Finland has been inhabited since at least the Stone Age, and shares its early history with nearby regions of present-day Norway, Estonia, and Russia. These people had interactions with civilizations from across Europe, including those from Scandinavia and the Baltic region beginning as early as 1500 BCE. As the Swedish kingdom rose in power in the 12th century, the Northern Crusaders conquered Finland, and it became part of Sweden in 1323. The region was invaded by Russia in 1808, bringing devastation to the Finns. The Finns began to move towards separation from Sweden because of the conflict the alignment brought them.
Finland was conquered by the Russian Empire, becoming an autonomous Grand Duchy in 1809, but the Finnish kept and continued their nationalistic movements. In the 1860s, there was a terrible famine in the region and many Finns died, but the legislation that followed helped develop the economy. The Finnish independence movement finally gained traction in the 20th century, and Finland declared independence in 1917. Internal conflict was soon followed by a civil war in 1918 between the Whites and the Red Guards. Finland became a republic in 1919, led by President Kaarlo Stahlberg.
During World War II, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, leading to the USSR gaining some of Finland's territory. Britain became involved, warring against Finland, followed by an invasion of the Red Army. Finland eventually agreed to hand over even more land to the USSR, signing a treaty with the Soviet Union in 1947 ending the conflict. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and a member of the European Union in 1995.
Neighboring Countries :
Finland borders Sweden, Norway, and Russia, and sits across the Gulf of Finland from Estonia.
Major Cities :
- Helsinki (capital)
Finland is located in the far north of Europe, partially within the Arctic Circle, and is the northernmost country in Europe. Finland is made up of nearly 180,000 islands and many lakes. During the Ice Age, the region that includes Finland was covered in glaciers, which created the landscapes of Finland today, including its many lakes and islands. The largest of Finland's lakes is Lake Saimaa.
The terrain consists of flat lands and rolling hills, as the land was eroded in the melting of the glaciers. Much of the country is covered in taiga forests. The Salpausselka Mountain Ridges are the highest part of southern Finland, while the highest point in the country is Haltitunturi in Lapland, which reaches an elevation of 1,316 meters (4,318 feet) near the border with Norway.
Finland has borders along the Baltic Sea, as well as the Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland. Its major rivers include the Kemijoki and Oulujoki Rivers, both located in northern Finland.
Points of Interest :
Finland's capital, Helsinki, is an important destination in the country, as a metropolis and cultural center. Rebuilt during Russian rule, the capital features interesting architecture reminiscent of St. Petersburg. Several ornate churches dot the city, including the Church in the Rock, which is carved out of rock, and the Russian styled Upenski Cathedral with five domes. There are also several museums, monuments, and government buildings of note. Suomenlinna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to a seafront fortress built in the 1700s, and today can be visited for its museums, remaining buildings and important military sites.
To experience Finland's natural beauty, there are several national parks worth visiting, including Koli National Park, Nuuksio National Park, and Salamajarvi National Park. Lappajarvi Lake is a scenic destination, created by meteorite impact with remnants of rock left during impact. Kvarken Archipelago, located between Finland and Sweden in the Gulf of Bothnia, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main international airport in Finland is the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, and two other important airports are Tampere, Lappeenranta, and Turku. Planes are also the best way to get around the country, as they are fast and can be quite inexpensive.
A reliable railway system is in place with service to St Petersburg and Moscow, though these are typically slow and expensive. Service within Finland is fast and fairly inexpensive, and are well maintained with comfortable seating. Bus and boat are more options for travel to and within Finland, with long distance buses to Finland's major towns from St. Petersburg, Vyborg, as well as Sweden and Norway. Ferries run to Estonia, Sweden, Germany, Russia, and Poland. There are also car ferries available from many of these countries.
In the major cities, particularly Helsinki, there are public transportation options available in addition to taxis and minibuses. Helsinki offers an extensive tram system, a metro, local trains, and buses. Bicycles are a great option within the city, as there is a network of bike routes across the city. The roads are well maintained, but parking and driving within the city can pose more challenges than they're worth.
Last Updated : November 19, 2013