Finland declared its independence
Kaarlo Stahlberg became Finland’s first president
Finland joined the United Nations
The euro replaced the Finnish markka
Finland – Independent since 1917
“We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, let us therefore be Finns.”
-Adolf Ivar Arwidsson (1791-1858)
Finland is How Old?
Although declaring itself free and independent in 1917 after the Russian Revolution, Finns have considered themselves a people and country since Aldof Ivar Arwidsson led a nationalization effort in the early 1800s. From the 12th century, Finland was considered a part of Sweden, and Swedish was the language spoken. However, the first written appearance of the name appears on three rune stones – two found in Uppland in the 17th century inscribed with the word finlonti; the third found in Gotland dating from the 13th century inscribed with the word finland. The tribal name Finns; however, is believed to be as old as AD 98. The area was settled sometime around 8500 BCE.
Until the 1950s, Finland was primarily agrarian, with manufacturing, trade, and services finally luring workers to the cities. They managed to remain relatively neutral during WWII and the Cold War, although they participated with German soldiers in the siege of Stalingrad for 872 days. Finland’s population is about 5.5 million with half the voters estimated to be over 50 years of age. They became part of the European Union in 1995. The majority of their economic growth has come since 1990 from Nokia – the mobile phone manufacturer. Finland’s geographic location influences its noteworthy climate – from northern Finland where days are short and cold – to the southern coast that is warmed by the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream.
Finland has the enviable position of one of the most comprehensive social security systems in the world – for both Finns and non-citizens. Their system is based on the Nordic position that the state is not inherently hostile to the people of the country, but benevolent. The Sami, who reside in Lapland, are the people indigenous to Finland.
Lest you think this is a small country (it is .8 the size of California) with cold short days in the winter and long midnight suns in the summer, their culture is as rich as the environment it builds on and the people who inhabit it – Nordic, Russian, and European. They have a wealth of literature, music, visual arts, design, architecture, cinema, TV, and cuisine.
How do the Finns Celebrate Being 100?
“Together” is the theme for Finland’s celebration and is a year-long event organized by the Finland 100 Years committee. Activities and events encompass the country from a newly-designed passport to a film about Tom of Finland* to a nationwide (70 locations) ice-skating campaign. For non-Finns wanting to participate in all things Finland, the Suomi Finland website provides a downloadable “toolbox” filled with images, research, infographics, videos, and more. The country invites people everywhere to meet a people with sisu (guts), meet a country with more trees and water than people, and meet a way of life that is caring and functional.
Did You Know?
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland with approximately 4 million members is one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world.
- Finland’s press has been rated the freest in the world.
- For over 100 years, Finnish athletes have excelled at the javelin throw; they have won 9 Olympic Gold Medals, 5 world championships, 5 European championships, and have set 24 world records.
* Tom of Finland is the pseudonym of Touko Valio Laaksonen (1920-1991), a Finnish artist whose homoerotic art was one of the great influences on gay art of the late 20th century.
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