering its pro-British stance. Despite considerable Finnish resistance, Russia conquered the country and annexed it in 1809. In the 19th century the czars, who were also grand dukes of Finland, allowed the country wide-ranging autonomy, and as a result Finland was able to develop its own democratic system with little interference from St. Petersburg.In 1812, Finland's capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki. Government in the country was headed by a Russian governor-general (the personal representative of the czar) in conjunction with the Finnish senate; in addition, there was a Finnish minister of state in St. Petersburg who dealt directly with the czar.

Finnish nationalism became a powerful movement early in the 19th century, it was inspired by such leaders as the poet J. L. Runeberg ; the statesman and philosopher J. V. Snellman, whose promotion of the Finnish language helped it to achieve official status in 1863; and the philologist Elias Lönnrot who compiled the monumental epic Kalevala . The intensive Russification campaign of Czar Nicholas II brought determined resistance in Finland, including the assassination of Nikolai Bobrikov, the governor-general, and a general strike.Under terms obtained in 1906, a unicameral parliament (whose members were elected by universal suffrage) was established, but it was given

little authority by the czar.

Following the Bolshevik

success in the Russian

Revolution (1917), the Elias Lönnrot

parliament proclaimed

(Dec. 6, 1917) the

independence of Finland. The first

president, Kaarlo Juho Stahlberg ,was elected in 1919. By

the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, the USSR recognized

Finland's independence.



Finland was active in the League of Nations, which it joined in

1920, and it was the only European country to continue to honor

its World War I debts to the United States after the advent of the

economic depression at the start of the 1930s.

During the 1930s, Finland followed a neutralist foreign policy,

and in 1932 it signed a nonaggression treaty with the USSR. In

late November, 1939, shortly after the start of World War II,

Finland was attacked by Soviet troops.After a short period of

peace between 1940 and 1941 the war restarted. Finland allied

itself with Germany hoping to regain the territories it had to cede

to the USSR in 1940.

The Second World War having ended, the peace treaty was signed

in Paris in 1947. Finland had to cede large areas to the USSR, and

pay Russians $300 million in reparations.

Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg

Our first president

In 1955, Finland joined the United Nations. Finland continued to follow neutralism in its foreign policy. It became a member of the European Union in 1995, and it has been an active member ever since. Tarja Halonen, who was elected president in 2000 and reelected in 2006, was the first woman to hold the office, and the fifth female president in Europe.

Tarja Halonen

Our current president



The Parliament House in Helsinki