I should qualify what follows by saying that it is a skeleton history of Finland. It is not intended to go into any great depth on any specific subject, since most subjects in history on which one could go into depth probably deserve their own nodes anyway. This is only intended to hit the major events in Finnish history and orient people who are like myself five hours ago, which is to say those who know nothing about Finland.

Based on archeological finds during the 1990's, we now think that Finland was probably first settled by humans somewhere on the order of a hundred thousand years ago. Somehow, though, the Finns managed to hide for 98,000 years, which is why they first surface in recorded history in about 98 C.E. That's the year that Tacitus wrote about people called the Fenni, which, although he was probably actually writing about the Lapps, is the first reference to Finland in recorded history.

The Finns again managed to hide for another thousand years, apparently, before resurfacing in the 1150's. During that time, southwestern Finland hosted a military campaign for religious conversion, called the First Swedish Crusade, by the Swedish king Erik and his buddy, the English-born bishop Henry, who may not even have existed. Apparently not satisfied with the level of Christianization in Finland, Birger, the Earl of Sweden, led a campaign known as the Second Swedish Crusade into the inland Finnish province of Tavastia. That crusade started in 1238 and lasted until 1249. It apparently garnered enough converts to warrant the building of a nice cathedral, the Turku Cathedral, in the principal Finnish city of Turku starting in 1290. Still, however, the Swedes weren't satisfied. A third Swedish crusade, this time penetrating to Karelia in eastern Finland, was led by Tyrgils Knutsson in 1293. This crusade's geographic extent would eventually form the dividing line for an Orthodox east and a Catholic west after the Russians began to exert their power over the eastern section of the country. In the meantime, though, the Swedes had managed to exert effective control over most of the country, and they consolidated their holdings throughout the thirteenth century by building castles and other fortifications against rebellion in Turku, Tavastia, and Viborg.

In the fourteenth century, the Finns began to come out of their collective shells, so to speak, beginning with the sending of several Finnish students to major foreign universities, like Sorbonne in France. In 1323, the Finns were divided into a Novgorod-governed east and Swedish-governed west by the peace treaty of Pähkinäsaari. These dividing lines roughly followed the line of the Third Swedish Crusade and effectively crystallized religious and cultural differences between the two halves of the country. Finnish remained the primary language throughout, though. In 1362, the Swedish half was granted the right to send representatives to vote in the Swedish royal election, although representation in the Swedish legislature as a whole would have to wait until the sixteenth century.

The fifteenth century saw the construction of a number of stone churches, as well as the construction of a major castle, Olavinlinna, in eastern Finland by a Swedish noble Erik Axelsson Tott in 1475. Finland was also recognized semi-officially by the outside world when it appears in 1493 on a printed map by the German Hartmann Schedel. The fifteenth century appears to have been quiet, otherwise.

Finland was first given representation in the Swedish Diet during the sixteenth century. The Kalmar Union, of which Finland had been a part by extension through Sweden, was dissolved after 136 years by the new Swedish king Gustav Vasa in 1523. Four years later, Catholic Finland underwent a huge change when the Swedish Diet approved the Lutheran reformation, including the cofiscation of ecclesiastical property. Bishop Mikael Agricola, who had brought the reformation to Finland in the first place, had apparently gotten over the shock of the whole thing by 1543, when he published the first ever book written in Finnish. Appropriately enough, it was a book on Finnish grammar. This was somewhat unusual in the Finland of the day, since Swedish domination in the fields of lawmaking and statecraft meant that Swedish had become the language of power.

After those quiet years, Finland was apparently ready for a little adventure. The Swedes, who were calling all the shots militarily, were more than happy to oblige. Sweden got control over the entire Baltic through the Peace of Stolbova in 1617, including the Gulf of Finland. Then, during the extremely nasty Thirty Years' War, in which Sweden's king Gustav Adolph played a major part (until he got killed at the Battle of Lutzen), the Finns provided heavy support for the Swedes in the form of an elite corps of heavy cavalry. These cavalrymen were so adept at the charge that they got a special nickname, the Hakkapelites, and their commander, Torsten Stalhhandske, went down in history as a Finnish war hero.

After the war, Gustavus Adolphus' successor, Queen Christina, established the first university in Finland, the Åbo Akademi, in 1640. Although the university was Swedish in language, it was only two years after that that the first completely Finnish-language Bible appeared. Although I don't know whether the two phenomena were related, one can't help but think that they were.

The seventeenth century was another adventurous one for Finland, although not quite as much fun in the end. Sweden and Russia got into the Great Northern War starting in 1700, during the course of which Peter the Great of Russia founded St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland in 1702. This brought more economic competition to the area and in general wasn't good for the Finns or the Swedes. Of course, when Sweden was forced to admit defeat to Russia in 1721, they had to give up Livonia, Ingria, and Estonia to Russia, along with a sizeable chunk of southeastern Finland. Apparently feeling a need to protect Finland after their loss in the war, Sweden began to build a castle called Sveaborg (fortress of Sweden) in some islands off the coast of Helsinki. The fortress was later renamed Suomenlinna (fortress of Finland).

Russia had only whetted its appetite for Finland, it seems, though. When in 1807 Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I of Russia conspired to blockade Britain, Alexander pledged to force Sweden to help. In the resulting conflict, called the Finnish war, Sweden was defeated and thus made to cede the whole of Finland to Russia, who preserved the Swedish laws and social systems but converted Finland to an autonomous Grand Duchy with Alexander as its head. Thus, Finland became more or less independent after the war, although they existed only at the mercy of the Russians. In 1812, Russia joined its other Finnish holdings to the autonomous Grand Duchy and proclaimed Helsinki the capital. In 1828, the nation's only university was also moved to Helsinki, confirming its status as the nation's first city.

Given the recent developments and the general tide of worldwide nationalism, one would expect to find a building nationalist momentum in Finland, which is indeed what happens at about this time. The Kalevala, the Finnish national epic, was first published in 1835, although its compiler Elias Lonnrot enlarged it and published a bigger version fourteen years later. In 1848, the national anthem, Maamme (Vart Land) or "Our Land," was first publicly performed. Writing becomes very prevalent, and both Faltskarns Berattelser (The tales of Barber-Surgeon) by Zacharias Topelius and Johan Ludvig Runeberg's Fanrik Stals Sagner (Tales of Ensigh Stal) are published during the mid-19th century. Coincidentally, paper manufacturing and sawmilling were becoming big industries for Finland at this time, too. The Finnish markka became the first indigenous currency in 1860, and Finland's national legislature convened for the first time three years later. Finnish was given equal status with Swedish as an administrative language at this time, too. In 1870, the first Finnish novel, The Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi, was published.

Given the rising sense of nationalism in Finland, it's no surprise that the end of the nineteenth century found Finland agitating for full independence from Russia. They thought that Tsar Nicholas II had betrayed his previous promise to uphold the Finnish constitution when he issued the February Manifesto, which the Finns thought would undermine their autonomy. They continued to agitate for independence until they managed to secure Bolshevik recognition thereof during the 1917 revolution. In the meantime, Finns had been streaming out of the country to the New World, reaching a high point of 23,000 emigrees in 1902. In 1906, Finland's national parliament met for the first time during a period of low pressure from Russia due to revolution there. It was popularly elected by universal suffrage, including women. This made Finland the first nation to grant such full political rights to women.

After independence, though, things didn't go easily right off. A civil war broke out in 1918 between southern Finnish communists and the army of the fledgling government, who was trying to disarm them and some Russians after the Russian revolution had spilled over into Finland. Eventually, this rising was put down with German help, and the throne of Finland was offered at the end to a German prince named Friedrich Karl. He renounced the throne within a month, though, without ever having actually gone to Finland. In 1919, the country became a republic under the first president, K.J. Ståhlberg. Under his leadership, Finland joined the League of Nations in 1920, the same year that Finland acquired the Petsamo area from Russia via the Peace of Tartu.

The next year, autonomy was granted to the Åland Islands. 1922 saw the introduction of compulsory education and military service as well as institutionalization of freedom of religion. In 1926, not only was the first Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) established, but the Social Democratic government also took power. It had to fend off the strong anti-Communist movement, the Lapua, inspired by Italian Fascism, until a failed power seizure by the Lapua gave occasion to outlaw that organization. The Communist party itself was also banned on the grounds that it was an agent of a foreign country. All the same, Finland signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in 1932, probably just to fend off any attacks more than anything else. The Soviet Union kept secret the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement with Germany, which said that Finland was claimed by the U.S.S.R. when the conquering started up, but Finland was apparently worried about Soviet aggression anyway.

Starting on November 30, 1939, Soviet forces began to attack Finland. Although without any allies or aid, the Finnish forces held out for 105 days under Marshal C.G. Mannerheim, a veteran commander from the Finnish Civil War. The world press focuses on this war, known as the Winter War, and most sympathies lie with Finland. That didn't stop them from having to cede Viborg province in the southeast to the Soviets, though.

The Finns continued to fight Russia through 1944, aligning themselves with Nazi Germany in order to fight off the U.S.S.R. Although they weren't fighting the Nazis, they did fight Nazi ideology apparently, rejecting ideological Nazi incursions with the same vigor as the military ones of the Russians. The Finns held out against Russia, ultimately stopping their final advance in 1944 at the 1940 border. Finland had to pay reparations to Russia after the war and had to give back the province of Petsamo as well. The entire population of Petsamo apparently voluntarily left on the event of the cession; they were resettled in Finland. Also, the peace settlement with Russia involved the forceful expulsion of 200,000 German troops in Lapland to Norway, which the Finns spent 1944-1945 carrying out. An Allied Control Commission, consisting of Britain and Russia, was established in Helsinki starting in 1944, and Russia has Communist activities legalized as well as having certain Finnish leaders prosecuted for their role in the Russo-Finnish conflict.

Also in 1945, the first Moomin book, Moomin and the Great Flood by Tove Jansen, is published.

Finland fell under Soviet influence after the war, rejecting U.S. financial aid under the Marshall Plan in accord with Soviet orders, although they apparently recieved a lot of unofficial Marshall money. Finland was made to manufacture heavy things like trains and ships for the Russians, and this would ultimately form the basis for Finnish national industrialization. So the Russian influence wasn't all bad, in spite of its best efforts at times. In 1948, the two nations signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance. Finland began to rise in international prestige at the same time. The 1952 Olympics were held at Helsinki, and Finland joined both the U.N. and the Nordic Council three years later and the European Free Trade Association in 1961. In 1956, the Soviets returned the Porkkala naval base, rented after WWII, and Urho Kekkonen was elected president. Urho tried to protect Finland in a Cold War world by remaining as neutral as possible, but the Soviets really wanted to mess with Finland and wouldn't take no for an answer. In 1958 and 1961, the U.S.S.R. directly intervened in Finnish government twice, engendering the "night frost crisis" in the first case and the "note crisis" in the second.

In 1970, Finland adopted the 40 hour work week. In 1973, they signed a free trade agreement with the EEC. Urho Kekkonen's tenure as president ran out in 1981, capping 25 years of development from a backwater of Europe to a pretty respectable little nation. In 1989, Finland joined the Council of Europe, and its major international obstacle to prosperity, the Soviet Union, broke up two years later. Unfortunately, a deep recession hit from 1991-1993, just about the time that Linus Torvalds first wrote Linux. Finland decided in 1992 to apply to the European Union, although they weren't admitted until 1995. They quickly rose to the top, however, serving as President of the Council of the European Union in 1999. In 2000, they adopted a new constitution and a new female president, Tarja Halonen, and that pretty much brings us up to date.

Source: http://virtual.finland.fi/finfo/english, which is a wonderful source for damn near everything Finnish. Anything that doesn't appear there came from my conversation with vuo, who pointed out a lot of stuff I missed.