Finland; key historical events

Page last modified 19/6/2020


Home Page


2002, Finland adopted the Euro.

16/4/1994, In a referendum in Finland, voters decided to join the European Union (joined 1995).

1989, The Soviet Union recognised Finnish neutrality.

4/11/1955, Matti Vanhanen, Prime Minister of Finland 2003-2010, was born in Jyvaskyla.

9/3/1954, Gains for the Centre and Right in Finnish elections.

18/9/1952, Finland paid its final war reparations to the USSR.

3/4/1952, Miina Sillanpaa, Finnish politician, died.

27/1/1951, Carl Mannerheim, Finnish soldier and politician, who as President secured his country’s independence from Russia, died aged 83.

1948, Finland signed a Treaty of Friendship with the USSR, promising to resist any attack on the USSR made through Finland by Germany or its allies.

10/2/1947. The USSR concluded a peace treaty with Finland.

9/1945, The Aaland Island Assembly unsucesfully tried to join Sweden.

26/2/1944, The Finnish capital, Helsinki, was devastated in a 12-hour air raid by 600 Soviet bombers.

24/2/1944, Finnish Prime Minister, Risto Ryti, made peace approaches to the USSR.

The Winter War, 1939 - 40

12/3/1940. Finland signed a peace treaty with the USSR, surrendering large areas of territory on the Karelia Peninsula. See 30/11/1939.  The Finns had lost over 20% of their fighting force in 3 months.  Finland surrendered over 10,000 square miles of territory to the USSR. The border was returned to roughly where it had been drawn by Peter the Great in 1720.  In the hope of recovering these lands, Finland sided with Germany when Hitler attacked the USSR on 22/6/1941.

3/3/1940, Soviet General Timoshenko sent a battalion across the frozen Gulf of Finland to attack and occupy the Finnish town of Vilajoki. This opened the road to Helsinki itself for the Soviet Army.

23/2/1940, The USSR presented terms of surrender to Finland. Finland was to cede considerable territory in the Karelia and Lake Ladoga regions, and Finland must protect the Russian border in the NW.

16/2/1940. Soviet troops pierced the Mannerheim Line of the Finnish defences at Summa.

1/2/1940. The Soviet army launched an attack in Karelia, against the Finnish Mannerheim Line. Finnish lines were pounded with 300,000 artillery shells.

28/1/1940, Finnish troops gained ground against the Russians at Kuhmo.

15/1/1940, In order to reverse earlier Soviet losses in the war against Finland, Stalin appointed General Semyon Timoshenko as commander, and brought in heavy siege artillery to demolish the Mannerheim Line. Finnish troops got no rest, day or night, as their gunposts were destroyed, and gave in due to exhaustion.

2/1/1940, A further Soviet offensive in Karelia against Finland ended in failure.

For main European events of World War Two see France-Germany

See also Russia for more events of Finland-Russia conflict 1939-40

29/12/1939, The Soviet 163rd Division was surrounded at Suomissalmi. It broke up and fled, leaving 11 tanks, 25 guns, and 150 lorries to the victorious Finns. After the Finns recaptured Suossalmi, they crossed into Soviet Karelia, inflicting some 27,000 casualties on the Russian forces.

22/12/1939, The Russian attack on the Mannerheim Line, SE Finland, from the Gulf of Finland to the River Vukosi, petered out on the face of impregnable Finnish resistance. The Soviets totally lacked ski troops, whereas the Finnish Army was well trained in their use.  Soviet troops found themselves cut off from supplies, and in some cases their units were surrounded and annihilated.

9/12/1939, Amphibious assaults and air raids in Helsinki ceased as winter set in, giving the Finnish defenders a tactical advantage over the Russians. However in NE Finland, Russians captured the town of Suossalmi, where Finnish troops were more thinly spread.

5/12/1939, Russian troops invading Finland reached the Mannerheim Line, and were held there.

4/12/1939, The USSR rejected League of Nations intervention over its invasion of Finland, claiming it was merely ‘supporting the new Finnish People’s Government’, as led by Otto Kuusinen.

1/12/1939, Russia established a pro-Soviet Finnish Government at Terijoki led by Otto Kuusinen.

30/11/1939. The USSR attacked Finland. Finland had earlier refused Soviet demands to use bases on its territory against Germany. Helsinki was heavily bombed. See 12/3/1940.

The Winter War. 1939-40

28/11/1939. Stalin renounced the Finno-Soviet non-aggression pact. On 30/11/1939 the USSR bombed Helsinki and Vipuri, as it invaded Finland.

3/3/1932, In Finland the suppression of the Mantasala Rising, a pro-Facsist Lapua Movement who had gathered at Mantsala, was completed.

11/11/1930, Finland enacted repressive legislation against Communists.

14/10/1930, An attempted Fascist coup in Finland.

1929, The Lapua Movement began in Finland. It was a quasi-Fascist organisation, named after the town of Lapua where it began. It succeeded, through pressure and acts of violence, in having the Communist Party’s front organisations banned in Finland in 1930, but was itself banned in 1932 after an attempted failed armed coup against the Finnish Government.

1921, Finland gained possession of the Aaland Islands. This was in retribution for Sweden’s supplying Germany during World War One, whilst remaining nominally neutral.

14/10/1920. Russia recognised the independence of Finland.  Russia ceded the port of Petsamo to Finland, giving Finland access to the Arctic Ocean.

1919, The Finnish Communist Party was formed. It was illegal in Finland.

6/6/1919. Finland declared war on Russia.

14/4/1918, In Finland, German General Goltz captured Helsinki from the Communists.

6/4/1918. In Finland, the German General Mannerheim captured Tampere from the Communists.

See Russia for events of 1917 Revolution

6/12/1917. Finland became independent from Russia. 

29/7/1917, Taking advantage of Revolutionary chaos, the Finns declared their independence from Russia.

1908-10, Russia again attempted to reassert its authority over Finland, and curtail the power of the Finnish Diet.

1906, Finland introduced universal suffrage. Also there were other liberal reforms such as reaffirmed frredom of the Press, association and free speech

End of Russification Period

11/1905, In response to the Russian crackdown, the Finnish people organised a National Strike. It was well supported, with everything except food shops closed down.

7/11/1905, Russia gave in to the Finnish General Strike, and restored consitions to as pre-1899.

4/1903, The Russian Governor of Finland, General Bobrikov, was granted effectively dictatorial powers. Finland was filled with spies and Russian police. Arbitrary arrests and the suppression of newspapers followed.

22/9/1902. Czar Nicholas II abolished the nominal independence of Finland and appointed a Russian Governor-General.

7/1901, The Finnish Army ceased to exist as a separate entity, its units being absorbed into the Russian Army.

1900, Russian began to replace Finnish as the official language.

15/2/1899, Czar Nicholas II began a process of Russification of Finland. The Finnish Diet was stripped of power.

Russification Period

1879, Finland passed a conscription law, so starting to create a Finnish Army.

4/6/1867, Carl Mannerheim, Finnish soldier and politician, President, was born in Vilnas.

1863, Finnish became an official language, alongside Swedish.

30/3/1856. The Treaty of Paris ended the Crimean War. Russia agreed to demilitarise the Black Sea, demolishing its naval bases at Sevastopol and three other locations. It also renounced its claim to protect the Holy Places in Palestine.  Russia ceded a part of Bessarabia, forcing it back from the Danube River. The Treaty also stipulated that the Aland Islands should not be fortified, by the army or navy. This allayed British fears over threats to its trade in the Baltic, see Russia-1854.

1848, Severe famine in Finland, with entire villages starving.

11/1827, Much of Abo burned down in a  great fire. The University and its large library were destroyed.

19/8/1814, Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, Governor General of the Grand Duchy of Finland, died in Tsarskoe Selo (born 31/3/1757 in Finland).

1811, The province of Viborg was formally reunited with Finland.

1809, The Diet of Porvoo (Borga). Following the Russian invasion of Finland (formerly part of the Swedish Empire), Tsar Alexander I guaranteed the Finns the rights they had enjoyed under Swedish rule. This meant Finland enjoyed considerable autonomy within the Russian Empire, and effectively marked the start of the modern State of Finland.

17/9/1809, In February 1808 Tsar Alexander invaded Finland, then part of Sweden, without a declaration of war.  On this day the Treaty of Fredrikshamn ended the war; Sweden ceded the whole of Finland and the Aland Islands to Russia. Sweden was unable to secure an undertaking by Russia not to fortify the Aland Islands, which were close to Stockholm, but see 30/3/1856.

Abo (Turku) was nominated the capital of Finland, but was replaced by Helsingfors (Helsinki) as capital in 1819.

21/2/1808. Russia occupied Finland, which was formerly under Swedish domination.

21/6/1788, King Gustavus III of Sweden invaded Russian Finland, without declaring war first.

31/3/1757, Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt, Governor General of the Grand Duchy of Finland, was born in Finland (died 19/8/1814 in Tsarskoe Selo).

7/8/1743, As a consequence of the peace negotiations between Sweden and Russia (began 23/1/1743) Sweden ceded control of south-east Finland, east of the River Kymi (Kymmene) to Russia.

1741, Sweden attempted to recover the lost province of Viborg, which Russia had gained in 1721. However their campaign was badly managed, and failed. They capitulated in 8/1742..

1721, Peace of Nystad. Sweden ceded the province of Viborg to Russia. Most of Finland was badly damaged in the Russo-Swedish war.

1716, Russia now controlled all of Finland.

1710, Peter the Great of Russia began to take Finland from Sweden. This year he gained control of Kexholm and Villmanstrand.

1581, Finland became a Grand Duchy, under the Swedish Crown.

1556, John III of Sweden became ruler of Finland.

1550, Helsingfors (Helsinki), Finland, was founded by Gustavus I of Sweden.

1323, Finland became part of the Kingdom of Sweden, under the Treaty of Pahkinasaari. The River Rajajoki was fixed as the Russia-Sweden border.

1293, Torkel Knutson conquered Karelian Finland, and built the fortress of Viborg (now in Russia)

1258, Abo Cathedral was constructed; it was rebuilt after the great fire of 1827.

1249, Birger Jarl did much conversion work amongst the Tavastians.

1209, Thomas, English Bishop, arrived to continue the missionary work in Finland. The country had already begun to return to paganism after the conversions of 1157.

1157, King Eric IX of Sweden conquered Finland, and forced the Finns to be baptised as Christians.

800, Early Finland had no central government; rather it was a collection of towns and villages, independent from each other.


Back to top