Finland is an exciting and somewhat mysterious country. The cycle of the year is marked by huge contrasts, such as the polar night in winter, with its dramatic northern lights, and by the midnight sun in summer. Eastern and western cultures have blended together here to produce a distinctive Finnish ambience. You´ll find metropolises in Finland but can also experience an exotic feeling of space. Finland is a scientifically, artistically and technologically creative nation. High-quality architecture, innovative design, original music and the diversity of high-tech industries are all significant attributes of the country.
The name Suomi (Finnish for “Finland”) has uncertain origins, but a candidate for a cognate is the Proto-Baltic word zeme, meaning “land”. In addition to the close relatives of Finnish (the Baltic-Finnic languages), this name is also used in the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian. According to an earlier theory the name was derived from suomaa (fen land) or suoniemi (fen cape).
Among the first documents to mention “a land of the Finns” are two rune-stones. There is one in Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582) and one in Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea, with the inscription finlandi (G 319), dating from the 11th century.
According to archaeological evidence, the area now comprising Finland was settled at the latest around 8500 BCE during the Stone Age as the ice sheet of the last ice age receded. The artifacts the first settlers left behind present characteristics that are shared with those found in Estonia, Russia and Norway. The earliest people were hunter-gatherers, using stone tools. The first pottery appeared in 5200 BCE when the Comb Ceramic culture was introduced. The arrival of the Corded Ware culture in southern coastal Finland between 3000–2500 BCE may have coincided with the start of agriculture. Even with the introduction of agriculture, hunting and fishing continued to be important parts of the subsistence economy.
The Bronze Age (1500–500 BCE) and Iron Age (500 BCE–1200 CE) were characterised by extensive contacts with other cultures in the Fennoscandian and Baltic regions. There is no consensus on when Finno-Ugric languages and Indo-European languages were first spoken in the area of contemporary Finland. During the 1st millennium AD early Finnish was spoken at least in agricultural settlements of Southern Finland, whereas Sámi-speaking populations occupied most parts of the country.
Civil war and early independence
After the 1917 February Revolution the position of Finland as part of the Russian Empire was questioned, mainly by Social Democrats. Since the head of state was the Czar of Russia, it was not clear who the chief executive of Finland was after the revolution. The parliament, controlled by social democrats, passed the so-called Power Law, which would give the highest authority to the parliament. This was rejected by the Russian Provisional Government and by the right wing parties in Finland. The Provisional Government dissolved the parliament by force, which the social democrats considered illegal, since the right to do so was stripped from the Russians by the Power Law.
New elections were conducted, in which right wing parties won a slim majority. Some social democrats refused to accept the result and still claimed that the dissolution of the parliament (and thus the ensuing elections) were extralegal. The two nearly equally powerful political blocs, the right wing parties and the social democratic party, were highly antagonized.
The October Revolution in Russia changed the game anew. Suddenly, the right-wing parties in Finland started to reconsider their decision to block the transfer of highest executive power from the Russian government to Finland, as radical communists took power in Russia. Rather than acknowledge the authority of the Power Law of a few months earlier, the right-wing government declared independence on December 6, 1917.