Finland History  

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FINLAND

Originally from the Ural mountains and with a semi-unique language related more to Hungarian and Estonian than to any of the Scandinavian tongues, Finns came to their land via Siberia in the 700s. The indigenous peoples, the Lapps, were displaced into the northernmost areas of Scandinavia. Four hundred years later, Christianity arrived in the form of Swedish conquerors. In the 1500s, the land of the Finns became a Swedish grand duchy and even today, ethnic Swedes comprise about 7% of the population. Located unluckily between Sweden and Russia, Finland was often the site of battles between the dueling competitors. In 1809, the country was ceded to Russia. After the communist revolution, Finland perceived its chance to try for independence; after a civil war, Finland became independent for the first time ever in its history. But in 1939, Finland again became a battleground as the Soviet Union attacked the Finnish Republic. The Soviets prevailed but after germany and Russia went to war with each other in 1941, Finland resumed hostilities against Russia as well. Britain viewed Finland as cocombatants with Germany at this point and declared war. In 1944, the USSR again vanquished Finland and made the Finns fight against Germany, which was occupying northern Finland. The war left Finland largely ruined. The victorious Soviets forced harsh terms on the Finns including territory and reparations. A defense pact with the USSR was also signed in 1948 and reaffirmed in 1955, 1970, and 1983, as Finland's governments recognized that their independence hinged on the avoidance of any anti-Soviet activity. But the country was able to maintain freedom and an excellent economic base in the shadow of communism. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Finland suffered too with recession, unemployment, and currency devaluation (since as much as 25% of their export trade had been with the USSR). Politically, the 1990s brought the first non-socialist government to power in a quarter century and in 1994, the first direct election of a president took place. Finland joined the EU in 1994.