Thursday, February 5, 2015

Finnish History

How did the country of Finland start? Well this is an interesting topic and is actually one of the least understood of all European cultures. So far the archaeological evidence suggests that people from the Baltic Sea region gradually moved into Finland from 1800 BC to around 400 BC. There isn't a lot of archaeological information because of the ice age. However, it is believed that this migration came from Western Europe and Scandinavia. (Note: Finland is not considered part of Scandinavia)
Finland is a land of forests and lakes and early Finnish people were  hunters and gatherers, living in clans. It is thought that in 1157, King Erik of Sweden decided to tame the Finns and bring them christianity. In addition, owning Finland secured them with safer trading routes to the east.

Sweden was to control Finland from 1157-1809, nearly 700 years. During this time the eastern border of Finland was often in conflict with Russia (Today Finland and Russia have a border between them of  833 miles). In the last war between Sweden and Russia the important island fortress, Sveaborg  (later renamed Suomenlinna), surrendered to Russia.
Suomenlinna from the coast. The large tower is now used as a lighthouse.

King's Gate by the sea. This is where the king would land when coming to the fort.

Looking out over the battlements. Cannons cover the whole ocean side.
In 1808, Finland became part of Russia. In the 108 years that Finland was owned by Russia, they had five Russian czars. Each czar had different approaches to Finland and how much autonomy they wanted to give them. They changed the capitol of Finland from Turku to Helsinki since it is more easterly located. Many buildings in Helsinki are of Russian architectural design.
Helsinki Cathedral (built after the cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia)

Uspenski Cathedral in Helsinki (largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe)

During the time of Russian ownership, the sense of a separate Finnish Nation grew. Leaders started uniting the Finnish people and Finland finally earned their independence on December 6, 1917 after several revolutions.

Now that is a very short history and it misses all the really fascinating dilemmas and intrigue.  European history is so interesting. While we had pressures from France, Spain and obviously England in our US history, all these countries were across the ocean. Look at a European map and you see how close the countries are to each other. Think about how much this proximity to your neighbors can affect your future. Furthermore, there is a lot of influence by monarchies as well as religion. Kings and Queens of European countries were typically related to one another, and marriages were often formed to create alliances. In addition, there were many different religious pressures and religion often drove rebellions and wars.

So in the end, after hundreds of years of being owned by other countries Finland is an independent nation. Finland still maintains a close relationship with Sweden. After all many people in Finland are of Swedish decent. Swedish is the second national language in Finland and all students are taught it in school along with Finnish. (They also take a third language when they are older, about 9. So think about that if you are complaining about your language class!) All signs are in both Finnish and Swedish and all places have both a Swedish and a Finnish name.
Street sign near me. The top is Finnish and the bottom is Swedish.

 So that is it for our short history talk about Finland. I will probably show you more as I travel to other places. Meanwhile it is time for the Finnish word in our post. Today I am choosing "Suomi."
It means Finland and I for one am very glad that they gained their independence.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the Suomi history lesson. I love the pictures of the street signs. What kind of accent do the Finnish have? Do their accents make it hard to understand the spoken language?