Chronology of Finnish History  II

Joe Brady/Virtual Finland

Maps:  Andrew Andersen




The Finnish pavilion at the World Fair in Paris attracts much admiration. The pavilion is designed by architects Armas Lindgren, Herman Gesellius and Eliel Saarinen with frescoes by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. This is a golden age of Finnish arts, represented by painters such as Gallen-Kallela, Albert Edelfelt, Eero Järnefelt and Pekka Halonen and the composer Jean Sibelius, who rapidly wins international acclaim.



More than 23,000 Finns apply for passports to America. This is the crest of the wave, which brought over 320,000 Finns to the United States and Canada in 1864-1914.



Finland acquires its own national parliament, elected by equal and universal suffrage, a development that makes Finnish women the first in the world to be granted full national political rights, that is to say suffrage and eligibility to stand for election to their national Parliament.



Revolution in Russia; Finland declares itself independent on December 6; Russia's Bolshevik government recognises Finnish independence on December 31.



At the end of January, Government forces, known as The Whites, led by General C. G. E. Mannerheim, start to disarm Russian troops still stationed in the western Finnish province of Ostrobothnia. At the same time, left-wing forces known as The Red Guards, inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, seized power in southern Finland. The ensuing conflict between Reds and Whites, known variously as a civil war, a liberation war, a class war etc., depending on political views, ended in victory for the Government forces aided by German troops despatched to southern Finland. A German prince, Friedrich Karl, was chosen to be king of Finland but renounced the nomination within a month, without setting foot in Finland.



Finland adopts a new republican form of government and K.J. Ståhlberg becomes the country's first president.


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Finland and Soviet Russia sign the Peace of Tartu. Finland acquires the Petsamo area.

The great Finnish runner, Paavo Nurmi, wins his first Olympic gold medals in Antwerp. Finland joins the League of Nations.


An act is passed by the Finnish parliament granting autonomy to the Åland Islands.


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Laws on freedom of religion, compulsory education and military service are enacted.



Paavo Nurmi wins four gold medals at the Olympic Games in Paris.






Finland's first Social Democratic government takes office.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE, is established.


The anti-Communist Lapua movement increases its support but is outlawed after a failed attempt to seize power.



The Communist party is banned on the grounds that it is considered an agent of a foreign country.



Finland and the Soviet Union sign a non-aggression pact.



Completion of the Viipuri library, designed by Alvar Aalto, the eminent Finnish architect.



A.K. Cajander heads a so-called "red clay" coalition government composed of the Progressive Party, the Agrarian League and the Social Democrats.








The Soviet Union and Germany sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement. The secret protocol attached to the agreement states that Finland belongs to the Soviet sphere of interest.

Finnish writer F.E. Sillanpää is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.


The Red Army attacks Finland. In the Winter War (30.11. 1939 - 13.3. 1940) the Finnish defence forces, commanded by Marshal C.G. Mannerheim, though greatly outnumbered, fight alone against the Soviet would-be invaders for 105 days. Finland's stubborn resistance against a fifty-times larger nation seizes the attention of the world press, which writes about the "Miracle of the Winter War". In the ensuing peace of Moscow, Finland is forced to cede a large part of the Viipuri province, in the south-east.


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Fighting resumes in the Continuation War, during which a defiant Finland aligns itself with Germany against the Soviet Union in order to regain the lost territory. Finland takes the view that it is a cobelligerent with Germany but fighting a separate war that coincides with, but is not part of, the conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union. Nazi ideology is firmly rejected in Finland despite German efforts to promote it.


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In July the Finnish army halts a massive Soviet offensive before it reaches the 1940 border. The Red Army's aim is to occupy southern Finland, but once the offensive is stopped Stalin orders his forces to regroup for defence.

An armistice agreement is signed in Moscow in September. The peace terms restore the frontier of 1940, except in the far north where the Soviet Union annexes the Petsamo area with its nickel mines and ice-free port on the Arctic Ocean. Finland has to pay huge war reparations to the Soviet Union in the form of manufactured goods. The entire population of the ceded areas - about 450,000 people - choose to leave their homes rather than live under Soviet rule. They are resettled in Finland. The peninsulta of Porkkala is rented to the Soviets for 50 years as a naval base.


War in Lapland. In accordance with the peace terms agreed with Russia, Finland drives some 200,000 German soldiers out of Finnish Lapland and into neighbouring Norway.



An Allied Control Commission, consisting of representatives of the Soviet Union and Great Britain, is installed in Helsinki. Communist activities are legalised. The Soviet Union insists on the establishment of a tribunal to try the Finnish leaders that it holds responsible for the Finnish-Soviet conflict.







Professor A.I. Virtanen is awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

The first Moomin book by Tove Jansson, The Moomin and the Great Flood, is published.






The Peace Treaty of Paris.

Finland rejects Marshall aid, following Soviet pressure to do so.

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Finland and the Soviet Union sign a Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance.



Designer Tapio Wirkkala receives the Grand Prix at the Milan Triennale, opening the way for the triumphal march of Finnish design all over the world.



The Olympic Games are held in Helsinki.



Väinö Linna's war novel, "The Unknown Soldier" is published.



Finland joins the United Nations and the Nordic Council.



The Soviet Union returns the Porkkala naval base to Finland. Urho Kekkonen is elected President of the Republic for the first time.



The Soviet Union intervenes in the composition of the Finnish government, an event known as the "night frost crisis".








Finland becomes an associate member of the European Free Trade Association, Efta.

The Soviet Union intervenes indirectly in the Finnish presidential election, an incident known as "the note crisis".


Finnish-born Professor Ragnar Granit receives a Nobel Prize for his studies on the physiology of vision.



Finland adopts a 40-hour working week.



Finlandia Hall, designed by Alvar Aalto, opens in Helsinki.



Finland signs a free-trade agreement with the EEC.



The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe takes place in Helsinki.



Urho Kekkonen's 25-year period as President of Finland comes to an end.



Finland becomes a member of the Council of Europe.







The Soviet Union breaks up and the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance lapses.

Finnish student Linus Torvalds writes the computer operating system that becomes known as Linux.


The Finnish economy in deep recession.



Finland decides to apply for membership of the then European Community.



An advisory national referendum on joining the European Union is held. A majority of 57 percent vote in favour of Union membership.



Finland becomes a member of the European Union.



Finland adopts European economic and monetary union and serves for the first time as President of the Council of the European Union




A new Constitution, which comes into effect in March, increases the parliamentary features of Finnish government.



January 1, 2002: Finland and 11 other member states of the European Union began using euro coins and banknotes and phasing out their own currencies, in Finland's case the markka.



                    Originally published at



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