Finland in a Nutshell

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 1st April 2022

What is the History of Finland?

  • People have lived in the region of Finland since the Ice Age, maybe 8800 BC. The first inhabitants of Finland were the Sami (Lapp) people. The first Finnish speakers migrated in during the first millennium B.C. driving the Lapps moved north into the section that is today known as Lapland.
  • The first written sources that mention Finland date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Around that time, the Crusades brought Finland into the sphere of power of the Roman Pope and the medieval network of Hansa traders.
  • The Catholic Church spread to the region of Finland from Sweden, while the Orthodox Church did the same from Novgorod, currently Russia, in the East. The struggle for control of the region between Sweden and Novgorod ended with the Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323. With the treaty, the Catholic faith was established in western Finland and the Orthodox faith in eastern Finland. This religious boundary still exists, although the Reformation replaced Catholicism with Lutheranism.
  • After the Treaty of Nöteborg in 1323, Sweden absorbed most of Finland for about 500 years - it was Sweden’s buffer against the east, though the borders shifted many times in various wars.
  • However, Russia captured the region of Finland from Sweden in 1808–1809. giving it the status of a Grand Duchy and making Helsinki the capital.
  • Finland was finally granted independence in 1917, and fought alongside Germany in the world wars, against the Soviet Union. As a defeated party, Finland had to pay the Soviet Union heavy war reparations in the form of goods. As a result, Finland evolved from an agrarian country into an industrialised country.
  • In 1948, Finland and the Soviet Union signed an Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which in effect meant that Finland was in the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence throughout the Cold War
  • The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s caused a recession in Finland in the 1990s. However, the development of companies such as Nokia helped the economy to grow. At its height Nokia sold 40% of the world’s mobile phones.

Is Finland in the EU?

Finland joined the EU, together with Austria and Sweden on 1 January 1995. It is the European Union’s most sparsely populated country.

Finland - Snippets of Information

  • Finland is known as “Suomi” in Finland, though the meaning of the word is uncertain.
  • There are a world record 179,584 islands and a further world record 187,888 lakes within the boundaries of Finland.
  • There are approximately 2.2 million saunas in the country- one sauna for every two and a half people – so more saunas than cars.
  • Finland, like other Nordic countries, has been ranked as the happiest country in the world.
  • The Finnish language is not like Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, which are all quite similar. It is part of the Finno-Ugric language group and so is more similar to Estonian than the Scandinavian languages.
  • Finland was the first country in Europe to give all women the right to vote.
  • The average Finn consumes 12 kilos of coffee each year.
  • The Finns also drink a lot of milk. In fact, they have the world’s highest annual consumption of milk per capita.
  • The Finns love salmiakki (salty liquorice)
  • Finally, there are more Heavy Metal bands per capita here than anywhere else in the world.

Is Finland Expensive to Visit?

Finland was the eighth most expensive country in Europe, according to a Eurostat study published in 2020.
N.B. The speeding fines in Finland are calculated on the violator’s total income.

What is There to See and Do in Finland?

Finland’s capital, Helsinki, occupies a peninsula and surrounding islands in the Baltic Sea. It is home to the 18th-century sea fortress Suomenlinna, the fashionable Design District and diverse museums.

As with the other Scandinavian countries there is the right to public access – camping hiking and foraging are allowed almost anywhere in the countryside. Most tourists enjoy the including hiking trails, fishing opportunities, and water sports like sailing, canoeing, and swimming in the national parks.

Lapland

The Arctic Circle area of Finland is home to part of Lapland (which spreads from the edge of Russia, through Sweden and across northern Norway). Scandinavians use the word Lapp to refer to the indigenous Sami people, who have been living in the region since ancient times. The Sami people prefer to use their own language and name this region "Sápmi".

No sign of Father Christmas, (well it was the summer when I was there), or many people at all for that matter. Roughly 180,000 people inhabit this one third of Finland. But there are plenty of reindeer. which form the backbone of the Sami Culture. Lapland’s capital, Rovaniemi, is actually shaped like a reindeer's head with antler-like arranged streets. There are also millions of mosquitoes, buzzing around in black clouds. Going to the loo is not easy when you're being relentlessly pursued. It is key to expose as little skin as possible.

The Sami people were selling reindeer skulls and antlers from little road side clusters of tepee type dwellings. Lapland nowadays is more synonymous with winter adventures - husky sledding, snowmobiling and, of course, the Santa Claus Village. If you are fortunate, The Northern Lights can be seen from Lapland. It’s also a good place to experience Polar night – in the winter or the Midnight Sun in the summer. It's not easy to sleep in our two man tent, with the eerie light in the “Land of the Midnight Sun”.  

Finnish Lapland is low lying with bogs, small lake and rocky inselbergs. There is flat taiga - pine trees, as far as the eye can see. . West and north, we gain altitude, and there is taiga and, then dwarf birch and endless bleak tundra. Onwards to Norway.

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